Category Archives: Wyrley and Essington Canal

Obligatory! 21st September

Laches Bridge 73 to Otherton Marina

By the time we’d had a leisurely breakfast we’d been passed by many boats, in fact by the end of the day we’d seen more moving boats than we’ve seen in all the time since turning onto the Grand Union at Napton Junction three weeks ago. We’d taken so much time in getting ready to push off that the next lot of kids had come past in canoes powered by screams.

On closer inspection that might be NB Jubilee behind Bessie Surtees too!

Last night there had been several boats moored along the stretch in front of us, now there was only one. It turned out to be NB Bessie Surtees, fellow Scarborians! We’d last past them at Tyreley in March last year when we had a brief chat and imagined the world would be back to near normal in a matter of a few months. A good gap in passing boats meant we were able to have quite a chat as we trod water. One day I will find out your names! Lovely to have a catch up, hope the weather stays kind for roof painting and see you somewhere next year.

A good Scarborough Smile

At Hatherton Junction we followed the canal to the left.

A right turn one day (hopefully) will take you onto the Hatherton Canal which is proposed for restoration. This will link up with the Wyrley and Essington Canal at Fishley Junction near Pelsall. The canal used to connect with the Cannock Extension via the Churchbridge Branch climbing 16 locks.

Moored boats, fishermen, a bridge and an on coming boat all happen at the same time when the canal is busy as it is. I wonder how much time the fishermen spend moving their lines out of the way at the moment. The two chaps said they’d caught a few, so it must be worth their time.

The ‘No Mooring or Stopping’ signs look to have had a make over alongside the chemical works. Plenty of boats kept on moving, mostly a mixture of hire and share boats. There was space at Gailey for a top up of the water tank, we also pumped out the yellow water for disposal at the elsan here whilst the lock was pretty much in constant use. Our tank finished filling at the same time as a share boat that had pulled up after us, with two more boats coming towards us we both quickly moved up towards the lock.

Gailey Lock

The obligatory photo was taken with the tower, no longer a shop. Two C&RT chaps lifted a manhole and started to turn off what we assumed was the bywash round the lock, it was still flowing at force as we passed below. We pulled in for some lunch before we carried on.

Stop planks in their house

Taking our time was maybe a good idea as we didn’t end up joining the post lunch queue at Brick Kiln Lock, we arrived just in time to help the boat ahead open and close the bottom gates.

Training boat

At Boggs Lock a training boat was coming up, a time to stand back and not help. Their progress was quite slow, but very safe, as the crew worked the lock everything was explained to them.

Just by the M6

With boats coming towards us and one following there always seemed to be crew to help with gates and paddles. A hire boat at Rodbaston Lock were hoping to reach The Anchor pub today but had been told it was too far to reach. I checked my map, suggesting it would be just short of 3 hours, but with this amount of traffic about maybe longer.

Frothy Man!

Along the side of the M6 I walked on to Otherton Lock. This lock is always so frothy! Why this one in particular?

Handy bridges at some locks now

We decided that we’d stop before Penkridge, giving Tilly a while longer to explore, but the number of woofers was a touch off putting so she spent quite a bit of time on the roof instead of in the friendly cover.

A tight squeeze

During the afternoon we regrouped. Our current cruising plan is possibly being thwarted by vandals emptying pounds on the northern waterways which we suspect C&RT are having difficulty refilling due to low water reserves in reservoirs. We consulted canal plan for alternative routes. Some quicker but hard work. Some very familiar. After quite a bit of debate we have decided that for now we will continue with the original plan hoping that things improve ahead of us. Final decision to be made in ten days. We have Plan B, C and D. We also have our fingers and paws crossed.

But if I cross my paws too much I won’t be able to climb trees!

5 locks, 5.72 miles, 2 fellow Scarborians, 1 full water tank, 1 empty wee tank, 2 many boats, M6, 1 frothy lock, 4 possible routes, 1 preferred, 20 fingers and 4 paws crossed.

Staring Down The Barrel Of A Gun. 19th September

Dudley Port Basin to Wolverhampton Tunnel

Last nights mooring

It was just starting to stop raining when the Sainsburys van arrived, the young chap brought our order over to the boat where it was loaded in through the side hatch. Once everything was stowed we finished off breakfast then made ready to push off, timing it perfectly with the sun coming out.


We’d just turned to face the entrance when a new shiny red Bickerstaff boat cruised past, there were waves all round. No-one was coming so we were straight out of the basin and heading north west.

With the sun out and the water being so clear the bottom of the canal looked like the back drop for a Disney film, all aqua blue lily pads waving at us from the depths. Just how long would it stay like this for? We’ve been hearing of masses of weed towards Wolverhampton and boats having to stop every hundred yards to clear their prop, but for now we enjoyed being able to see the bottom.

Soon to be a new bridge

Coneygree Rail Bridge has been removed, it looks like the Wednesbury to Brierley Hill extension of the Metro will be using the crossing with a purpose built structure.

On the off side a duck sits on top of a cannon defending it’s landing and swing seat. Tipton Junction and we turned right, not able to see how many boats were nestled by the Black Country Museum. No boats at John The Locks Moorings, maybe we’d already seen the only boat we’d see today.

Nobody coming up Factory Locks, another route up from the Birmingham level. There’s a large area of building rubble on the off side. Was this here early last year? Or is it new? We couldn’t remember.

Coseley Tunnel next, not long at 329m, a towpath on each side, three cyclists to our starboard and a waterfall to our port side. Straight on at Deepfields Junction, the Bradley Arm still to be ticked off the BCN list.

Don’t stray from path

Now we started to meet the weed, a distinct channel has been cut through by boats, stick to it and you may be okay, venture off it and you’ll be down the weedhatch guaranteed!

Beep beep! Anyone home?

Round a few more bends, another boat come into view. Straight away we knew who it was and what they were likely to be doing. Mike and Christine on NB Alchemy have been enjoying the Curley Wurley over the last few days, we’d not been sure where our paths would cross, but now we knew. We bipped our horn. No sign of movement. Another two bipps, still nothing. The front door was open, gang plank deployed, hopefully they’d not been kidnapped!

Hopefully our paths will cross again next year, somewhere, sometime

Then Mike’s head appeared from the stern, he’d of course been down the weedhatch, not only weed but a long length of plastic had wrapped itself around the drive shaft. We loitered to have a chat. No wind blowing us off course today and no passing boats so we managed quite a lengthy conversation, which was disturbed by a hire boat coming round the bend. We moved over to let the boat come past meaning we ended up towards the off side, Mick indicated which side to pass us on and hand signals came back.

As they passed us one chap asked when they’d get back out into the open, we think he meant the countryside, Mick said well you’re headed for Birmingham. The chap seemed to be puzzled by that, just about any countryside from here would be a days cruise away, we wondered if they had a map?

Conspiracy graffiti

We waved goodbye to Mike and Christine, then discovered we’d got stuck in the shallow off side. Boat pole was retrieved from the roof and Mick tried to push Oleanna off, but the silt below was so deep the pole just kept going into it. A bit of rocking, reversing and eventually we managed to get moving again, only to be stopped by something around our propeller just around the bend. Where we drifted to seemed to be a popular place to dump thick weed from propellers.

