Last Friday Mick had tweeted C&RT regarding the Figure of Three Locks on the Calder and Hebble. The stoppage notice for that stretch of canal after Storm Ciara was that the towpath was closed. Was the damage really as bad as it looked in the photos and video we’d been seeing on Facebook? This morning they tweeted back the following.
Hi Mick thanks for getting in touch. Sadly Figure of Three Locks won’t be open for your visit in summer. It was badly damaged during the recent storms and flooding. We estimate it will be 12-18 months before it reopens. Please get in touch if you have any more queries and we look forward to welcoming you in Yorkshire this summer. Naomi
Later in the day a stoppage notice was sent out too. At least 12 months before the lock will reopen. We’ll have to put plan B or C into operation.
Waiting for it to stop raining took a while this morning. But we were ready for it when it stopped. Outside covers rolled up and folded down, ropes untied. ‘Hang on! There’s a boat!!!!!’ ‘What? A boat?????’ We waited for them to come past before we pushed off. That’s not happened for months.
As we made our way towards Hopwood very dark storm clouds were gathering, we wondered if we’d make it into Wast Hill Tunnel in time before it started to rain again. No was the answer. A strong gust of wind coincided with us winding meaning the engine had to work hard to get the stern round, then the heavens opened. Oh well!
We could tell it was half term, plenty of hire boats were about. The boat ahead of us could still be seen in the tunnel and by the time we’d got three quarters of the way through ourselves another boat was following. Was it drier in the tunnel than out in the rain was debatable!
Popping back out into day light all signs of the crime scene had gone, apart from one length of plastic Police tape attached to branches.
Despite there being a boat moored on the bollards at the water point there was enough room for us so we pulled in and topped up the tank another load of washing was just finishing. We then pulled along a touch further for some lunch before carrying on retracing our steps back into Birmingham.
The aroma passing Cadburys today was more caramel than chocolate, or was it salted caramel, or fudge? We decided that it must be fudge and both started to sing the song from the advert. Link. ‘It’s full of Cadbury’s goodness’! No way would you be able to suggest fudge is good for you in adverts today.
What a jingle though, we both remembered it, well Mick forgot the bit about ‘it’s very small and neat’. It was written by Mike d’Abo based on the folk song The Lincolnshire Poacher. Mike d’Abo was more famous for being the lead singer of Manfred Mann and ‘The Mighty Quinn’.
I also found out that Fingers of Fudge are no longer produced in England, production moved from Keysham to Poland in 2010. So what was it we could smell today?
Talk turned to our cruising plans.
Plan A. Go over the Pennines via the Huddersfield Narrow through Standedge Tunnel for me to work at the Lawrence Batley Theatre. Then cruise the Huddersfield Broad, Calder Hebble, Aire and Calder then the tidal Ouse to get to York. This is now out of the window.
Plan B. Cruise over the Huddersfield Narrow so that I can go to work with ease, but then have to retrace our cruise and not head to York to meet friends and family with one days work at York Theatre Royal. Maybe.
Plan C. Cross the Pennines via the Leeds Liverpool Canal then Aire Calder and Ouse to York. This would mean having to commute to work on and off, then find somewhere handy to do this from for production week, or paying to stay in Huddersfield when needed, my expenses come out of my fee or the production budget. But then we’d be able to carry on to York, so long as the Ouse behaves itself! This is looking the most favourable plan.
Back in BUMingham we turned back towards Sheepcote Street Bridge. Loads more boats moored here today, but still three familiar ones from yesterday. We pulled in.
If looks could kill! Tilly was so not impressed.
0 locks, 8.99 miles, 1 wind, 1 straight, 1 left, 2 tunnels, 2 mysterons, 1 damp soggy cruise, 1 load washing, 1 full water tank, 1 very disappointed cat.
BUMingham to Bridge 68, Worcester and Birmingham Canal, most definitely not BUMingham!
I’d made a promise to Tilly that today we would move the outside just for her, so that is what we did. There was a touch of rain in the air, and the air was still moving quite a lot at times but we kept my promise and moved.
An earlyish start for us saw us going right at Old Turn Junction at around 9:30am. Passing under Broad Street Tunnel I noticed a new looking sign, ‘Black Sabbath Bridge’. Last summer a bench was unveiled for the 50th anniversary of Black Sabbath on the bridge/tunnel. We’ll have to have a look at the information board by the canal when we’re back again. As we approached The Mailbox the wind whipped up, blowing a right hoolie it was, we were glad we’d dressed suitably.
Onwards we forged along the Worcester and Birmingham Canal. Through Edgbaston Tunnel. Past the hydrogen boat where someone is having a go at developing zero carbon emission propulsion, pedal power.
The new footbridge by Selly Oak Sainsburys now has large columns of concrete on either side of the cut, wonder how long before the bridge spans the water?
Then the smell of childhood. Cocoa. My childhood in York was filled with the smell of Matchmakers, a slightly minty chocolate smell. Today the air smelt of Flakes, Cadburys Flakes. It soon blew away as we neared the secure moorings on the off side. Plenty of boats here, one jolly chap said hello from the comfort of his pram cover as we passed on by.
