Category Archives: Wildlife

Zooming The Waterways. 13th March

Last week Mick got a call from Sean at SPL Covers saying he’d finished repairing Oleanna’s pram and cratch cover, he’d returned to the marina and popped them back on. The only thing was that when the main part of the pram hood was taken away Mick had popped the sides inside Oleanna for safe keeping. With snow and possible high winds forecast we wanted to get the sides back on as soon as possible to keep the weather off.

Mick considered heading to Goole the same day, but he’d only get about 50 minutes before he’d need to be on a train heading back to Scarborough. Taking the bike would make this more possible, but should a ship be entering or leaving the docks at the wrong moment, he’d end up missing the train and have to spend the night on Oleanna. So instead he headed to Goole the following morning, a light dusting of snow having appeared overnight. We hoped that the Wolds wouldn’t get a major dumping so that the route would stay open. Thankfully the east coast only got sleet.

Cratch cover back on

Photos were the last thing on Mick’s mind as he put the sides back on the pram hood, it was far too cold! I’ll just have to wait to see the new window first hand. He was back safe and warming up in the house mid afternoon and Oleanna was now snow and wind proof once again.

A while ago I answered an online survey to do with C&RT. I can’t quite remember what it was about, but did remember ticking a box to say I’d be willing to take part in more market research. This led to a phone call inviting me to take part in a zoom focus group this evening. I had to answer some questions prior to the meeting all to do with my relationship to the waterways and how I felt about Canal and River Trust. Some of my answers were short, others far longer, especially the one about the Trust’s strengths and weaknesses.

The focus group this evening was made up of five liveaboard boaters. I was the only one sat in a house! We introduced ourselves, two boats were on the Grand Union, one on the Mon and Brec, the other I can’t remember where they said they were. Ages ranged from twenties to sixty five.

We were asked about many things to do with the waterways, what they meant to us, wellbeing, nature, the environment, history and our thoughts on C&RT. Tag lines were discussed. The drop in funding and reduction of maintenance. The big thing that came across from all was C&RT communication skills and at times how bad they are. Yes there were the comments regarding maintenance and facilities, but there was also very much a feeling of let us boaters help, involve the boating community, encourage us to respect what we have and to help keep it in good order. Looking after the waterways will then bring nature, wellbeing along with it.

Sunday walk at the seaside

The lady conducting the focus group said that there were other people being brought together from different user groups, presumably different types of boaters, paddleboarders, fishers, swimmers. All being asked to comment on the same tag lines. It would be interesting to hear how the different groups commented.

We then had a rushed evening meal before settling down infront of the laptop again. This time we were joining Kate Saffin for a talk about the Boaters Strike in 1923. On 13th August 1923 the canal in Braunston made the national headlines. The traffic on the canal was brought to a halt after Fellows Morton and Clayton had announced that the boaters were to have a pay cut of 6.5%.

Boats blocked the arm, an attempt to remove tons of tea and sugar cargo from the boats by FMC was thwarted on the first attempt. Police were drafted in for a second attempt, which was very noisy but three boats were finally unloaded.

Striking boaters

The strike continued for 14 weeks. Children got to attend the village school (now the village hall), the longest they’d ever be in class. Socialising was possible with friends and family they’d only normally get to see passing on the cut.

Fifty to Sixty boats blocked all routes into Braunston. The population of the village swelled from just over 1000 to 1300, putting great pressure on the local facilities. Back then the boaters didn’t use elsans or pumpouts, they normally emptied their potties behind their boats as they set off, the prop churning it into the water. With no boats moving for weeks, it must have been horrendous.

Alarum Productions have been awarded funding from the Arts Council to produce a ‘full-on’ community project in Braunston to mark the 100th anniversary of the strike. Braunston 1920s : 2020s. Telling stories from the 1920’s which has a lot of parallels with the 2020’s. Writing and drama workshops, local history research will all come together in June to produce promenade performances around the village, telling stories where they happened coinciding with Braunston Historic Narrowboat Rally.

Decorating and other jobs continue in the house. I’ll be glad when I don’t have to climb up and down a ladder to sand, paint or paper. Next it’ll be curtains.

0 locks, 0 miles, 6 months flea, 12 months worms, 1 extra month, 1 travel sickness pill, 5 boaters opinions, 1 Eat Me brunch, 300 strikers, 1 bedroom nearly papered, 1 onion, 4 knobs, 1 more shade of blue, 1 contract, 1 weather tight Oleanna.

Gunthorpe At High Noon. 23rd January

Stoke Lock to Low side Hazelford Lock

Sitting waiting

The alarm was set this morning, no time for a cuppa in bed either! Breakfast was followed by emptying the yellow water tank, then we walked our rubbish down to the bins by the lock. There was no sign of a volunteer, just a cleaner in the loos and a chap clearing things away from the works that had been happening at the lock.

Stoke Lock very pretty

The lock has had an upgrade this winter, new LED lights and new boat operated pedestals. At the moment the pedestals are not working so someone from C&RT has to come out and work the lock for you from the cabin, booking required with 24hr notice. Cheryl from the Milton Keynes Office called us to say there had been problems at Holme Lock this morning and the person coming was on their way, they’d just be late. We decided to get Oleanna and move her down into the lock cut ready.