I love this structure

Back on the move we soon arrived at Horsely Fields Junction, here we turned right onto the Wyrley and Essington Canal and into the narrow channel with buddleia and other bushes growing across it. Up ahead two chaps came into view staring straight towards us. They were nestled amongst cars piled high in a scrap yard. One chap sat on the wall, in front of him a white plastic container, resting on this was a rifle!

Who’d have guessed there’d be a rifle pointing at us

Hang on! Hang on!! That rifle was pointing towards us! I was stood at the bow so would be first in the line of fire! I smiled and said hello, keeping calm. As we got closer the chaps kept staring, thankfully past me and just to the right of Mick. Phew! ‘What have you got in your sights?’ I asked. ‘Rats!’

As it says Urban Moorings

Just past the gunmen is Urban Moorings. We pulled up alongside the first moored boat. Early last year we had a night here on their visitor mooring, currently occupied, and had a full guided tour of the moorings. Lots has changed since then, there are more wooden buildings and more planned, lots and lots of plants growing everywhere. As last year we had a very warm welcome.

Fred in with the flowers

A few days ago we’d called ahead to see if we could off load the solids from our separating toilet, adding them to their now established compost bins. They can accommodate those who pass by, but not every boater in the West Midlands turning up in cars! They now have four bins built out of railway sleepers which seem to have enough insulation that the contents are always warm, therefore the composting process is speeded up somewhat. The first bin from a year ago is being used in flower beds, the compost is so rich that they are having to mix it with top soil, their flower beds look very happy on it.

Michaelmas Daisies

We left them with a cash donation towards their future plans and twelve babies from our wild strawberry plants that I’d just pruned from the second trough this morning. With permission and guidance we were allowed to wind at the end of the island. This isn’t marked as a winding hole as the end of the island used to be pointed, jutting out quite a way, it now hides below the surface for the unsuspecting. Directions were to turn as if we were heading down past the boats in the arm and not to drift towards the submerged point. Mick took his time, churning up black from the depths and slowly got us round. Thank you ladies, maybe see you next year.

There’s a pointy bit lurking beneath the water

Back to the junction we turned right towards Wolverhampton. Here the towpath has been closed for the last week due to an unstable wall. Well I say closed, but you’d never know it was, cyclists and walkers quite happily getting past the fencing at both ends. The fence nearer Wolverhampton sticks out across the cut and looked really quite unstable.

Right please

We pulled in on the offside mooring, not needing to go anywhere tonight here would be fine for us. The ivy clad wall did however mean that Tilly would spend the next few hours complaining at not being allowed shore leave. We ignored her, preferring her complaints to worrying as she climbed up towards the ring road!

That looks safe!

Tonight we enjoyed a leg of lamb with all the accompaniments. We’ll still be enjoying it for a few more days as there is plenty left.

It’s rubbish this! LET ME OUT!!!!

0 locks, 6.9 miles, 3 lefts, 2 rights, 1 straight on, 1 wind, 1 tunnel, 1 blogging boat, 1 clogged prop, 6ft of silt, 2 buckets, 4 hot bins, 107 babies, 12 given to a good home, 0.5 leg of lamb, 1 off side mooring, 1 mardy cat.

Facing Fear. 15th September

Cast Iron Roving Bridge to other side of Sheepcote Street Bridge

There are peoples names that stay with you through your life, some for good reasons, some for bad. One such (bad) name for me is Jeff Farrow, he has affected my life from an early age right up to today and most probably beyond. Then there is Colin Pocock, I met him February last year and spent quite a bit of time in his company. Our reason for coming to Birmingham was for me to see him again, the pandemic and all that has happened in the last 18 months has meant putting off a visit. But 18 months is far better than the 30 plus years before. Today it was time to visit Colin again, my (good) dentist.

Can we have a new outside please!

Today was for a check up and I came away with a pat on the back from Colin, a new toothbrush head and an appointment for tomorrow morning to see a hygienist. We’d allowed a week in our schedule should appointments be hard to get or more be required.

Wonder If I could get that ball?

Back at Oleanna our 2 day mooring was up, we would need another day. Last year we’d asked C&RT for permission to allow us to be in the area for longer than normally permitted for me to see Colin. We’d chatted with the local enforcement officer, she checked our cruising record and had no problem, today this wouldn’t be needed. We looked around and spotted a 14 day mooring just through Sheepcote Street Bridge.

Not such a popular outside for Tilly

Tilly had somewhere new to explore, a little bit noisy as the balconies on the flats we are moored below are having some work done to them. The sideways trees are not as neat as through on the other side of the bridge, but maybe this made them more interesting to her.

Undercoat on

With the sun showing it’s face I got the undercoat out from a bow locker, gave it a very good mix, sanded back any excess primer and then gave the bits on the grab rail a coat. That’s the next layer of protection on. Top coat next and I may actually use the tin of wrong red for this and save the proper red for when I do the full length of the boat next year.

Can I come with you?

There was still an amount of afternoon that needed using. Maybe a look around the recently opened Roundhouse opposite. They are doing guided tours, but none were available today as they are only available on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays currently.

Tram tracks

Instead I decided to head off for a walk and to see how the city centre has progressed in the last 18 months. I walked around the houses a little bit until I got to Broad Street. Here the tram tracks are still going in towards Five Ways, but back towards the canal the road is open again.


In front of The Rep the mirror pool looked stunning today with the sunshine, not quite all the buildings are complete yet around the area, so a few cranes feature in my photo.

The Rep is surrounded by hoardings. The theatre is getting a facelift with a new front of house area and cafe. I’d been so transfixed with the reflections in the pool and what shows were going to be at The Rep that I completely forgot to turn round to see what the Symphony Hall looked like. Last year the front of the building was being demolished, hope it’s weather proof now!

Modern reflections of historical buildings

I then walked past the Hall of Memory, over Paradise Circus which is now open to traffic and towards the Museum and Art Gallery. New buildings shine and show off the stonework, domes and spires of the old, a rather pleasing vista.

Forward Together

Besides the Town Hall and Museum is a new Luke Perry sculpture. Luke’s works are all around the BCN. The Dudley no 2 sports a fine collection, at Titford Pools the Rock Driller works at the top of a ladder, a very tall man fishes near Walsall Wood. Today I got to see his latest sculpture Forward Together, A Diversity Monument that will be on display until Christmas then moved to Colmore Square until August next year.

The sculpture is a reimagining of the city’s crest being raised by a line of 25 figures, all of whom are local extraordinary everyday people.  From those that suffered domestic abuse, to cancer, to disabilities, violence and bloodshed (Holocaust), to simple acceptance in society, to racism, to mental health. The monument visibly represents the cities multi-coloured multicultural society. Quotes from Benjamin Zephaniah are embossed on the crest, “No one is here without a struggle” and “We all came here from somewhere”.

Five of the twenty five

This evening we have treated ourselves to an Indian take away from Amir’s a short distance away on St Vincent Street. I chose some dishes we’ve never come across before, Lamb chops Shatkora Bhuna being our favourite, a traditional Bangladeshi dish. As ever we ordered too much food, so we’ll be having the left overs tomorrow night with homemade gluten free nan bread. Yum.