Behind the covers of the Toll House at Kings Norton we could hear people at work as we carried on straight past towards Wast Hill Tunnel.
We were being followed. Now most Herons you see on the canals get all upperty as you approach them and as you get close they fly off a hundred yards ahead to fish, only having to do the same again and again. Well today we met a Heron who had very different ideas. He obviously knows something that the others don’t as he followed us time and time again, waiting for us to pass and churn up any fish.
Approaching the water point there was a lady in a lot of high-vis yellow, she made a phone call and then walked towards us. The Policewoman asked us to pull in as they had a crime scene ahead, a length of police tape closed off the towpath.
Being right by a water point we would quite happily tie up and replenish the water tank as the washing machine had been put into use since we filled up yesterday. She explained that if we carried on we might compromise the crime scene. Mick replied, ‘We watch Vera, we know all about such things!’ She laughed.
She knew what to do with pedestrians but hadn’t thought she’d have any boats coming past. Just as we stepped off to tie up she had a call back, we were good to go. Up ahead on Friday night a man had been assaulted, he had ‘significant facial injuries’ and then had been thrown into the canal where a passerby spotted his body on Saturday morning.
Another Policewoman stood by a tent a touch further on and by Kings Norton Bridge there was a chap with some apparatus on a tripod, it could have been a 360 degree camera. The towpath slope up over the tunnel was being searched by a team of officers whilst plain clothed police stood by the canal. As we passed we were asked how long the tunnel was, ‘2493m’. I wonder if they were considering if the poor chap might have been pushed in at the other end of the tunnel?
Once in the tunnel we pootled along, hang on, someone was coming! Just after half way we pulled right over and just about stopped, their tunnel light quite bright. The chap at the helm asked if we were alright as we’d stopped, we were and carried onwards as soon as they’d passed.
No Police presence on the other side of the tunnel. We carried on a short distance and pulled in where Mick and Tilly had spent a night whilst I was in Vienna. Just as we were sorting out ropes the heavens opened and gusts of wind sent it sideways at us.
Inside, Tilly had already been surveying the outside and was sat waiting for me in the bathroom, SHOUTING!!!!!!
Four and a half hours!!! Bloomin brilliant!! But hang on. I’m not going out in that! Not for all the Dreamies in the world! The door closed, then opened again. It hadn’t changed! Several more attempts and eventually the outside was dry. See you!
Today the C&RT National Council Elections results have been announced. Only one of the people we voted for has been elected, the others came very close, but at least we voted. Out of around 34,000 boats on the network only 2040 people voted in the elections, that is 6%. Congratulations to those who got elected, please report back in some form for those of us who are interested .
0 locks, 8.47 miles, 2 straights, 1 right, 3 tunnels, 12 police, 1 graffiti tree, 1 load washing, 1 keen heron, 4.5 hours spent well, 1 white card finished, 1 set of costume designs finished, 2 panto award nominations, 1 photo from Frank, Thank you.
Tardebigge Top Lock to Cast Iron Roving Bridge, Birmingham, BCN
Out in Vienna it was time to pack my bags. One thing left to do, visit the cheese shop on Langegasse that I’ve been walking past and inhaling for the last ten days.
Many cheeses in this shop are kept in cabinets for safety, our safety. Many of the cheeses in this shop look like given half a chance they would take over the world with only Dr Who capable of stopping them. With so much to choose from and a taxi booked I couldn’t sample too many, which maybe was a good thing.
I’m not too fond of Emmental or Gruyere so that immediately ruled out half of the shop. The chap helped me and gave me a couple of samples. I like goats cheese, but in Britain you don’t often get a hard goats cheese. So as I was in Austria I had to have one from the mountains, ‘High on a hill lived a lonely goatherd’. It was tasty, sold.
Then a softer cheese. No chance to taste this one as they are individual cheeses that have a whole culture of their own. Sold! The chap vacuum wrapped them for me so that my bag wouldn’t be making it’s own way back to the UK.
My taxi was early, the driver arriving just as I checked out and was asking where to wait. Soon I was whisked out to the airport to await a delayed first flight to Munich.
I’d booked a window seat, but at the gate I was issued with a new seat in the middle! This was a shame as there were fantastic views over the Austrian Alps, not much snow though!
Meanwhile back in Birmingham.
Mick and Tilly have been avoiding storm Brendon. On Monday once Chris had left to visit more boat builders Mick filled the water tank and headed northwards again. Passing NB Sola Gratia, under the M42 he chose a suitable place without trees to spend Monday night by Bridge 68.
Tuesday they decided to head into Birmingham setting off early to beat the weather. At 9am they reached the southern portal of Wast Hill Tunnel. The interior of Oleanna already in full tunnel mode, hoping that with all the lights being on this would keep Tilly from fretting. I suspect he just timed their passage well and she was busy having her morning snooze as he could hear no shouting at the back doors.
A mile and a half later they came back out into daylight. But what lay ahead?
There was a boat up against the towpath, pinned in my a fallen tree. Had the tree fallen onto the boat? Mick was about to try to nudge his way through when the owner came out. Last night he’d tried to do the same, but got stuck. Whether he was grounded or just held by the tree Mick didn’t know, but one thing was certain Mick was now stuck too!