Heading inside for a bit of warmth brought the Lock Keeper, Simon, not a volunteer. He’d been trying to clear all the rubbish at Holme Lock this morning as it was stuck behind the gates. He asked us to wait where we were, Stoke Lock needed emptying to check the gates first before we could go in. He then asked us to pull in on the starboard side, he’d only be able to open the bottom gate that side as they were still having problems with the hydraulics.

One gate only

The gates were tested, then we got the green light to go in. As we descended Mick asked if it was possible to do a radio check with Simon, this was the first opportunity to check his Christmas present worked, thankfully it did. Simon was heading to Gunthorpe Lock next, would we like his assistance? Well it would save me having to jump back onto Oleanna from the pontoon below the lock in the full current from the weir. But it would also mean being in the lock, holding a rope round a blue riser! We accepted his offer and arranged to meet downstream in about an hour.

A perfect winters day

Out of the lock we came, blue skies surrounding us. What a beautiful day. We waved to the ladies who rescued Tilly when she was a kitten as we passed Burton Joyce, round the big sweeping bend. Geese flew overhead. Then a flock of birds, not sure what type swooped in murmuration high above the river, switching and changing direction, then settled again only to take off as we passed them by. What a wonderful sight.

The pontoon at Gunthorpe was empty, but we carried on towards the lock cut, pulling in at the water point. We were early for our rendez vous with Simon. Should we wait or operate the lock ourselves? Hmm, that would mean fighting to get back onboard below the lock. We opted to wait.

Gunthorpe Bridge and moorings

Waiting for the lights to change, which side of the lock to pull in on, the blue risers, the V channels behind them, all very familiar from seven years ago. Simon arrived at noon and worked the lock for us. We took it steady, no need to rush in any lock, especially one with blue risers! I took a deep breath, I still hate this lock with a passion.

Simon checked below and gave us information about rubbish that may lay in our way below. He needed to hang around at the lock so wouldn’t see us at Hazelford. The lock gates opened, we thanked him and sped off down stream again. All 9.75 digits still in tact.

This reach is particularly pretty and today it was just stunning. We were glad of our layers, but the blue sky with wispy clouds above was so beautiful. The last two years we’ve missed cruising in the winter. The views (when there’s no fog) are so different. People say there are 2000 miles of the network to explore, true, but there is there and back again and then all four seasons to enjoy. The river was ours and the birds. Wonderful.

Above Hazelford the lock cut was full of C&RT boats, a skip boat, the crane boat and Maid Marion the tug boat. I climbed a ladder on the island and headed to press buttons. It was hard to see Oleanna as the level dropped, but she reappeared on leaving the lock.

There was a Dutch Barge at the far end of the moorings, we pulled in to the lower section, only recently revealed from the flood waters. Tilly was allowed some shore leave and made the most of it once she’d got to the top of the big steps. She returned with a mouth full and was sent away again.

It’s a chunky outside this one!

A tap on our roof mid afternoon, a chap was here to help remove a rope from a prop. Not us, it must have been someone above the lock. An hour or so later we heard a boat engine, the boat from Stoke Lock.

News came through that the stretch above Town Lock in Newark was iced up from a member of the Trentlink facebook group. They had tried to get through yesterday but had no luck. Maybe we’ll have a sausage day tomorrow and hope it thaws.


Much of the afternoon was spent sorting out future lodgers for the house. Another favourite actor had been in touch today. We’re now booked up for a third of the year ahead.

3 locks, 2 assisted, 9.6 miles, 1 hour late, 1 deja vous, 9.75, 2 hours shore leave, 1 friend at least, 1 happy cat, 1 glorious day boating, 1 cheeky robin, 1 boat behind us, 1st Look North, 6 lodgers, 1 Mrs Tilly stamp of approval.

The Plague Boat. 12th October

Kidlington Lock 43 to Kirtlington Quarry

Lemsip in bed for both of us this morning. Mick was most certainly worse than yesterday and had had a bad nights sleep. We decided to leave the bed made up for ease of afternoon snoozing should one be required.

Funny thing to fall through the hedge

As we got Oleanna ready for the off a boat was just appearing above the lock, we left them to it even though the lock was in our favour, no rushing about anywhere for us and we’d be able to keep our distance from them too. Whilst we waited there was a noise in the hedge of the garden across the cut, it sounded like something weighty had fallen into it. Two cats sat and looked about as a Mutkjac Deer appeared, not that much bigger then the felines. They really didn’t know what to make of it, their instinct to hunt like lions kept them close, but the size of it was a touch off putting.

Hope this one’s on the list for this winter

Once we were up Kidlington Lock we worked our way along what felt to be quite a low pound to Roundham Lock. A boat was appearing out of the lock, but the gate was closed behind them, a helpful passer-by who hadn’t seen us apologised as he walked onwards. This was to be the first lock that took some getting into today, the water level low not helping. I quickly remembered to wait for Mick to take Oleanna out of gear before closing the bottom gate, it’s far easier this way with the big single gates and anything to make life easier was needed today.

A lady from a down hill boat walked towards me, I explained that she might not want to get too close and why. Locks are handy for social distancing, I stood on the off side ready to lower the paddle, the lady quite happy to open the gate up for us to leave.