0 locks, 0.36 miles, 15 minutes, 1 pat on the back, 14 day mooring for 1 more day, 7 patches of undercoat, 1 sunny afternoon, 1 new sculpture, 25 locals, 2 onion bhajees, 1 chicken dish, 1 lamb chop dish , 1 sag aloo, 2 pilau rice, 3 free popadoms, 1 still unimpressed cat.

2020 A Long And Winding Year.

Get yourself a cuppa and put your feet up, this is a long post.

Into BUMingham

Having seen New Year in on the North Stratford Canal we commenced the new year by cruising in to Birmingham or as Tilly would have it know, BUMingham, she’s not too keen!

What a stripy world!

A meeting with Amy from Dark Horse Theatre Company about a project in the summer set out our years cruising as I’d need to be in Huddersfield then York for the show. Then it was time to pack and get myself ready for ten days in Vienna. This would be the longest I’ve been away from boat life since we set out in 2014. Half of my clothes were packed up along with a basic scene painting kit and I jetted off to what was a mixed experience. Despite the problems I had a wonderful time working with a great team in the theatre, I hope one day to return.

Whilst I marvelled at the wonderful scenes in Vienna and pulled my hair out at work, trying to keep a calm exterior, Mick and Tilly headed back out into the countryside towards Tardebigge on the Worcester and Birmingham. Here they met up with a friend Chris who was planning a boat build.


Mick and Tilly came back into Birmingham to pick me up and then we set about exploring the BCN. There is plenty to explore and we didn’t quite manage to go everywhere, but we did our best.

Smethwick Locks

We headed up Smethwick New Locks onto the Old Main line. Stopped at Dudley Port Basin, coconuts accompanied us down Brades Staircase, then through Netherton Tunnel where we’d planned on visiting Hawne Basin, but thick ice thwarted our first attempt. The following day we succeeded and had a bumpy ride along the Dudley No 2 to fill our diesel tank.

Emma and Ted

Factory Locks brought us back onto the Old Main Line, we visited Wolverhampton, turned onto the Wyrley and Essington Canal and wiggled our way through the rubbish to Pelsall Junction. Here we had a wonderful get together with my bestestest friend and her son Ted (my Godson) who were over from Sydney, an all but too short lunch with them before they headed onwards on their whistlestop tour of England.

The Cannock Extension and Anglesey Branch were ticked off followed by the Daw End Branch, The Rushall Canal, Tame Valley Canal and up the Ryders Green Locks back into the centre of BUMingham early February.

The Jewellery Quarter kept us busy with visits to Smith and Pepper a time warp jewellery manufacturers, The Back to Backs, The Coffin Works. We watched the film 1917.

The Garden white card scale model

I designed costumes and made the white card model for The Garden for Dark Horse whilst we sat out storm Ciara which was to wipe out the Figure of Three Locks on the Calder Hebble. The damage to the locks looked great and not fixable quickly, a rethink to our cruising route was needed for me to get to work in the summer.

We went to the Symphony Hall and listened to Schubert and Berg spurred on by Dimitrios from NB Galene. Storm Dennis kept us from cruising to our next evening of entertainment at Titford Pump House, a bus replacement did the job so that we could see Alarum Theatre Company’s Acts of Abandonment. Little did we know at the time that this was to be our last live theatre until December.

A night out in the countryside for Tilly and a last night in the city to fill our bellies with curry. Then we were off again, up Smethwick Locks under the M5 where the scaffolding was being taken down. We turned up the Oldbury Locks following a boat that turned out to be NB Sola Gratia. A spin round the Titford Pools was in order before we returned for another diesel top up at Hawne Basin.

The Walsall Canal now beckoned us, that was a bumpy ride over trolleys, trees and all sorts! A fantastic fabric shop, the New Art Gallery right by our mooring and The Leather Museum kept our interest for a couple of days before we climbed up the Walsall Locks back up to Wyrley and Essington Canal.

The garden at Urban Moorings

The ladies at Urban Moorings welcomed us for an overnight visit, time to work the washing machine hard as we plugged into the electric. Then we kept our fingers crossed for a mooring at The Black Country Museum, which thankfully worked.

Marion and John came to meet us for an afternoon at the museum and we all enjoyed fish and chips with plenty of salt and vinegar in between visiting shops and watching chain links being made. The following day we took a boat trip into the Dudley Tunnel, had a second visit to the museum along with a portion of chips before heading out to moor in Tipton and have a visit from Heather from NB Bleasdale, followed by a pie at Mad O’Roukes Pie Factory.

The 7th of March saw us descend the Wolverhampton 21, leaving the Birmingham plateau behind us. Blimey we managed to pack a lot into the first ten weeks of the year! Just as well really. Onto the Shroppie where I had my first successes with gluten free sour dough bread, Tilly got to remember life in the countryside and we were treated to Shroppie Sunsets again.

Burgers with the Margees

The recent storms had brought down numerous trees and caused landslips so our progress was a touch slow heading northwards. We had a lovely lunch with Alison and Laura the Margees at Norbury Junction, they were to be our last visitors on board Oleanna for quite sometime.

Passing NB Bessie Surtees on the Tyrley Locks we actually got chance to chat for the first time. A stop to stock up in Market Drayton, we saw our first homemade mask (a pair of y fronts repurposed) and the start of empty shelves in supermarkets with people gleeful to have a twelve pack of toilet roll under their coat.

The Audlem flight was busy with plenty going down and NB Mountbatten coming up, delivering coal as they went. Theatres closed that day and we started to put into practice new ways of working locks hoping to keep ourselves safe. As we socially distanced around the shops in Nantwich people were joking about the virus. We shopped, adapting what we bought to what was available and then got ready for our first Zoom with family on the 21st March.

We stocked up with NB Halsall at Calverley then made our way onto the Middlewich Branch and down Cholmondeston Lock. The following morning (23rd March) we listened to our gut instincts. If lockdown was to happen we’d rather not have to negotiate locks to get to shops or services, so we winded and headed back up Cholmondeston Lock onto the Nantwich pound. Our gut instinct was correct.

Adam and Adrian on NB Briar Rose

The next few days we saw plenty of boats moving, finding places they wanted to spend the coming weeks, heading for home or temporary ones like NB Briar Rose. Jac my sister in law eventually managed to get a flight back from Melbourne where she’d been to celebrate her Mum’s birthday, at last everyone was where they should be.

We tried different moorings out for size as the need to fill with water or get shopping arose. It was also good to keep Tilly moving, both to stop her from getting bored and to help the local wildlife survive.

Our decision to be on the Nantwich pound turned out to be a good one, we ended up mooring at the bottom of Hurleston on the visitor moorings most, this became ‘Home’ for us where we watched spring turn into summer.

Watching the field behind the hedge be ploughed, planted and start to grow. Listening to the Lapwings enjoying the bounty in the potato fields. Getting to know our neighbours at a distance. The wheelie shoppers. The huskies out for their morning walk. The egg farm at the top of the locks. Weekly veg boxes from Nantwich Veg Boxes which we collected for ourselves and NB AreandAre. Supermarket deliveries were sought each week, sometimes only managing click and collect. The sun shone and Tilly had freedom. The coal boats kept us stocked up with fuel and our waterless (composting) toilet took one need to move out of the equation.