The other boater had rung to report it to C&RT, another phone call wouldn’t hurt after all Mick had nowhere to go. He couldn’t get into the side so was just having to sit in the middle. Apparently C&RT staff were on route to access the situation.
Then the C&RT staff got held up by traffic so the contractors were called and sent anyway. They arrived with long handled chain saws and proceeded to climb onto the roof of the stuck boat. Helmets, high-vis but no life jackets! The roof of the boat was wet and had no grabrail or anything should they slip to stop them. They chopped and chopped away at the tree. Soon the trapped boat was free.
Mick offered the bow of Oleanna as a platform to carry on working from, then they moved to the stern to clear more. At last Mick and Oleanna could continue on their journey into Birmingham. The 8.5 miles had taken around 7.5 hours and Mick had got a touch wet in the process.
Location is always important. So I insisted on some greenery in the BUMingham outside. Tom obliged and tied up the one with short sideways trees. Thank goodness it wasn’t just bricks again!
So back in Munich.
I should have had an hour and a half waiting for my next flight. There were things to do, look at the shops and restaurants, then eat the quinoa salad I’d brought with me from Vienna. The new (well to me new) passport control had to be cleared, this I am now a dab hand at after being rejected on my outbound flight. Hold your passport down on the screen with your hand so that it can be read!
I headed to the gate, not quite at the furthest point of the airport, but almost. Staff arrived, then announced that there was a delay. This extended and we finally were allowed through the boarding gate as our plane should have been pushed back. There was no plane, just a bus to take us out to our Star Alliance A319-100, here we crossed the tarmac and climbed the steps to find our seats.
With everyone on board we taxied round to run up along the side of the runway. The pilot swung us round onto the tarmac, would this be a rolling start? We tootled along for a little while straightening, then the engines roared up and the wheels began to speed up. Time to say goodbye to Europe….
Except the engine soon powered down! There had only been a short blast of throttle, now we were trundling along the runway. An air hostess quickly came on the tannoy and said that an announcement would be made shortly by the captain as to why we hadn’t taken off. They don’t use the term abandoned as this might cause alarm!
Once we’d turned off the runway the Captain spoke to us, something about the engines not being in sink, I’m not sure what he was saying as a group of English men were too busy joking with each other about finding the nearest underware shop! One thing we did all hear though was that he was going to go round and try to take off again.
This time we headed further up the runway, turned to face the tarmac and stopped. The engines roared and we set off, so far so good, we’d made it further than last time. Bye Europe… as the wheels lifted off the ground this time. Phew!! I had wondered if we’d have to change planes, be diverted to another UK airport, but thankfully we were on our way.
The sun soon set on the horizon turning the sky orange. After an hour and something the coast of main land Europe showed, lights twinkling below. Clouds covered the English coast, just the occasional glimpse confirmed we were over land again.
With half an hour to go we started to descend, the lower we got the bumpier it got. Bumpier and bumpier. The bumpyness kept on coming. We seemed to be getting lower, but would we be sent round again by air traffic control. There were a lot of houses getting closer, surely we must be about at the end of the run way!
As the runway lights came into view the plane crabbed it’s way towards the ground, was this still Storm Brendan? One wheel down, then the other, both now on the tarmac going slightly diagonally. As soon as the engines stopped their furious noise a round of aplause filled the plane, followed by more comments about underwear shops.
Only about half an hour late, I sailed through biometric passport control, my bag was about the tenth to appear on the conveyor. The cheese in my bag kept quiet so I exited arrivals through the green customes doors to see Mick stood holding his phone with my name flashing away in red, just in case I’d forgotten what he looked like!
0 locks, 14.16 miles, 1 wind, 2 much wind, 1 tree, 1 wet boater, 2 chain saws, £20 on cheese, 2 vacuum bags for safety, 1 taxi, 2 planes, 2 trains, 3 shuttles, 1 walk, 271 head nudges with Tilly, 16 very posh first night chocolates.
After a good breakfast I set out to explore Vienna. I had a few things in mind and whatever else I came across would be a bonus.
First port of call, The Leopold Museum. Built in the Museum Quarter which is situated in the former Imperial Stables. Rudolf and Elisabeth Leopold amassed their collection over 50 years, in the 1950’s works by Schiele and Klimt were considered to be taboo. The Leopolds contributed the lions share of some 5200 works of art to the Leopold Museum at a fraction of their estimated value of 570 million Euros.
The galleries are filled with paintings, sculptures, some clothing and furniture. Some of the marquetry was exquisite.
Klimt and Schiele I knew but Oscar Kokoshka, I knew to be a writer and playwrite, not a painter.
Schoenberg, the tone row composer (I have had physical reactions to his music in the past, he’s not one of my favourites).
Then new artists for me. An exhibition of Richard Gerstl who is considered to have been the first Austrian Expressionist, you can almost hear the paint being applied to his canvases.
Then Emil Nolde a German/Dutch artist, who’s choice of bright colours caught my eye.