Someone’s keeping an eye on moorers!

Round into Thrupp not yet filled up with winter moorers. Aubrey’s Lift Bridge now has flashing lights on both sides for road users. Last year we overheard conversations about this as too many vehicles had been crossing the bridge without it being fully down and causing damage. I don’t recall seeing any stoppage notices about the bridge this year so the lights must be working.

New lights

We pulled in, disinfected our hands for the umpteenth time today and filled up with water and dealt with the yellow water and rubbish. Thankfully none of the very friendly people from Thrupp came over to chat, so we could keep ourselves to ourselves.

Under the bridge

Not far to where we should be stopping today, cruising hours reduced now thankfully. But we decided that if we could get that bit further today it would be good, not knowing what Covid might have in store for us over the next few days.

At least it won’t garrot anyone!

This year we’ve seen more and more boats moored up using their centre lines. This really isn’t good practice as it tends to encourage your boat to keel over more when boats pass and should there be any flooding this can end up sinking your boat. But this boat moored under the railway bridge was doing it in a completely different way, centre line upwards away from any harm to walkers up onto the railway bridge!

2022! New Old Bridge

Shipton Lift Bridge 219 has been rebuilt, kept open to boat traffic with a sign saying not to use it until further notice. The water level at Shipton Weir Lock was in our favour, I stepped off and opened up the gate, just to see NB Peggy pulling up behind us also wanting to use the lock.

Sharing a .lock on the Oxford Canal

The lock being lozenge shaped meant we’d possibly be able to get both boats in at once, Peggy being a touch shorter than us. She nestled in nicely and the chap at the helm pulled her right over to step off with a rope. Even though we were sharing a lock with another boat we were still at least 6m away from anyone. The lady suggested I close up the bottom gate and she’d work the top gate and paddles, so no need to be close.

Back out onto a river, the Cherwell, some speed again. We’ve got rather used to it over the summer. Then we were up Bakers Lock and back on the slower water.

Pigeon’s Lock

We pootled on to Pigeons Lock. No-one to help here, but that was fine, we hoped it would be our last lock as we were tired and starting to get cold, paracetamol levels dropping and aches setting in. Oh what a time for the bottom gate not to open fully, Oleanna didn’t want to fit through!

One of the nice houses by the lock

Time to try the waggle the gate about technique. Oleanna was brought out of the lock. I semi closed the gate and then swung it open as quickly as I could muster, maybe it opened a bit wider, but with extra umph Mick managed to get her into the lock. Phew, we’d not have to call C&RT out and sit and wait for assistance.

Quirky buildings and a good car

Jane’s Enchanted Tea Garden is no longer along the next stretch. The business was sold last year and has moved to Ducklington near Whitney. Sadly we never managed to be around when afternoon tea was being served on the banks of the canal. There are still the quirky buildings, Morris Minor and Cosy Caravan, but now it’s just for the owners.

We hoped for a space at the quarry and the moorings gods were looking our way, we had the place to ourselves. It took us time to moor up, everything so much slower than normal. Tilly was given 3.5 hours shore leave and we settled down to enjoy the effects from a top up of paracetamol and some food.

A photo to break up the words a bit

During the day I’d been receiving emails regarding a backdrop for panto. It has a practical doorway through it. Because models are quite often made certain sizes to accommodate card thicknesses the backdrop piece of model had a slightly wider opening than was needed. I normally like maths and making sure things are correct, but today it took such a long time to get my brain round the sizes, tolerances the carpenter was asking and translating it all into an opening for the cloth.

Then the very basic artwork for the Song sheet wasn’t good enough to be printed, could I resend it in a different format? Easy except the font I’d chosen altered itself between formats loosing all the characteristics I’d chosen it for in the first place. Why oh why couldn’t this all have happened last week when my brain functioned better!

Mick did a second lateral flow test this afternoon. A second line. We are now officially the Plague Boat!

5 locks, 1 shared, 6.3 miles, 4 lemsips, 8 paracetamol, 1 box of tissues in a day, 3.5 hours, 1 friend ejected, 1 cat with it! 2 lines, 2 boaters feeling sorry for themselves, 1 bag of coal left, 1 song sheet pain, 1060 or 1129? 1 brain full of covid fog, 1 plague boat.

Thank you to the crews of NB Waratah and NB Peggy for your help today.

Marching Onwards. 17th August

Church Bridge Staithe to March Visitor Moorings

Water proof dusted off

The water tanks were dealt with before and during breakfast, then we were on our way just after 9am. Back in May we’d been wearing waterproofs along this stretch, in fact we’d got that bit wet when we’d crossed from Salters Lode to Denver, maybe that was the last time it had really rained. Today they were back on, only for the occasional light shower this morning and to help keep us warm.

We passed many a lovely looking house in Upwell. A couple are for sale. The Old Bank House with it’s six bedrooms, double garage and gym for £500,000. The house on Rectory Road we’d spotted three months ago, another six bedrooms dating back to medieval times, a swimming pool, 3 acres, outbuildings and an ironing room! All for £880,000, don’t think the sword collection is included though.

We hadn’t previously been aware of William having connections to the Middle Level!