By mid-April my design for The Garden had been reimagined into an illustrated audio play. I was to do the illustrations, then they would have audio and some animation added to be available online. Chippy panto started to gear up with the hope that all would be back to normal-ish by the end of November for the show to be mounted.

We winded, went for walks, watched plays on the internet, winded, ate cheese scones, winded again! Tilly ventured further afield, across her field. We had barbeques, brownies and watched the reservoir banks get mown by remote control.

By Mid-May we were allowed to travel, so we hired a car for a day trip to Scarborough to see how our house was after the tenants had lost it during lockdown. In need of some tlc we now made plans for the rest of the year. We would be returning to life on land for a while, but planned on cruising as much as we could before then.

On the 23rd of May the suspension of the 14 day rule was lifted, our ‘home’ mooring was now 48 hours only so it was time to start moving again. Some boats around Hurleston headed off straight away, others remained a full 14 days before pushing off. We spent the next two weeks pootling to the far ends of the pound, Hack Green and Calvereley, the gunnels got a repaint and we said farewell to NB AreandAre who were heading up onto the Llangollen.

Cholmondeston Lock

With a full boat of veg and fruit from Nantwich Veg boxes, a Sainsburys shop and a visit from NB Halsall we were ready and on the 10th June we pushed our ‘home’ mooring away for the last time this year, Calverely was visited for a top up of water a toilet refresh and then we were off, turning onto the Middlewich Branch and descending Cholmondeston Lock, our first lock in 80 days. New gardening gloves became my boaters PPE and worked well, better than sanitising every five minutes.

Across onto the Trent and Mersey where we headed for Bramble Cuttings for a couple of nights. We’d been hoping to be able to drop down onto the Weaver but the Anderton Boat lift was still closed. So instead we winded at Whatcroft flash and headed up the Cheshire Locks hoping to catch Bosley Locks being open for a day to make our way onto the summit pound of the Macclesfield.

Nice Lock

It was nice being back on familiar ground again, although it took a little while to be able to do the Trent and Mersey hurdles over the lockgate beams with ease after sitting still for so long.

Our chairs were brought out onto the towpath to watch the setting sun at Tilly Railings and a barbeque was enjoyed on the Dane Aqueduct as we waited in line for Bosley Locks to open.

Bosley Locks and The Cloud in the background

With a single hander in front and one behind everyone helped out where we could making our passage up the locks a very jolly if hot one that only took 2.5 hours. Over the next ten days or so we pootled our way along the Macclesfield Canal, such a lovely stretch of water and oh those bridges! Still our favourites.

Calling in at Bollington Wharf we had our gas locker lid mended and had a top up of diesel. Foxgloves filled the canal banks and woods, we stopped at favourite spots along the way turning under the snake bridge at Marple onto the Peak Forest Canal at the end of June, heading for Whaley Bridge and Bugsworth Basin.

Saturday 4th July the pubs could re-open, we however went for a walk and waited for our delivery from Sainsburys along with a diesel top up from NB Alton. A batch of cheese scones were made to help us down the Marple flight on the 7th, we were the second boat down and it felt like we were pioneering boats going where no one had gone for months.

A couple of nights at Droylesden Marina saw to the washing pile and to recharge our batteries before we descended into Manchester. Our last narrow lock of the year was to be Ancotes Bottom Lock 1 on the Ashton Flight where we paused for a night at Telford Basin before tackling the Rochdale 9 on our own the following day. Patience and sheer determination got us out of Lock 92 at the bottom and was rewarded with a cheese scone as we made our way out to the Bridgewater Canal and Worsely.

The 14th July saw us rising up the Wigan Flight. We’d made arrangements to share the locks with NB Billy but it was decided by the volunteer lock keepers that they might be over long to share with, so instead we teamed up with John and Lindsey on NB Merganser. With the help of the Wigan Flight crew setting ahead we made good time up the flight, we then slowed down leaving the others to head off ahead of us.

The next few days we found ourselves leapfrogging NB Billy, or should that be hopfrogging? But we finally caught them up at Blackburn to share the locks. Another spectacular sunset was enjoyed by all near Foster Swing Bridge.

We’d planned to take our time along this stretch, but with local lockdowns looking possible in the area we decided to push on. The Burnley Embankment was busy with walkers and not a place to stop so we continued on to the bottom of Barrowford Locks. The following day we were caught up again by NB Billy so we shared the final flight up to the summit with Clare and Pete.

Our sixth anniversary of being fulltime boaters happened to coincide with pulling up at our favourite mooring on the network, the curley wurlys above Bank Newton. The following day the clouds lifted and we got to see the view. A barbecue was just managed before it started to rain.

It wasn’t quite plain sailing down into Skipton as the skipper of NB Amelie ended up in the cut at the bottom of Bank Newton and then we had problems with lock gates and swing bridges. Mick and I had an overnight in Scarborough leaving Tilly in charge and with the magic food bowl primed. On our return to Skipton we were met by two octogenarians leaning out of the upstairs windows of their house waving. We joined Margaret and Robert for a lovely meal, good to see them even if we were a bit nervy being in their company inside.

Sunny weather accompanied us onwards and finally I managed to take the photo I’ve been after for four years, Oleanna coming towards me under Parson’s Bridge. Now we have the matching pair, Lillian going away from us, Oleanna towards.

At Bingley five rise we teamed up with NB Barley to descend with the help of Lock Keeper Clare, carrying on to Saltaire in the sunshine.

A pause in Rodley meant we could meet up with friends Graham and Tracy in their new garden room, very nice to have a good catch up with them. The following day we took the opportunity to have lunch with my cousins Julie and John, our first pub in months.

Meeting up with Jenny and Andy on NB Barley again we shared the locks down into Leeds with them early the next day. A lack of water meant it took an hour to do one pound as water was let down from above, but we made it in the end to Granary Wharf. Shame the lack of water followed us, in fact the basin did a good job of emptying itself overnight. It took quite a few hours before boats had enough water to be afloat again, we all made a hasty exit as soon as we could.

Back into the big locks of the Aire and Calder we motored on to Ferrybridge where now only three of the power station cooling towers remain, a very sad sight.

Down Bank Dole Lock, the slow filler and we headed to Selby. Our trip up the Tidal Ouse was an interesting one a there were SO many trees floating about, we had to try our best to loose them before passing through what few bridges there were. Kingfishers escorted us just about all the way to Naburn which was a real treat. Instead of pulling up in York we decided to head on up to Ripon, we’d spend time in York on our way back, or so we thought!

Above Boroughbridge a familiar boat came into view, NB Billy. This was the last time our bows would cross this year. At Oxclose Lock we had some time for Tilly to explore before heading up into Ripon Basin to meet up with Robert and Margaret again and for Tilly to show off her ability to spot otters.

I’d get it in the neck if I didn’t include a photo!

On our way downstream the river was rising, we stopped off for a meal at The Dawney Arms making the most of the Eat out to Help out deal. Wonderful food and chance to meet up with Kerry the Landlady and hoped that the river level would ease overnight. Fortunately it did and we made our way in to York. We had hoped to meet up with old friends whilst we were in the area, it turned out the only people I got to see where Jaye and Duncan for lunch. Social distancing, rising rivers sadly put paid to seeing other people.