But my favourites were The Blind Man by Klimt, not in his more recognised style;
Schiele’s House with Shingles. It looks like the roof is made from many thousands of books.
and The Man in a Fur Cap by Albert Brinkle. This chap looks like a corn fed chicken.
After a couple of hours inside I reclaimed my coat and headed onwards. I’m glad I took my feather and down coat as even though the sun was out it was still a touch chilly.
Tim the Director of Houdini had mentioned a fantastic food market called Naschmarkt, so I headed off to have a look. I was already aware that it would almost certainly be closed, few shops are open on Sundays in Vienna.
Despite all the shutters being down I could peer in through the windows and imagine the smells from the sausages, spices and dried fruits. If I come back I will do my very best to visit here when it’s open. My Mum would have spent a whole week here.
Looking up above street level two buildings jumped out. A verdigrised lady way up high shouted to me to admire her building against the bright blue sky. She was right, it was beautiful. Designed by Otto Wagner who was a leading member of the Vienna Succession movement and the broader Art Nouveau movement.
Almost next door is another of his buildings, less gilt but more colourful. His work has been added to the next time list.
Time for food. I needed to eat well today as I’d spent far too much time trying to work out what I could eat in the supermarkets. Google is your friend at such times and it pointed me towards Blue Orange who did gluten free bagels. Mine was very tasty with beetroot humus and a cup of tea with a nice sit down.
Next I wound my way round side streets and headed for Weiner Park where the Weintal Canal heads out to the Danube Canal.
This was built as a relief channel, it looks more like a storm drain now with fancy bridges, but it was used to rid the city of sewage.
Vienna’s own Three Bridges crosses the canal, road above rail above water criss crossing as they do on the Hanwell flight.
I’d seen so much Baroque architecture as I walked round I now headed to find something different. Kunst Haus Wein designed by architect Hundertwasser is reminiscent of Gaudi or Manrique, but in his own way. Inspired by Klimt his work contains numerous tiles, cut to different sizes, applied at different angles.
Kunst Haus Wein is mostly chequer boarded on the outside, the main entrance with wavy steps with large bulbous pillars with mirrored and tiled sections.
The building houses a museum and a gallery which hosts photography exhibitions. Sadly by the time I’d got here it wasn’t worth the entrance fee to look round. A quick look round the shop and a comfort break did mean I got to walk on the uneven floors all sweeping up into the corners of each room. Another place to come back to.
By now the sun was setting, so I walked along the Danube Canal to reach the older part of the city. The walls confining the fast running water were lined with much graffiti, not much of it worthy of photographing. As I rounded a bend hills could be seen in the distance.
I now joined the masses of tourists in the older districts. St Stephan’s was being photographed from ever angle with the dark blue sky above. The tourist shops open, selling their tacky tack. I meandered my way around.
The column of Pest was another focal point. I joined in with the selfies, but got bored of trying to get both myself and the statue in focus, so it just looks like a Christmas tree.
The blanketed vestibule at Demel opened into a mirrored shop selling expensive cake, there were a few seats in a back room were fizzy wine was being served, I’d hate to think how much the experience was costing the lucky few!
Horse drawn carriages could be smelt before they came into sight waiting by the entrance to The Hofburg where you can see Lipizzaner Stallions at the Spanish Riding School.
By now I was starting to feel a touch hungry and quite tired. Should I head back to the hotel? Should I climb on a tram? Or should I carry on walking? I chose the later and headed towards a restaurant I hoped I’d enjoy.
I plotted my route, the most direct route along a shopping street. C & A amongst all the usual highstreet names and Austrian stores. The road kept going and going and going. Eventually I saw a Kentucky Fried Chicken sign, I’d almost reached my destination.
Gasthaus Zum Wohl. Here in the warm I took a seat, looked round at what everyone was eating and then was offered an English Menu. Oh for somewhere like this back home. Zum Wohl is a gluten and lactos free restaurant. Here I could choose anything from the menu. Here I could have a glass of draught beer, brewed especially for them.
I had a choice, I didn’t really, I already knew what I was going to have. Wein Schnitzel. Well I am a tourist! When it arrived I was astounded at how big it was. Accompanied by a potato field salad and some cranberry jam. Ooh it was nice and just what was needed after a long day on my feet.
I checked the pedometer on my phone and then ordered some almond and chocolate pancakes for pudding. I did wonder if I had room for them, I still had a mile to walk home, so felt no guilt.
Once back at the hotel I popped my pyjamas on and poured myself a glass of wine. What a good day it had been.
Meanwhile back at Tardebigge.
Tom moved the outside to a very good one, plenty for me to do. He had a friend come to visit.
Tom Chris stayed lots of sleeps. He’s thinking of having a boat built for him They talked boats lots, reminisced even more, then went to see the dog in a bath down the locks and ate at The Tardebigge. On Sunday they moved the outside. They tied one up and went shopping, then turned us around and headed back to catch the previous outside again.
More shore leave for me! I spent ages in the sideways trees and climbed a tree. A friend kept me busy too. But when I got back to the boat in need of a drink it had gone! Tom had moved the outside with me in it! How dare he!! I shouted lots, but only the wind chimes heard me.