Apples everywhere

Marmont Priory Lock is now looking very autumnal, apples hang from the trees by the lock cottage. The lock needed filling 58 turns on one paddle, then to empty it I only bothered turning each slacker 50 times, knowing they’d need winding down again!

Now the lower level is that bit wider and deeper, speed no longer left behind on the Great Ouse. We passed the New Pophams Eau and the Twenty Foot River, places waiting for the next visit to explore.

Wind turbines, Grebes and reeds were soon replaced with houses and back gardens with sheds as we approached March.

Found on our prop

We’d heard that when the levels had dropped several boats with home moorings had moved themselves to the visitor moorings in March for deeper water, meaning that there wasn’t much room, we kept our fingers crossed as a stop here was necessary. But thankfully as we rounded the bend in front of the clock tower there was space for three boats our size. Just a shame the prop also got fouled as we came in!

March floral display

First thing was to pick up the other model box which had been sent from Chippy, then see if the box it came in would fit the one I already had to send back to them. The model once unwrapped was slightly crumpled, requiring a bit of shoring up. I’d made this box a few years ago and it seems to be the one that is sent out to designers, so has been used a few times and is now showing it’s use along with being in a slightly squashed box. A bigger box would be needed to send the model box back.

The furthest south they come

After lunch Mick headed off to Sainsburys to stock up on food whilst I paid a visit to Boyes, their furthest south store. Sadly the things I was looking for they did not stock, so instead I headed back across the river to West End DIY. Here I found everything I needed. Some thin timber to help shore up the model box, slightly thicker timber and some mesh to ensure the side hatch will remain a one way hatch in hot weather. They were also in the process of filing the shelves with stock and had a shopping trolley full of cardboard boxes to choose from. Thank you West End.

Back at the boat I adjusted the cardboard to fit the model box and printed off labels for it to be posted back to Chippy. Mick returned with plenty of shopping. There had been wood cat litter which had distracted him from Tilly’s need for Odour control litter. A second visit to Boyes and Sainsburys meant we now have plenty of litter and oil for the next engine service.

Green and red were added to my panto portals, still cream and some gold to go before they’ll be finished. And as always I’ve changed my mind about some of it!

As we headed for bed tonight the local geese started to make a right noise. It looked like two of them were having a serious disagreement, one trying to either rip the others head off or drown it, whilst the other twelve of them all stood round honking ‘SCRAP SCRAP SCRAP!! Sadly no teacher arrived to pull them apart, we’ll see if there are fourteen of them still in the morning.

1 lock, 7.2 miles, 2 straight ons, 3 boats worth filled by the end of the day, 1 bumping hire boat, 21mm x 21mm, 12mm x 12mm, 25mm square mesh, 1 cardboard box, 2 varieties of litter, 1 bored cat, 14 geese, 2 model boxes swapped, 3 hours not enough work done today.

14ft! 15th July

Priory Centre, St Neots to Barford Old Mills

The original plan had been to leave at 9am, but that didn’t quite happen as Mick had decided to purchase an electric fan from Argos which wouldn’t open til 9. It had been ordered so he went to be first in line at the front door to pick it up.

We were slightly disappointed, yet not surprised at the size of fan. We’d have difficulty finding somewhere to put it after all if the description had been correct! It was 14inches not 14ft! Yes it will use power, but may just help move air about to help cool us in the coming days.

Tilly’s pooh box had a clean out as we topped up the water tank, best to leave with a full water tank. As we made ready to push off Paul stuck his head out of their hatch to say goodbye, we suspect our paths will cross another time somewhere.

Across the way the Macc boys were discussing things, would everyone be trying to find some shade on the river. We hoped for their sakes they were, but also hoped that the mooring we were after would be free by the time we arrived.

A good length mooring

An old riverside house has been having quite an extensive refurb along with an big extension. With 1.5 acres and a mooring long enough for a narrowboat no wonder it’s £2,250,000!

Oleanna waiting with Eaton Socon Mill behind

Eaton Socon Lock was soon in view. There was movement at the lock, a day boat having just been helped up the lock. We set the lock to out favour, a sign by the control panel saying that there is an intermittent fault where the delay timer trips the guillotine. Thankfully it behaved for me and we were soon up, after the 6mins 30secs delay that is inbuilt.

Tucked into the D

Above the lock we pulled in at the EA mooring, the bank decidedly awkward to moor to. We managed to get the stern close enough to the bank for our needs and headed to the big Tescos 3/4mile away.

Stocked up for the next week

A big stock up required the bike to be a sherpa. The ability to cook outdoors a necessity and other meals to require the minimum amount of gas usage. We came back with the bike fully laden.

Cambozola and beetroot humous, yum

Time for lunch on the go, with the next mooring at Great Barford we had another two locks and six and a half miles to go, we needed to keep moving. The river started to remind us of the upper reaches of the Thames, narrower, more bends to keep you on your toes. A keen eye required to spot those in canoes or on paddle boards who are oblivious to our existence.

Under one lane of the A1

Under the A1 where it splits in two. How many times have we been over the river here and not realised it was the Great Ouse below? We’ve also been thinking about that as we’ve seen trains rushing past on the East Coast Main Line recently.

Slackers at both ends

At Roxton Lock we came across our first totally manual lock for ages. The gates were heavy, or is it just that I’m not so used to opening and closing gates as I used to be.