Over the next ten days the river rose twice. On one fall we made it back into York to pick up a supermarket delivery but very quickly headed back to Naburn where we ended up breasting up in a line of four boats tied to the floating pontoon by the water point. Levels didn’t rise so much as to necessitate wellies or waders, but it did put paid to the London Leckenbys joining us for a few days at the nearby campsite. A big disappointment all round.

But on the 31st August levels had dropped sufficiently for us to head back to Selby accompanied by Richard and Heather on NB Isabella, new boat owners. Naburn was their very first lock, Selby was to be their second! It was such a beautiful morning, we led the way but then let them go first when we reached Selby, we were likely to be able to stem the tide better, but they managed the lock with ease.

Lovely to see Bridget and Storm

At West Haddelsey we had a visit from Bridget and Storm, so lovely to see them. We’d planned on being good and sitting out, they’d even brought their own chairs and the camper van for their own toilet. But as it started to rain we bent the rules taking shelter inside Oleanna. This was the day I gave a second phone to the god of the cut.

For a replacement we headed down to Goole, calling in at Viking Marina to check we would have a mooring later in the month. After filling up with cheap diesel we then headed off up toward Doncaster and Sprotbrough where we caught up with Mick’s niece Fran, before returning back onto the Aire and Calder to do maintenance jobs and enjoy our last days onboard.

On the 18th September we pulled into our berth at the marina, finished off the contents of the freezer and started to pack. Two trips in a hire car to Scarborough and we were moved, Tilly joining us the second time.

Back then we imagined we’d be down to Oleanna doing jobs on day trips and by now we’d have had a couple of weeks out on the cut, but this simply wasn’t to be.

Living Room reclaimed

Jobs in the house keep me busy, along with starting work on the postponed Chippy panto. Mick for a while applied for supermarket jobs, hoping to be a delivery driver. The only job he was offered was as a meet and greeter just before Novembers lockdown. We both decided that maybe we’d cope without the money.

Not as low as she got after the breach

Then before Christmas came the news of the Aire and Calder breach. Fortunately plenty of people are keeping an eye on all the boats including Oleanna.

Blimey what a year!

So our vital statistics for the year 2020 according to canal plan are

Total distance is 792 miles, 2 ½ furlong and 339 locks . There are 82 moveable bridges of which 5 are usually left open; 233 small aqueducts or underbridges and 41 tunnels – a total of 19 miles 6 ¾ furlongs underground and 8 major aqueducts.

This is made up of 365 miles, ¼ furlongs of narrow canals; 242 miles, 4 ¾ furlongs of broad canals; 81 miles, 3 ¾ furlongs of commercial waterways; 76 miles, 1 ¾ furlongs of small rivers; 0 miles of large rivers; 27 miles of tidal rivers; 202 narrow locks; 118 broad locks; 18 large locks; 1 lock on major waterways.

Sadly with Oleanna’s log book where it should be, onboard, I’m not able to offer up the engine hours, litres of diesel, gas bottle or bags of coal. This year I can’t even work out how many boxes of wine we’ve gone through!

However I can tell you that from one page of journeys on our trip computer, missing out all the journeys in between the start of the page and the end, the total distance travelled would have been 2.25 furlongs. Instead it actually amounted to 56 miles 7.5 furlongs with 19 winds (turning around). This was of course in Lockdown 1. Grand total number of winds this year, 67.

Christmas Day 2020, Scarborough Spa

Here’s hoping that the pandemic calms down, we all get vaccinated and the breach on the Aire and Calder gets sorted so that we can go boating again. After all we didn’t plan to move back on land permanently!

Not a bad view

Elbow Bumps. 3rd March

Urban Moorings to The Black Country Museum, Dudley No 1 Canal

Everyone talks about how slow water points are around the network, Hillmorton and Cambrian Wharf being especially known for it. Well we now know where the slowest one is. The ladies at Urban Moorings had warned us yesterday, there is a leak in the supply, luckily on the other side of their water meter, but this reduces the pressure, a lot.

Mick set the hose up whilst we had breakfast, the tank carried on filling whilst we did various chores. We handed over spare oil containers for reuse and added our recycling to theirs. Not quite a full tank of water but it would do us.

Recycled pots

Time to say thank you and be on our way. Elbow nudges all round, no-one is shaking hands or hugging at the moment. We left them to continue work on their pumpkin patch and a bench with a glass bottle base. Photos on their facebook page.

Left please

Just a short distance to Horseley Fields Junction where we turned southwards and meandered our way. From out of nowhere came this rather odd noise, I remembered hearing it around this area before. Was it an alarm or a bird call? Looking in the overgrown offside vegetation, Friendly cover! I spotted two birds swimming around. Not Coots or Moorhens, they had orangey brown cheeks and were a touch smaller than other waterbirds. Hunting through Google I came to the conclusion that they were Dabchicks. I’ll keep an eye open when we pass later in the week and try to get a better photo.

They are in there somewhere

By a new housing estate a damn has been erected with buoys around it’s edge. We feel the wrong sign has been put up. Also beware as the white tarpaulin looks like it is quite happily floating around almost mid cut, just waiting to get entangled around an unsuspecting prop.

Don’t go between the buoys!
The white tarp extends out to the buoys

As we had sneaked an extra load of washing in this morning we decided that the Bradley Arm/ Wednesbury Oak Loop would have to wait for the next time we’re up this way, so we sailed on past at Deepfields Junction, through Coseley Tunnel. I was fine inside even though She has put my Escape Pod away! Then at Factory Junction we turned right missing out on the locks.

Factory Locks, we’ll get enough locks in a day or two

Through Tipton we made note of moorings, all free at the moment and continued onwards. At Tipton Junction we stayed straight, onto the Dudley No 1 Canal, what there is that you can navigate on your own boat before reaching Dudley Tunnel. Not far till we reached our destination joining a couple of other boats on the moorings outside The Black Country Museum.

Another misleading instruction

A black corrugated fence surrounds the museum, not much for Tilly. A quick check on the situation deemed it sadly unsuitable. The trees that she would naturally be drawn to are far too close to the busy road, no shore leave again.

Moored up at the back gate, almost

Taking a walk down to the back gate of the museum we planned on crossing over the new swing bridge (well new to us along with the new visitor centre since we were last here on NB Lillyanne) to make use of the boaters facilities on the other side. Except the bridge was swung open to boat traffic, the old route over the top of the tunnel entrance was blocked off, so we’d have to walk all the way round. Through the gate with our key of power, up over the bridge, along the road to the main entrance to the Dudley Canal Trust. All just to go for a pee! We then tried to come back via the swing bridge but were told it was closed now so we’d have to walk round. Good job they weren’t too keen on closing the gates at 4pm!

Bridge closed to boats when we arrived

There is most probably a reason for them closing the bridge to pedestrians, but it didn’t make sense to us. Out of hours it means that to reach the service block we would have to go by boat as the bridge is padlocked. We walked all the way back round!

Up and over this bridge tomorrow

I have perseveared with what I thought was a lost cause of my sour dough starter today, adding in an extra feed to try to pep it back up. I think I have sussed what was wrong. The instructions say to drain off any liquid that forms on the surface, hooch. This I’ve been doing, but because of this it has all become quite thick. So this morning I just stirred it back in, an option given on the full youtube instructions. I then spooned off some to discard and fed it. By late lunchtime it was bubbly again, another feed and things are definitely not dead.