Then from nowhere Tom called my name. What was he doing over there?! At least he had the boat with him!
0 locks, 20.71 miles, 6 tunnels, 3 water fills, 1 extra Tom, 1 friend, 1 missing boat,10.75 miles walked, 1 museum, 1 bagel, 1 wein schnitzel, 1 beer, 1 very good day in Vienna.
Picked up from the airport and checked into my hotel I then showed my face at the theatre in the evening. A very friendly bunch who totally put me to shame, its been a very long time since I learnt German at school! Some words have come back to me during the week, but everyone at the theatre is bilingual.
I must have impressed on my first visit as I got my hands dirty and ended up being invited to stay for a drink in the crew room once everyone had finished work. This reminded me of the old SJT days when ideas were discussed in the green room over tea, just here it’s with a beer or wine in hand at 10pm.
On Wednesday I got to finally meet the new director Tim, a lovely fellow who has worked so hard and been exceptionally patient this week. Dan the writer and actor arrived Wednesday morning in his van, having driven from Newport in two days with jet lag. Then Fez, the videographer arrived completing the team.
I spent the day painting things. All the base coats were ready for me to finish off. There is no scenic artist, but if you show Helga or Michaela what you want they are more than capable. Which is just as well, as I do not like their ladders and there was some high up breaking down to do.
During the evening call we painted the floor. With a plank cut the right width with packers underneath it, I could paint along each side to create floorboards. As soon as I turned round to recharge my brush the plank was moved to its next position ready for me. Then laying in the Painty grain, one person wet the area and I painted over it. A very good team effort and dispite starting later than planned we finished bang on time.
Thursday and lighting started to happen. Some of this before the main parts of the set could be put in position. But once overhead was done the Transporter Bridge could be built. Sections of it I’d already faded to black after asking which way up they would be. Unfortunately Bruno had remembered his Anglo/German labelling wrongly, fortunately it was only two small pieces that needed repainting.
The position for the projector was altered to give us a bigger image and images altered to fit the space and blended in with lighting. It all looked very exciting. The end of the days production meeting got through countless cans of beer and four bottles of wine, I left the building at 2am!
Friday, a day of getting things painted, but badly! There are some days, not many, when I pick up a brush and spend hours doing something, only to look at it later under light to see what a waste of time my work has been! The water torture cabinet is the thing that will be painted and painted on this show, time and again to get it right. It’ll get there, in the end.
Then the sequence with the cabinet was teched. The Audio Visuals took forever to sort. Vernon and his team had worked hard on a solution so that we could move curtains from side to side and then, on cue, have them drop to the floor, this is called a Kabuki. Fortunately my idea for this worked helped by a lot of Viennesse magic.
The content of the AV is still a bone of contention. Discussions could go on for years regarding it. Then it’s editing would take decades! To me the director is sadly right. If only the content had been able to be done in one continuous shot.
Saturday. Tech day. This is when we stop and start the play to add in lighting cues, sound and visual along with curtains opening and closing. We started a little late, but thankfully got through the play despite there being a lot of problems with the images.
I at least got to sit around for much of the day instead of running around. Tim required my input on many things which was nice and stopped me from nodding off!
We finished with enough time for me to finish painting the floor, moulding my mud banks into it, whilst a sweet potato cooked in the microwave for me to eat back at the hotel at gone 11pm. This made a very nice change from various forms of microwave rice that I’ve had each evening.
Tomorrow I have the day off and I’m hoping I have enough energy to see some of Vienna. I have too many things on my list to do, but may just head in one direction and see where I end up.
Meanwhile back on Oleanna.
A day or so after I left, Mick headed to Sherbourne Wharf. 50 litres of diesel (we’ll get more when I’m back from Hawne Basin), they had no gas sadly, then he headed to Cambrian Wharf services to top up on water and finally dispose of our waste.
Then they headed out of town staying on the level. First stop was just south of Edgbaston Tunnel where Tilly got to stretch her legs and be amongst the green again. But she wasn’t satisfied as the towpath was too busy.
Next stop was through Wast Hill Tunnel in a spot we moored with NB Blackbird a few years ago, but they arrived there too late for Tilly to explore.
Mick had hoped to be able to moor at Alvechurch, but where he’d planned he couldn’t get into the side. I’m assuming this was at a far more cat friendly mooring than the usual one by the railway and marina. So he moved on to Tardebigge, where Tilly got green freedom again.
0 locks,? miles, 4 tunnels, 1 happy cat again. Short list today, it will be expanded when I’m home.
German word of the day, Ananas. This means pineapple, but it also means strawberry in Austrian!
Checking our vital statistics for a years worth of cruising takes a while. We have a trip computer which records almost all our journeys, sometimes it counts locks twice, sometimes it doesn’t quite catch where we reached before we wind. Before we used this method of recording our journeys I would use canal plan to work out our distances. This method can also miss out parts of our journey but it does give me more statistics. You know how I like numbers! How many bridges, how many narrow locks and what distances we travelled on different types of waterways. So inputting a years worth of cruising takes some time.
Anyhow, here is our round up of the year.