A Kingfisher darted in front of us, managing to stay for a while on a post, my zoom only just managing to catch it before it flew off.

Look at that tail

This was then followed by a Little Egret, I’d never noticed how fluffy frondy their tails are before.

Another slackers at both ends lock

At Great Barford Lock the wild flowers were past their best, but the teasels still had enough purple flowers to keep the bees occupied.


Above the lock was busy, swimmers getting ready for a dip, canoes, paddle boarders. Here there are two lots of moorings, the GOBA one’s we might have been able to squeeze into between two boats, or outside the pub where there was plenty of space but also it was more than likely to get really quite busy.

The many arches of Barford Bridge

We carried on though hoping that the EA mooring tucked behind on an island would be free. Thankfully it was apart from a small rib tied up in the middle. We tried here and there to moor, the bank not very even and the water shallow. As soon as we started to hit a spike in a very muddy dog came rushing round to see what was going on. It was soon followed by it’s owner who kindly moved his rib round the bend.

Sheets cut and ready

Eventually we found a spot where we could get off at the bow with ease and just close enough for the plank at the stern. As the cloud cleared away we could see what the afternoon shade would be like, not as comprehensive as we’d hoped, but at least there was some. We’ll get shade first thing, then the port side will heat up followed by a couple of hours of the starboard side. Our sheets would be needed, they were cut in half and folded up ready for a trial run tomorrow.

Isn’t nature amazing!

I tried out a new recipe for a mushroom biryani tonight, it didn’t turn out quite like the recipe had suggested, I suspect my pan lid was a touch too tight as it ended up being a bit soupy, never mind it was still very tasty so I’ll try it again with a looser lid or less liquid, adding some chicken too would be nice.

3 locks, 8.54 miles, 14” new fan, 1 full water tank, 1 clean pooh box, 1 fully laden bike, 3 boxes wine, 2 boxes Tilly food! 1 island mooring, 1 bridge should we want to leave, 3 sheets cut to size, 800ml reduce to 600ml, 1 very boisterous woofer that we hope will leave the island.

Pits Brunch. 12th July

Brampton Park GOBA Moorings to Paxton Pits GOBA Mooring

Time for us to move on and hopefully find another shady mooring. Once we’d had our cup of tea in bed we postponed breakfast and pushed off, NB Eleanor Rugby had long since gone!

Is this an Aquavista 60/40 split price?!

First things first. Water! We’d last filled up in St Ives and have been frugal with our usage. A water point was shown on our maps at Buckden Marina, we pulled up on their service mooring. Maybe we’d top up on diesel too whilst we were here. The petrol pump had a sign on it saying they were out and more was on order. The diesel pump just boasted the price £2.25. HOW MUCH!!! Yes this might be the price of a 60/40 split, but still!

Thank you for the water

We connected up our hose, it was still too early for the office to be open. Water came forth and we started to fill our tank, we’d see if anyone had a problem as we weren’t inclined to top up on diesel. Nobody came to see if they could help us even once the office was open, so we coiled up our hose once full and pushed away.

Offord Lock came next. The top guillotine gate open. As I pressed the close gate button I looked at the lock, blimey it was narrow! Having got used to the D shaped locks which fit three narrowboats side by side this was narrow. Not in the sense of a narrow canal lock but you’d never get two narrowboats in side by side and at 11ft 2″ wide some wide beams would have difficulty.

Narrow and Gongoozlers

By the time Oleanna was in the lock coming up we had four gongoozlers. One wondering if the crocodiles would get us on the river, another two not realising that the river continued on up ahead of us for quite some miles.


Onwards now for a couple more miles. We passed a couple of narrowboats including NB Jolly Lamb whom we’ve come across a couple of times in the past. Did this mean that the next mooring would have space for us, we hoped so.

Is that a space?

Yes! Just enough room for us beside a shady tree at Paxton Pits. We pulled in, I hopped off the bow with Mick staying on board as the mooring meant we’d need a plank once tied up.


Time for breakfast, well brunch and with it being a touch cooler we risked a cooked breakfast, not quite the full works but certainly a good effort and very tasty.

Covered in cobwebs

I continued hunting out panto references. Mick sat outside listening to cricket. Our route northwards at the end of the year was looked at in more detail. Tilly headed off to find friends, breaking the first rule within half an hour! She was speedily reminded of that rule whilst being forcibly removed from the boat along with her friend!

During the afternoon we got some rain showers, the sort that just seemed to add to the general mugginess of the day. Despite this I decided to go for a walk. Solutions to be found for panto are best done whilst walking . I filled a water bottle, showed Mick the route I planned on taking and headed off.

Paxton Aggregates

Paxton Pits were gravel pits, in the 1930’s the gravel was mostly used in building airfields around the country. Today gravel is still dug here but the old pits are now filled with water and have become a nature reserve.

Heron Trail

In the early 20thC the Trimmings family grew plantations of Cricket Bat Willow on islands at Little Paxton. The trees produce a wood that is light, tough and doesn’t splinter. The firm now called Hunts County Bats still continues today, producing 20,000 bats worldwide every year.

To the Kingfisher hide

There were also paper mills at Little Paxton, 184 years of production. A raised causeway gave access to the mills in times of flood. Now the area is a modern housing estate.