0 locks, 5.47 miles, 1 load washing, 4 elbow bumps, 1 slooooow tap, 1 left, 2 straights, 1 right, 1 tunnel, 0 mysterons, 1 tarp lurking, 1 bridge closed, 0 shore leave, 1 thinner starter rising again, 1 possible solution for Vienna, 2 boaters waiting for the museum to open.

Day 5. Morning

Houch mixed in, 10 dessert spoons discarded then fed


Extra feed showing signs of bubbles again


Bubbles! Visible bubbling. Some discarded and fed

Urban Oasis. 2nd March

Lane Head Bridge to Urban Moorings, Lycetts Basin Bridge

A day full of sunshine. We soon passed where Vernon (Production Manager in Vienna) used to play as a child on the Short Heath Branch. His grandmothers cottage apparently was demolished and replaced by the current houses in the 1930’s and she moved to a council house. His Grandfather was night watchman on the arm and his uncles were day boat men delivering coal to Wolverhampton till the early 1960s.

Short Heath Branch

Today NB Senior Moment was occupied both by humans and several Pekineses. Maybe they’d just come back from a cruise or were preparing for one.

Mini Woofers and woofer gang plank

We pootled onwards, the canal seeming far cleaner than it had done a month ago. In the bottom of someones garden I spied a curled up mass of fur, could it be alive? It opened it’s eyes to check us out as we passed. A couple of hundred yards later another battered and torn fox walked along the canal edge. They both looked like they’d been in a fight and had seen better days.

Foxy fox

Approaching Rockery Bridge I got ready to hop off and see if this Sainsburys might have some arrowroot. I wizzed round the store and found some with baking powder and baking soda, I just hope my starter perks itself up in the next day or two!

Stop for a cuppa

Mick carried on and moored up on the first set of bollards, lunchtime. As we ate a boat came past, the first boat we’ve seen moving since we left Brindley Place! yes we did see some heads on Tividale Aqueduct, but not the actual boat.


Onwards, picking up a big branch which necessitated reversing and changing course before we continued much further. Our original plan had been to head for the offside moorings in Wolverhampton, hopefully stopping at Urban Moorings for some coal on the way.

Urban Moorings

As we came under Swan Garden Bridge we could see the end of the arm where Urban Moorings sits. A bench looks down the canal with Fender Fred watching for boats.

Fred with his cuppa and pipe

Could we see anyone? We slowed and crept our way along. Towards the end was a mooring, by some new looking sheds. A lady was stood by a door and said hello. We asked if they had any coal and if so, what variety. ‘Excell 20kg bags, £10 a bag’. Yes please. We pulled in as more and more people appeared from the sheds all wearing high-vis.

What a welcome, help to moor up too. Conversations about where we were heading turned to them saying that they had a visitors mooring £8 including electric a night. Mick and I were having a similar conversation at different ends of the boat, him saying we’d have a chat about it, me saying ‘We’ll be staying the night then’ images of the washing machine going round round in both our heads.

The gardens made from anything and everything that floats on by

Once tied up we were given guided tours of the moorings. Neither of us had realised just how big the site was. Originally Commercial Wharf the arm and land around it, there were Lime Kilns a wharf and slipway where boats were maintained. The boats, Ampton boats, were used for transporting coal along the flat Wolverhampton level and Wyrely and Essington Canal, no need to descend any locks so they were built longer and a touch wider, their holds could carry 45 to 50 tons of coal.

The site was used as a boat yard until 1992 when the last boat left the dock. Several boats had been restored here including NB Tench.

Miss Scotland had been down to help with the weeding today

Urban Moorings CIC are a group of boaters who are wanting to create mooring sites that boaters actually want, integrating history, ecology, art and volunteering. They redevelop moorings very slowly ‘Slow Regeneration’ without having to spend millions of pounds doing so. The moorers live on site, their aim is to turn derelict and unprofitable sites owned by C&RT into self managed boater run moorings.

These very friendly ladies have been here for three years, built moorings, brought electric and water onto site, made gardens for nature to inhabit where lime kilns used to be. They must have spent years clearing away buddleia and now sheds seem to be taking over. An office, a workshop, a bits and bobs exchange, more moorings planned. Recently they advertised on facebook that they were now selling coal and gas. Today they received 100 bags of Excell and moved their gas cage into position. There had also been a volunteer day to kick start the creation of a community garden. What an Oasis.

Four/five dogs inhabit the area, but they offered to put them all away if Tilly wanted some shore leave. We both looked around. She would absolutely love it here if the scent of woofers wasn’t too much for her. But we decided that the look of underneath the decking on our mooring would be far too interesting and it would be a very soggy and painful extrication for both her and us. Another day kept inside, Saturday isn’t that far off!

Work in progress, coal cage and recycling next to one of the sheds

After all the chatting, oh Kate Saffin was also here having volunteered for the day, we eventually managed to get hooked up, washing machine on, yellow water disposed of. If our solids container had been more advanced it could have been emptied here too. That is something we’ll think about, if we can store our solids during the first stage of composting and deposit it when next we pass then we’ll be using our toilet as fully intended.

They do seem to have thought of everything one could want and have plans for even more here. All profits go back into the project, so any support either through volunteering or purchases will be used to improve what they have to offer. Good luck to them, we’ll certainly be putting them on our map as a good stopping place. More information here Urban Moorings CIC

0 locks, 4.44 miles, 90grams arrowroot, 2 foxes, 5 footballs, 2 coconuts, 1 moving boat, 1 unexpected mooring, 4 bags coal, 3 loads washing, 1 Kate, 0 shore leave, 1 Miss Scotland, 2 possible openings, 1 offer, 1 oasis in Wolverhampton.

Day 4.

Not much to show today, two feeds and no bubbles, no rise. I’ll keep going for a few more days to see if it comes back. 🙁

Digging Around In The Deep. 1st March

Operational Mooring, Walsall to Lane Head Bridge, Wyrley and Essington Canal

We’d survived the night and got some sleep. Being moored up to a floating pontoon in a storm has it’s benefits, if the water level rises so do you. But it also has it’s down sides, even though securely moored to the cleats on the pontoon this doesn’t mean that you won’t move. Oleanna and the pontoon were as one in the gusts, bumping around.

The wind tunnel mooring

This morning the wind was still with us but the waves on the canal were half the size. Decision made we’d head for the locks and hope that we had been sat in a wind tunnel and just around the bend all would be calm or at least calmer.

Heading into Lock 8

The covers took a bit to roll back as they whipped round in the wind. I stayed at the bow ready to hop off once we had turned at the junction. It didn’t seem any less windy as Oleanna spun round to face north and the locks but at least the sun was out.

All bar one of the locks were in our favour, hooray! But the top gates gave us problems!


The first lock was fine apart from the rubbish. I’d list the items in the lock to Mick and we’d see how many he could spot , hopefully not around the prop. Second lock by an old flour mill had a for sale sign in it plus plenty of other rubbish. Once up I opened the gate, except it stopped short. A few open and closes usually gets things dislodged or out of the way, but not this time. Mick brought Oleanna forward but there wasn’t enough room for her to get through. Time to prod about to see what could be moved in the murky deep.