The New Year was seen in at Crick. From here we decided to head to Sheffield to have the last snagging jobs done on Oleanna, we were fortunate that the route north was open with no winter stoppages in our way until we reached Yorkshire. Once in the top chamber at Foxton it was going to be downhill all the way to Keadby.
Sadly our blog started to loose it’s photos, which is a great shame. It was a problem shared by many bloggers who were all doing their best to get things working again. Have to say we ended up jumping ship from blogger to wordpress, but posts still lacked their photos when moved. We hope gradually to rectify this by replacing the missing photos, I miss them when looking back. But this will be a long job.
During January we cruised down stream on the River Trent, the weather was getting colder the further north we got. Our route was clear but at Keadby the lock off the river was being dredged, so our journey was held up a touch. Then with February came cold nights and the canal at Keadby froze over. So we waited at Cromwell for things to improve.
Daylight hours and tides meant we split our tidal journey at Torksey. The early morning start from Torksey was very cold, so I was very glad I’d knitted us both balaclavas, we remained cosy cheeked for our journey.
Our journey up towards Sheffield meant we coincided with the bicentenary of the opening of the canal and a very unseasonably warm weekend. The chaps at Finesse replaced a leaking window, gave us a new one (our choice), sorted out our gas locker lid amongst other bits and bobs. It had been a good decision going to Sheffield, it saved them time coming out to us and it saved us money on the extras we’d asked for.
Next we headed for Goole, the lure of cheap diesel and a night away to see our friends Bridget and Storm on the otherside of the Humber was a bonus. We then hunkered down to sit out storms and rising river levels. Our original plan had been to go to York, but flooding put paid to that, so instead we went by train.
Towards the end of March we decided to give a trip up the Ouse another go, the rivers were at better levels and we still haven’t taken Oleanna there. But first Bank Dole lock wouldn’t fill due to silt, then when we reached Selby the Lock onto the Ouse had a fault which would take too much time to mend for us to wait. This was a relief for Tilly as this was where she’d discovered the difference between grass and duck weed and ended up learning to swim a couple of years ago.
At the beginning of April we headed to Leeds. From here we had a day trip to Derby Crown Court for the sentencing of our original boat builder (Stillwater) who had finally pleaded guilty for fraud. I also spent a more pleasurable day in London, having a meeting for Puss in Boots.
With panto in mind we planned our cruising for the remainder of the year. The remainder of April we made our way up the Calder and Hebble and onto the Rochdale Canal.
Our friend Frank joined us to do the stretch from Sowerby Bridge to Hebden Bridge, which included the deepest lock n the network, Tuel Lane. He’d not done this stretch back in 2014 when he and I walked from Manchester locking Lillian over the Pennines to get to the Tour de France.
Once over the top we picked up a boat to share the locks down into Manchester. Clare and Graeme were over from New Zealand for a few months and proved to be very good company.
On the 1st of May, with the help of a Canal and River Trust volunteer our passage down into Manchester went well. The following day both boats headed down the Rochdale nine with an extra pair of hands from an old college friend of mine, Doug.
During May we cruised down the Bridgewater and onto the Trent and Mersey Canal gradually heading southwards. A short detour up the Middlewich Branch to look at where the breach had been before we carried on southwards.
A pause in the Cheshire Locks meant we got to meet up with Tom and Jan who were over for a visit. For Micks birthday we moored at Barlaston and had a nosy at the wonderful hall on the hill, our plan still stands if any of our family are interested! https://oleanna.co.uk/2019/05/23/the-plan-20th-may/
We saw the end of May out mooring at Tixall Wide before rejoining the Trent and Mersey and heading onto Fradley Junction where we joined the Coventry Canal. With Atherstone Locks out of the way I spent time below working whilst we cruised familiar waters on the flat, it might have rained too!
A day trip to London from Rugby for us both, me to a seminar for Separate Doors 3 and Mick to catch up with his friend Siobhan who was over from Australia. Continuing down the North Oxford Canal to Braunston where we joined the Grand Union Canal to head to London.
A visit to the Royal Ordnance Depot at Weedon meant I bought some lovely yarn to make a cardie for myself (it’s nearly finished!) and caught up with our friend Heather Bleasdale, who just so happened to be moored there as well.
Our route then up and down the Grand Union meant we managed to get to see both Mikron shows this year as well as teaming up with the cast and NB Tyseley to climb the locks up to the summit.
Tilly was left in charge for a couple of days whilst we headed to Scarborough to check on our house as we had a change of tenants. This meant we got to stay with Jaye and Duncan and catch up on the news from home.
We now pressed on down to London where we booked a mooring in Paddington Basin for a week in early July. This gave us the opportunity to catch with with friends and family before we headed back out west and down the Hanwell flight. I made the front cover of Canal Boat for July.
Mid July we locked out onto the Thames cruising the Tidal section to Teddington. From here we transited to the River Wey, brand new waters for us.
With my final design for panto delivered to Chipping Norton from Guildford we could enjoy our cruising a bit more, despite the soaring temperatures which had us hiding under trees for a couple of days.
On the 26th July we ticked off our third point on the compass, reaching Godalming the furthest south you can get on the connected network. On our way back to the Thames we met up with Adam from NB Briar Rose, both he and Tilly got wet that day.