Viper’s Bugloss?

Much of the land in the nature reserve is gravelly as you would imagine. Plants vie for enough moisture to be able to grow. Purple flowering plants had pushed their way up, possibly Viper’s Bugloss?

No Kingfishers to be seen today

I followed the Heron trail handy hides every now and then giving me shelter from the now almost constant showers of rain. One facing towards a bank which may or may not have been Kingfisher nests. I listened out for them but sadly none were to be seen or heard. I did spot 2 Egrets , 2 Cormorants and a Heron all sitting together on a bit of mud.

Not the best photo

The nature reserve is a Dragonfly Hotspot with 26 varieties of dragonflies and damselflies. Today however there were none to be seen here, they must all have been out on the river.

I soon had walked past the active gravel pit with all it’s machinery. Wondered if quicksand is still as treacherous in a drought as it seems in the movies. The path turned again to be alongside the river. A home made banner attached to a gate. Was this advertising Matt Walsh’s film examining changing concepts of gender in the digital age? This is what Google suggested it might be.


Tilly’s white tipped tail sprung into the air to greet me back at the boat. A pleasant walk even if a touch warm, I did manage to come up with a few more ideas for work too.

With the beginning of next week likely to be too hot to do much other than breath, we spent some of the evening trying to work out a plan to try to be on the shadiest mooring on the hottest days. Will we succeed? Will we be beaten to the mooringOr will we just cook?

1 lock, 3.27 miles, 0 bins, 1 full water tank, £2.25! 0 crocodiles, 11am mooring, 2 plates of brunch, 32 more images, 3 mile walk, 0 Kingfishers, 2 solutions, 3 possibilities, 30C, 3 hours of gentle showers.

Waterbeach 20th June

Clayhithe Bridge


Last night we were treated to a rather good sunset. The trees across the way glowed from the setting sun and the sky looked like dragons had been breathed a huge smoky sigh.

A slow start to the day, yesterday we’d decided to wait another day before heading into Cambridge. I’d hunted around places that we could visit locally. Anglesey Abbey 4 miles away, too far to walk there and back and using public transport would take well over an hour. Another Abbey, Denny, still a 3 mile walk and only open Thursday to Sunday.

Then Waterbeach Military Heritage Museum caught my eye. Sadly only currently open on the first Sunday and Wednesday of every month. Oh well, we’d go and see what we could see in Waterbeach, maybe try to find the airfield.

From Clayhithe Bridge you can walk through Cow Hollow Wood a local nature reserve. We took the path to the Remarkable Reedbed, not very remarkable, but the areas were named by school kids when it was first put together in 2000. It makes a nice walk into the village avoiding the road.

We followed Station Road into the village, now classed as a new town since 2018. Plenty of nice looking smart houses around the place. A triangular village green with a post office, convenience store and a couple of pubs.

St Johns

A stop to look round St John the Evangelist, dating back to the 12th Century the tower and spire collapsed and were replaced in 1821. It undertook a Victorian restoration in 1871 by JM Fawcett and John Ladds in 1878. The mosaics on the pulpit and behind the alter most probably date from this time.

Life buoy halo

There was a plaque and book of remembrance for 514 Squadron Bomber Command who were stationed at RAF Waterbeach between 1943 and 45, just how many had given their lives.

We carried on walking through the centre to try to reach the airfield which is quite obvious on Google maps. But today an area of it is now used for NHS staff accommodation. We walked down to the cemetery to see if we could see anything from there, sadly failing. It kind of looks like the airfield is being redeveloped, most probably for housing.

Wonderful reflections

We walked back to the river on Bannold Road crossing the railway line which brought us to Bottisham Lock. A wonderful view upstream to be had from the weir.

Loads of room today

Today there was plenty of space on the GOBA mooring, NB Cleddau and the others having moved off this morning. We then followed the flood bank back to Clayhithe, at times having to lift our arms to avoid the masses of nettles.

All blue and green

The list of places to visit in Cambridge is long and could get expensive. I think this evening we will have to pin the tail on the donkey to choose which things we’re going to do and see.

0 locks, 0 miles, 4 miles walk, 1 church, 17 hollyhocks, 0 airfield, 2 abbeys 2 far away on foot, 2 far away for the bus, 2 sessions of shore leave, 8 times no, 8 courgette and pea fritters for the first time.

Welded On! 12th June

Padnal Fen GOBA Mooring

A day of staying put, but not sitting still. Tilly was allowed shore leave first thing, it wouldn’t however be a sausage day, more of a salami day, handed out in slices.

Washing day

The washing machine was put to work, the solar doing it’s thing first thing. The whirligig was erected and soon filled, the washing drawer just about empty. Whilst Mick did this I collected together what I needed to give the covers a spray.

Here’s hoping it works again

Wet and Forget and the new pump spray bottle. At last the covers were going to get a spray. Its quite a while since we gave them a scrub at Pollington Lock and a couple of days sat under the trees in Ely hadn’t helped! Once the mixture was ready it was time for Tilly to come inside. Wet Wet and Forget isn’t good on paws as it can be licked off!