Rather nice conversion

Boat hook didn’t do any good so the pole came out. The gate moved in and out and Mick tried to identify where the problem was. Poking and prodding, digging away at what ever lay down there. Eventually the gate moved just a few more inches, would it be enough? It was just.

Digging around

Paul (Waterway Routes) had told us to look out for a different gate arrangement on one of the locks. Here at Lock 6 there were double gates, the rest as on much of the BCN have single gates. Now why would this be?

Double gates, Hmmm?

A single gate means the lock has to be longer. Double gates save water and length. It had to be something to do with the pound below. There was an arched bridge to what had been the entrance to a wharf, could it be that for a full length boat 70ft 11″ to get in through the bridge the throat of the lock had to be further away from it so as to give enough room to be able to swing round. There is no widening of the pound here to assist with this. Maybe a double gate reduces the length of the lock throat too.

Entrance to a wharf under the bridge on the right

Looking at Google earth later it looked like a full length boat wouldn’t have been able to wind here, so if they’d come down the locks and gone under the bridge they would have to reverse out and remain facing downhill. If coming up the locks they would have to reverse through the bridge and remain facing uphill. Are we correct Paul?

Traffic cone after a tussle with a prop

The next few locks filled, emptying the pounds above from being on the weir to a good few inches below, we only had one pound that was shallow. This along with a traffic cone and a bread crate made for slow progress into the lock, but we got there in the end. Coasting in, steadily filling it and then coasting out. I don’t know whether it was us or another boat that had put a ragged hole in the traffic cone, at least it wasn’t around our prop.

If I pile it high enough and keeping pushing it’ll just disapear

Bright sunshine was intermixed with gusts of wind and hail. Flying high in a garden was a sheet attached to a tree. At the back of someone’s garden the wall had collapsed due tothe amount of rubbish piled up against it. Maybe they think that if they give the pile just a little push every now and then that the contents will eventually become someone elses problem.

Hang on a ,minute!!!

As I walked up to Lock 2, I spied a cat in the friendly cover. It soon turned it’s head so I could see that it wasn’t Tilly. A Tuxedo cat with a white nose. But not just any Tuxedo cat, this was a member of the Tilly Tail Gang, it’s white tip flicked round in annoyance at being disturbed looking for friends. I left it to it and carried on up hill to fill the next lock.

Hello pretty
A member of the Tilly Tail Gang

Deja Vu. The top gate stopped short of opening fully. The gap not wide enough. More digging around in the depths with the pole, gate swung open and closed, more digging. This felt like something really solid down there and it wasn’t shifting. If only we had a long handled Keb, but we didn’t. Only one thing for it call C&RT out.

It took a while for the person on the end of the phone to work out where we were, ‘not Ryders Green, Walsall Locks’, ‘No 2, second from the top’. Could we reverse out of the flight, yes, but that seemed pointless to us when we just needed someone to clear one gate and we were better off just sitting in the lock.

Eventually Mick got put through to a chap called Keith. Ahh! His Sunday team were out helping a stuck boat at Hatton, they wouldn’t be free for at least a couple of hours. He chatted through about what it might be, not the collar the gate was otherwise moving freely.

We nudged Oleanna back so that she was clear of the cill and Mick continued digging away. Keith rang back, his team would be at Hatton for another three to four hours, but he had called someone in who wasn’t working today to come out to us, they’d be an hour.

More digging. Maybe if both of us pushed on the gate? The combination of all our efforts and most probably our joint body weight on the beam got it to open just a few more inches. Was it enough? Mick brought Oleanna forward and managed to clear the gates, we were free.

A call to Keith before we got to the top lock, he said they’d still send someone to clear behind the gate.

The pretty Toll House at the top lock

The top lock was full with a paddle up and gate wide open. Up we rose and some eager gongoozlers loitered to open the gate for us. We then realised we’d need to be in the lock to top up the water tank, so their help wasn’t needed just yet.

The Boatman’s Rest which used to be a museum, it may be converted into a home for someone now

Two hoses and poor water pressure. So I walked up to see what the moorings ahead were like compared to the Visitors Mooring above the lock. I also wanted to see if Sainsburys had any arrowroot. I returned as Mick was packing away after chatting to the C&RT chaps, no arrowroot but a possible mooring where Tilly could stretch her legs and climb trees.

We pushed on and pulled into the side, well not quite. The rings were awkwardly placed and there was something keeping us from getting into the edge. Sorry Tilly. Pah!!!!

Another hour or so cruise to the next mooring. Back onto the Curley Wurley we compared notes on rubbish levels. Both the Walsall and Curley Wurley have a long way to go before reaching Green Flag status! Both are revolting in parts. Vandelism is worst on the Walsall with trolleys, trees and graffiti.

Someone’s pushed the railings out to dump their rubbish

But wanton fly tipping on parts of the Curley and Wurley look more like landfill than a place to relax and enjoy. You wonder what the people in the house right alongside think, or maybe it is caused by them. However Walsall itself has been worth the trip.

Just fling your rubbish over too!

Soon we arrived at The United Kingdom Inn, here the kids playground was busy as adults watched sport and drank. Not suitable for Tilly sadly and she may be cabin bound for a few more days yet, we will make it up to her soon.

Sat behind our locked gate I slow cooked a breast of lamb, braised the remainder of the red cabbage and we listened to people come and go from the pubs either side of the bridge until late.

8 locks, 4.25 miles, 2 canals, 2 coconuts, 1 fire extinguisher, 2 problematic gates, 2 spoons less, 1 cup more, 1 less successful day, 0 arrowroot, 1 full water tank, 6 hail storms, 1 less windy day.

Day 3 Morning.

Before feeding, risen with a dome.

2 spoons discarded then fed

Day 3 Evening.

Before feeding, just about no rise, did it peek far too soon?

2 spoons discarded, then fed.

The Beast. 29th February

Operational Mooring to Town Basin to Operational Mooring, Walsall

In an ideal world we’d have pushed off and headed up the locks today, but with storm Jorge having already buffeted us about last night we weren’t sure we’d be going anywhere . We’d decided to wake earlyish for us, check the forecast for the next few hours and then formulate a plan.

The sun was out and it seemed calmer than last night. Forecast, the winds would build and it would be wet at times. We could make an early start but to get to a mooring we had several hours to cruise and we already know about the amount of rubbish that awaits us on the curleywurley. The thought of getting something major around the prop with strong winds was not a good one.

No help from Tilly today

Should we head back into the basin so we could get off the boat and go somewhere if we wanted to? This would mean we could get a Saturday newspaper. Was the wind on the operational mooring being funneled by the tall buildings? Or would this be worse in the basin? Would the pub have live music on tonight? All these questions and Tilly wasn’t helping us with any answers!

That’s grown!

First it was breakfast time for the sourdough starter. The cabbage had done it’s job and there was a distinct rise in the jar. I removed the leaves, drained off any fluid then added another half cup of flour and the same of water and gave it a really good stir. I then marked the level with an elastic band so I could see easily how well it did during the day.

With the winds set to increase we decided to head to the basin and see what it was like there. Taking care on the slippy pontoon we pushed off up to the junction where the wind whizzed us round. Blimey it was cold, neither of us had prepared well enough for the arctic blast. Back in town we moored up where we’d left yesterday, keeping the Costa customers entertained over their flat whites.