The original plan had been to cruise the Basingstoke Canal whilst we were there, but sadly the levels were too low and the canal closed before we got there, so we spent a while longer on the Wey.
Onto the Thames where we managed to get a space outside Hampton Court for a couple of days and I discovered the joys of standing in line for some fresh veg. Gradually we made our way up the Thames. Waking early and getting going worked for us as mostly we managed to get moored where we wanted around lunchtime. Three years ago we did from Teddington to Oxford in a week but with a months licence we took our time.
The further upstream we got the quieter the river got, less hustle and bustle. We met up with Paul and Christine (NB Waterway Routes), missed Carol and George (WB Still Rockin), finally got to have a proper conversation with Sue and Vic (WB No Problem XL) as we headed upstream.
As the rivers bends got tighter, the banks were harder to get up. A mooring by Kelmscott Manor required a rope from the post to help us get on and off the boat, but it was worth it to visit the house.
On the 26th August we winded at the furthest point we could reach on the Thames on Oleanna and started to head back eastwards. Tilly gave one of our moorings a double stamp of approval and stayed out well after dark!
An incident with engine coolant nearly stopped us from reaching Oxford to see War Horse. But a nice man from RCR got us going again so we had a narrow lock fix and headed to the show catching up with Matt and Bill for a drink afterwards.
Then at the beginning of September we turned off the Thames onto the Kennet and Avon. For the last five years we’ve been meaning to head this way, but for one reason or another it hadn’t happened.
With tales of lack of mooring we kept to rising early hoping we’d get moorings. This mostly worked and wild moorings were very rarely needed, we did still have to use the gang plank every now and again. We only encountered one pound on our westward journey where even the longest plank wouldn’t have helped which meant we had to carry on up a flight with the clock ticking before locks were locked around us.
At Devizes we met an Instagram friend Frankie who’d been working on the flight over the summer. Despite following another boat down the flight we made good time with the help of the volunteers.
Onwards to Bath and Bristol. Here we moored with HMS GB in the background and met up with two of my old school friends for lunch. A big shame we couldn’t stay longer as there was more we wanted to do and see whilst there, we’ll just have to save up for next time as the mooring fees are quite pricey!
The section between Bath and Bradford upon Avon was our favourite, with the aqueducts and views along with the second deepest lock on the network.
Mick and Tilly got to enjoy it for a week longer than me whilst I headed off to Cornwall to eat gluten free pasties and start painting my panto set for a week.
Once I was back we had two weeks to reach Oxford, but the weather had different ideas. What felt like the monsoon season started. There was rain on most days, luckily not the day we did Devizes. We managed to team up with two couples from Bristol on a hire boat, by the time they reached the top of the flight they could work uphill locks with their eyes closed, we left them to master downhill on their return journey.
Our second low pound struck as we tried to leave Cobblers Lock, Oleanna was sat firmly on the ground and unable to leave the lock until a good flushing of water set her free. The rain actually did me a favour as whilst we sat in Newbury hoping for the Thames to drop I managed to get my model for A Regular Little Houdini finished.
At the end of October I headed off to panto land leaving Mick and Tilly a short distance outside Reading, hoping they would be able to get up the Thames in the following week. Our friend Paul came and helped Mick out onto the Thames reaching Goring on their first day. Here Mick and Tilly got to met Carol and George (WB Still Rockin’) who’d been clinging onto the moorings there before heading downstream.
Paul returned later in the week and despite the engine overheating and having to deploy the anchor they succeeded in getting to Abingdon where Oleanna had her second visit from RCR. Mick battled on against quite a downstream flow and reached Sandford Lock before tying up. Here the levels rose and fell, the engineer came for a second visit and found lots of crud in our cooling system.
With the engine in better fettle, Mick nudged his way up towards Oxford and finally made a dash up Osney Lock and onto the canal despite that section still being on red boards. It turns out he’d chosen his moment well as the river has stayed on red boards since then.
Once I left all the singing dancing and glitter behind and returned to narrowboat life we had to sit out high levels on the Oxford canal and on the River Cherwell. We loitered in Oxford, but as soon as it looked like things were improving we were on our way.
We paused in Banbury for Christmas haircuts and shopping before pulling in for a few days at Cropredy Marina, from where we headed to London for a Sibling get together at my brothers.
Onwards to the top of the Oxford Canal the day the locks reopened and down the other side continuing onwards to Radford Smelly for Christmas.
In Warwick we met up with my family and then picked up crew Mike and Chris to help us up the Hatton and Lapworth flights.
The last few locks were done on New Years Eve bring us up to the Birmingham level for the new year.
Quite a busy year. So our vital statistics for 2019
According to Canalplan
Total distance is 1199 miles, ½ furlong and 886 locks . There are 119 moveable bridges of which 22 are usually left open; 139 small aqueducts or underbridges and 20 tunnels – a total of 8 miles 2 ¼ furlongs underground and 8 major aqueducts.