Hopefully it wasn’t too sunny today for it to have maximum effect

The covers came off and I started to spray them with the new bottle. The last time I actually did this was in lockdown with a standard plant spray, it took forever! Today once I’d got the spray more or less how I wanted it, a fine spray not possible, it took no time at all. Brilliant.

Now what to do?

After a lot of scrubbing, before the scraper came out!

The birds in Ely gave me quite a task to scrub their deposits from the roof and cabin side. The back counter had to wait for the pram cover to be back on as it was hard working away with the brush with the frame and whirligig in the way. Once I could get to the newly decorated deck it took a lot of work. White bird sh*t is easy, it just washes off. It’s the green residue from eating grass and plants that is the problem. It had welded itself onto the lid of the weedhatch. Scrubbing with the yard brush got so far. Leaving it soaking a little bit further. Then the paint scraper came out and a mixture of soaking and scraping away time and time again meant that at least we’d be able to open the weedhatch again!

Checking all’s well

Mick put on his overalls and climbed into the engine bay. He wanted to check over the cooling system after our problems last year. As the engine ran with the header filler cap off (so air could escape if needs be), he sat with his phone in hand watching the gauge as the temperature of the engine gradually rose. All was good thankfully. He also filled the stern greaser, a messy job.

Once the covers were dry they went back on Oleanna so that the grass below could dry off whilst we had lunch. The grass would then be dry enough for feline paws once again., Tilly was allowed a few more slices of shore leave.

Next came the roof. There has been a small bubble of rust gradually showing itself for a while towards the stern along with a couple of patches on the hatch sliders. Earlier in the year we’d had a leak where the solar connection box sits on the roof, a year or so ago I’d done my best to sort a patch of rust here, but it needed looking at properly.

Solar disconnected

Mick undid the screws and I carefully went round the box to break the seal of silicon we’d put on when we added the second panel. Gradually the box lifted and the cable could be disconnected. The rust was scraped away along with any loose paint.

All rusty bits had a good sanding back and then I applied some Fertan, rust convertor. During the remainder of the afternoon I gave the brown fertan the occasional spray with water to keep it active. Early evening the solar connection box was cleaned of old blacktack and silicone then reconnected and a plastic bag taped down over the top, hopefully to stop any possible rain from coming in, but this would also mean the next time I want to do anything all I have to do is lift the tape and bag. I just mustn’t leave it too long so that the tape welds itself to the roof!

One happy cat

Tilly and I had a little walk along the bank, the wind very fierce up there. Gradually as the afternoon turned into evening the wind started to subside, just as well as we’d planned a barbeque.

Everything ready

I made up veg and haloumi kebabs and a spring green and carrot coleslaw with a bit of wholegrain mustard added. The asparagus was threaded onto skewers, burger buns cut in half ready for toasting.


We huddled in the corner, knowing that the smoke would be blown away from our washing drying in the cratch. The pork and apple burgers I bought yesterday were very nice as was the asparagus even though the wind had just about cooled it down as soon as it left the barbeque!

Lowering sun

As we sat finishing off our meal a rather plump bird flew along following the reeds on the other bank. Definitely an Owl, we think it was a Barn Owl. We watched it fly along, turn and head back. Sadly I only had my phone on me, but if you look carefully you can see it. It returned and came over our heads. Another privileged moment on the fens, our first sighting of an owl in eight years.


0 locks, 0 miles, 0 winding but plenty of wind, 1 coolant system okay, 3 loads washing, 5 rust patches, 32 welded on sh*ts, 1 busy happy cat, 1 set of covers that we can hopefully forget about for a few months (maybe I’ll give them another spray before winter), 4 kebabs, 15 spears asparagus, 2 burgers, 1 low flying Barn Owl, 1 Mrs Tilly stamp of approval.

Captions just bold today.

Flipper Wave. 8th June

2nd GOBA Mooring River Wissey to Ten Mile Bank GOBA Mooring, River Great Ouse

A drop from yesterday

Last night when Mick went to close the hatch he discovered that the level had dropped. We’d noticed that the flow had been greater than we’d remembered it but we hadn’t thought that the level would have gone down by about 3inches. Possibly down to the EA draining water off in case the levels rose with the forecast rain last night. It had rained but we were still quite low this morning, the flow now much slower.

Willow fluff collected in the bow

There wasn’t too much protesting from Tilly not to be allowed out this morning, I think she was still worn out from yesterday. Late morning we pushed off and headed upstream towards Hilgay Bridge wondering if we’d need to go all the way before we could wind.

Catching a ride with elevenses in it’s beak

Mick gave it a go a little after the big bend, we might have made it but it looked to be a close thing, so he changed his mind and we carried on towards the bridges. Here we managed to wind just by the 48hr mooring and made our way back under the two bridges.

Now Hilgay Jubilee Bridge

Over Jubilee weekend Hilgay Bridge was renamed, now Hilgay Jubilee Bridge. There had been a big party and the village had been bedecked with bunting, the avenue up to the church swaged with hundreds of meters.

We made our way back towards the Great Ouse, coming across a cruiser who stopped and let us go past. We wondered what would have happened should we have met yesterdays speeding cruiser at one of the bends or where the trees overhang obscuring the view ahead. This is one of the reasons why there is a 4mph speed limit on the river.

How do they hover in this wind?!

Back at the junction we turned left, heading upstream. The wind got up and buffeted us about a touch, but the air was warm and being able to do a faster speed meant we could hold our course.

Drama overhead

Big dramatic skies. Bright blue against the bright green of the banks.

There he is!

Approaching the other Hilgay Bridge we could see a couple of hire boats and the familiar shape on the moorings of Neil. He lifted his head up to check us out, a flipper may have waved in our direction too. He then just rolled over to get another area of his mass warm in the sunshine.

Not much further and we arrived at the GOBA mooring, pulling in in front of NB Eleanor Rugby an Aintree Beetle. We seemed to have managed to skirt round the rain clouds. Mick went to have a chat with the chap behind who was touching up his paintwork to check if he had a dog about the place before I let Tilly out. The coast was clear so she was given five hours.

Blowy on the top

What in this wind! If I had to be out there someone had to be out in it with me! She came for a walk. First this way and then that, although I didn’t at first hear that She’d changed direction. Bloomin windy!

Tonight the internet has improved so we’ll be able to watch the episodes of Gentleman Jack that hadn’t been recorded due to either bad signal or memory loss!

0 locks, 6.97 miles, 1 wind, 1 left, 2 rivers, 1 blowy yet surprisingly dry day, 1 flipper wave, 1 remote mooring, 1 Gentleman Jack, 1 lodger okay with the increase, thank goodness.

Wissey Tilly. 7th June

2nd GOBA Mooring, River Wissey

As Tilly has been cooped up inside for a few days a life time! today would be a sausage day. We’d not be moving anywhere or requiring her to come in so that we could go out, so a full round of Cumberland Sausage!

What a beautiful day

The weather was wonderful, just perfect for cruising. The sun shone all day long. Blue skies which during the afternoon filled with willow fluff drifting on the gentle breeze and resting gently on the waters surface. It also fills the boat, collecting in corners and on surfaces, requiring the hoover to remove the fluffy fairies.

Tilly came and went, dropping in for Dreamies every now and them. But watching and waiting patiently followed by pouncing took up most of her day.

The long bank

Once the blog was written I went for a little walk along the bank, first this way. I could have dropped down into the woods and walked a circuit back to Hilgay and back along the bank, but without knowing where Tilly was I may have been followed. So instead I headed that way, spotting a pair of black ears quite a distance away from Oleanna in the friendly cover.


The two of us walked along the top of the bank for a while longer before I decided that we’d gone far enough and it was time for Tilly to be reminded where the boat was. She soon cottoned on and came hopping and skipping along overtaking me with her tail held high.

Tail held high

It’s so lovely to find moorings like this that have just about nobody walking past all day.

A few boats came past, including a small sporty number that had to jam on the breaks when it saw us moored, we’d already started to move about on our ropes long before we realised the noise wasn’t a motorbike overtaking on the none existent motorway!

A patch of shade

As Tilly occupied herself outside we got on with admin type jobs. I put together the figures for the house, needed for our tax returns but also so that we could see if the house had managed to pay for itself last year. Apart from plumbing and roofing costs it did. Then it was time to sus out what we’ll need to charge from now on, our utility price cap ends in the next few weeks. Estimated on last years bills at the new rates the house will cost an extra £68 on average a week to run! Our lodgers, mainly actors get subsistence payments for living away from home, these have not gone up this year. We now need to come up with new prices, we can’t afford for the house to be empty, but we also can’t afford to subsidise people living there. It all feels a bit like Russian Roulette!

Mick spent time trying to get home insurance quotes, having short term lodgers makes it somewhat difficult to get a policy that covers everything. The hunt on that front continues. He did however succeed on another front today. This afternoon he received an email from the EA regarding our Anglian Pass, which allows us to cruise the Middle Level and the River Cam, they had processed our application and were now ready to take payment. His first attempt at paying didn’t work as the person who answered the phone had a dodgy microphone and sounded like a Dalek with laryngitis. Second attempt worked, so we can now cruise to our hearts content.


In between our computer hours we had numerous visitors.

First the Damselflies flew in to say hello. Bright emerald green followed by an electric blue. These were relatively easy to assist back outside.

X rated

Then came the Dragonflies, two attached making babies. The far larger delicate insects proved harder to assist, but once they’d parted it became easier. Such beautiful creatures so close up. Another privileged moment with nature. There has to have been something about Oleanna today, the open hatch being very attractive as we had at least another five rescue missions with our winged friends. This more than made up for the admin filled day.


Later in the evening we’d just settled down to watch some tv when we could hear that motorbike returning, louder than before! Oleanna started to move, it only took enough time for us to stand up for the speedboat to be alongside us, almost on the plane, they only knocked back their revs as we started to shake our fists at them. Foot high waves ricocheting back and forth across the narrow river. No time to take photos, no time to get the boat name, but plenty of time to carry on bobbing about in their wake!

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 large Cumberland sausage swirl, 2 many friends, 1 willow tree snow storm, 3 dragonflies, 18 rated dragonflies, 5 damselflies, 2 diddy ones, 4 quotes, £5000+! 1 exol spreadsheet filled with numbers, 3 new rates agreed on, 4mph not 9! 9.5 hrs shore leave, 1 happy exhausted cat, 1 Anglian Pass, 1 more Mrs Tilly stamp of approval.