This is made up of 207 miles, 4 furlongs of narrow canals; 399 miles, 5¾ furlongs of broad canals; 102 miles, 5 ¼ furlongs of commercial waterways; 226 miles, 6 ¼ furlongs of small rivers; 212 miles, 5 furlongs of large rivers; 49 miles, 6 ¼ furlongs of tidal rivers; 150 narrow locks; 626 broad locks; 109 large locks; 1 lock on major waterways.
838.2 engine hours
That is 255 miles and 272 locks more than last year! But 246.4 hours less engine running, just goes to show it’s worth having solar panels.
1336.93 litres diesel, 9 (although we’ve got 2 empty now) gas bottles (used for central heating as well as cooking), 6 overnight guests, 6 packs Dreamies, 1 cover cat, 32 friends, 17 Mrs Tilly stamps of approval, 1 double stamp, 5 pairs socks, 3 pairs gloves, 1 baby blanket, 2 shows designed, 1 cover illustration, 5 lots gluten free puff pastry, 9 supermarket deliveries, 39 boxes of wine delivered, 12 bottles of wine delivered.
Earlswood Motor Club to Birmingham City Centre, BCN
Mick checked the weedhatch using his new pair of pond gloves. His original pair (now five years old) had sprung a few too many leaks to do their job properly. Despite being able to have a good feel around the prop there was nothing there. Our slow progress must be more to do with our depth and the canals depth.
Not that much later than normal we pushed off to make our way into Birmingham, well we tend not to be early risers. Estimates reckoned we’d reach our chosen destination in around 4 and a half hours, a longer cruise than normal at this time of year. We wanted to make the centre of Birmingham today so had to push on.
The club house at Earlswood is having major building work, extensions on both sides. What looks like a new Pump out machine and new blue pipes stick up out of the ground along the cut.
The mooring round the corner was occupied, the view not as good as we’d had last night, so we’d stopped in the right place. Dickens Heath looked as it always does, incongruous. The water feature no longer flowing and just turning green instead. Here the number of towpath walkers increased.
Washing was on our minds, the drawer overflowing. A good long cruise into Birmingham would be useful to charge the batteries as we washed two loads and ran the dishwasher.
Shirley Drawbridge was our first obstacle. The control pedestal is hidden behind the barrier box, so took some finding, even though I’ve had this problem before. Once the bridge was clear I pressed the open button wondering how many vehicles I’d get to hold up. Only 1! Two others turned away just at the last minute. Oh well.
We avoided a fisherman just after Bridge 5 who had plonked himself on the bollards for the waterpoint. But there was still plenty of space for us so we topped up the tank as a second load of washing went through the machine.
Cups of tea in our thermos mugs and snacks taken out the back we continued onwards, through Brandwood Tunnel and Kings Norton guillotine lock. Here much of the graffiti has been cleaned away. A homeless man had made himself and his dog comfortable under the bridge, a good place to keep dry.
Kings Norton Junction Toll House is swathed in scaffolding. Back in February last year ( it’s odd saying that) the building was set alight, arson was suspected. Fire crews had limited access so had to carry much of their equipment to the scene with them. Hopefully the building will be restored.
Here we turned right up towards Birmingham. Shortly before Lifford Lane Bridge, Oleanna reared up, listed and eventually rode over a submerged obstacle. Looking behind us into the murky depths I thought I could see a wing mirror of a red car. Up ahead there was a wide enough opening and ramp down onto the towpath for someone to have brought a car for disposal. Were we the first to come this way this year? I sent a facebook message to Canal and River Trust, but so far have heard nothing back, well it is New Years day.
On we pootled in the chilly grey afternoon air. At Bournville there was a space we could have pulled into, but we decided to carry on. The new Sainsburys at Selly Oak is right by the canal and looks huge. Wonder if mooring rings will be put in for passing boaters?
At Edgbaston Tunnel the handrail and lighting reminded me of my panto design.
By now it was dusk, so our lights on the roof stood out twinkling in the gloom, we got lots of smiles and comments from those on the towpath.
We turned left at The Mailbox and carried on to Worcester Bar. Should we moor on the visitor mooring there or carry on to a more familiar mooring? We carried on under the buildings into the big lights of the city.
Mick waved at a familiar boat down the Ouzels Loop, but the occupants were a touch busy to notice, hopefully we’ll catch up with them whilst we are in the area.
Once moored up there was the matter of what to do with the ash from the stove? MIck lifted the ash pan out and left it on the towpath, hoping that it would cool down enough before we headed to bed to be able to go into a bag, sadly this wasn’t the case. Tomorrow we’ll be hunting round for an ash can.
With our loyalty card in hand we made our way to The Handmade Burger Company, just around the corner. Today we’d get a free drink. Well that’s what we thought until we got to the doors to see a sign saying that they were closing at 5pm!
What to eat instead? We’d both really fancied a burger. Other places seemed quite empty, many had no lights on at all. Pizza Express however was open so we opted for the usual in there. Gluten free dough balls and Pollo Ad Astra each. Mick’s pizza being nearly twice the size of mine!
Returning to the boat we sat down to watch the first episode of the new series of Dr Who. Verdict, we think it’s got potential to be better than the last series. The monsters might just be worth pulling the sofa out for!