Once a cinema, you’d never guess

As Mick headed off to get a newspaper from WHSmiths I checked out what would be happening at Bar 10 tonight. A tribute band and a DJ starting at 9:30 going on till late! When Mick came back we easily made our minds up that sitting in a wind tunnel would be preferable to not being able to get to sleep due to music and rowdy drinkers.

We backed away from the pontoon, winded (a little bit harder here) and returned to where we’d come from. Once tied up we could relax, break the news to Tilly she wouldn’t be going out again and have a cooked breakfast.

There you go.

Looking up to the proving shelf I could see things were happening to my starter. I could swear it grew everytime I looked away. The level crept up the inside of the glass, had I misread the instructions and bought the wrong sized jar? This was only day two, that cabbage had given it ideas above it’s station, would I need to sit it in a bowl to catch it if it grew over the top? Instead when there was only an inch left of air in the jar I moved it off the shelf onto the table where the cooler temperature should slow it’s growth.

A couple of hours after breakfast
A couple more!

During the afternoon I found my ground plan of the theatre in Vienna. I then made cut outs of sofas, baths, doors etc and started to arrange them on the plan doing my best to keep the important elements within everyone’s sight lines. If only I could grown the downstage area by 1m each side, would a corner bath work better? When were corner baths brought in?

Bedroom door too close to beams

I spent a couple of hours nudging the furniture around trying to find the best solution, then added into the equation the height of their stage and needing to be able to see over the back of a sofa as to what was happening on a balcony US. This would mean having several steps up to the balcony, where could they go. Was there enough room to get a large laundry basket through doors Down Stage? Could I move the balcony Down Stage? What if this went there? Or that there?

Steps to the balcony and the prosc widened

I sent an email to Vernon the Production Manager with a few questions, like could I make their proscenium wider. I’m waiting to hear back, I already know the answer but it’s worth asking.

Almost breaking out of the jar

By 9pm, the beast in the jar was needing feeding again, it had deflated itself so I plucked up the courage to take the lid off and give it a feed. We’ll see if we have to fight our way into the main cabin in the morning.

Jorge has buffeted us about for most of the day and given us some sunshine along with hail stones bouncing in through the mushroom vents. Here’s hoping it calms down enough for us to get up the locks tomorrow.

0 locks, 0.9 miles, 2 winds in the wind, 2 moorings, 1 newspaper, 1 tribute band, 1 inch, 4 inches, 7 inches! 1 beast in a jar, 4 options, 2m extra wide or no space for actors, 2 troublesome balconies, 1 extreamly windy mooring, 59 views from facebook, are we being talked about?

Day 2 Evening.

Reached top of the jar before deflating. Liquid drained off and fed again

A Very Tall Man. 31st January

Angelsey Basin to Riddian Bridge, Daw End Branch BCN

Mick and Oleanna on our mooring

Despite drizzle and a touch more wind than we’d expected we moved onwards today. Retracing ourselves back to Catshill Junction we passed the two Fountains men tidying up the towpath again. One trimming the hedge, the other cutting the grass and then blowing away the cuttings.

Looking much better

Along this stretch is a line of painted stones, done by the local school, I’d wondered what would happen when the chaps arrived at that stretch. It looks like the stones were just driven over by the first tractor which pushed them down so hopefully the second one will just skate over the top not affecting the painting.

Left please

At Catshill we turned left onto the Daw End Branch. For most of our miles today we seemed to be on an embankment above houses and light industry.

Bags of collected rubbish, they were doing a great job

At Walsall Wood Bridge a group of volunteers were hard at work picking up rubbish, scraping the moss of the edging tiles and cutting back trees that were trying to take hold in the brickwork. All the time a very tall fisherman looked down on them. The sculpture is by Luke Perry (the same chap who did the sculptures along the Dudley No2 canal) and is part of a sculpture trail through Walsall Wood. Originally the sculpture had a fish hanging from fishing line, a lucky catch but sadly the fish is long gone.

He’s a very tall man

There is also some heavier industry. Through the trees we could see what could only be a large mound of spoil, was it from the coal industry? Rubbish? A large hole alongside suggested something was being dug up. Further investigation suggests it was a clay quarry used for making bricks.

Spoil of some sort

The large McKechnie Metals Ltd building now stands empty, no glass in the windows, just distorted skeletal metal framework. McKechnie Brass was the last brass extrusion manufacturing company in the country. They used scrap brass to produce brass rods and profiles for alsorts of products including pins for plugs, padlocks, lift tracks and overhead conductive wire for the railway industry. Sadly the firm went out of business in 2013, having accrued millions in debts. The site is set for redevelopment, but the 116 page document I found was going to take too long to read to find out what exactly the site will be used for.

Twisted window frames at McKechnie Brass

We had our eyes set on mooring at Park Lime Pits Nature Reserve. If we found a space away from the car park and railway line Tilly would have a fine time. There are rings here, but there was also a cruiser tied to them. We tried a little further along with no luck.

Not enough space for us

I stood at the bow watching the depth of water as we went, hoping the bottom of the canal would drop out of view suggesting there was enough depth to pull in. We tried several times and eventually after half a mile found one spot that apart from the last foot was okay. Here we were surrounded by fields and not too many woofer walkers.

I really wanted someone to come out and play. I kept coming back to ask them, but they wanted to sit and finish off their smelly cheese!

Thousands of Catkins dripping from trees

A pot of butternut squash goulash was popped on the stove to bubble away all afternoon whilst I tried to do a bit of work collecting reference photos for costume designs for The Garden. Have to say emails from the Viennese English Theatre kept distracting me somewhat. Wonder if anything will come of them?

0 locks, 6.93 miles, 1 right, 1 left, 1 straight, 0 smelly cheese left, 4 Garden emails, 3 Viennese emails,1 very tall man, 6 volunteers, 1 muddy trolley, 1 mooring eventually, 4678354678254 aments, 1 ununderstandable explanation.

Curlywurly Cruising. 30th January

Brownhills Services to Anglesey Basin


At sometime either last night or this morning we were joined by a third boat. The scum around Oleanna had been moving somewhat which suggested boat movement. After a slow start to the day we moved back to the water point, topped up our water, emptied yellow water and Tilly had her pooh box cleaned out, we were all ready to move onwards.

Tilly was very pleased to make it here

After half a mile of scummy cruising we arrived at Catshill Junction, it would be silly to go to the right without taking the detour up to Anglesey Basin first. So we veered left and skirted round the other side of Brownhills.

Ogley Junction, we headed left

At Ogley Junction we passed what may one day be the restored Lichfield Canal which would join the Coventry Canal to the BCN at Huddlesford Junction.

What else could we eat

Most probably not the first boaters to do this, but there was only one thing to eat whilst cruising today and Tesco had come up trumps, Curlywurlys! We’re sure they have shrunk since 1970 when they were first brought out. The internet was trawled for information, one chap collects the wrappers which in 1970 didn’t have to show the weight. Is it just that as you grow bigger everything gets smaller? Or have they shrunk? Certainly the adverts with Terry Scott must have had larger ones made to make him look like a young lad. A couple of years after they were first released the caramel recipe was changed to make it softer so that the chocolate didn’t fall off so easily. Maybe at this time they made the ladder of caramel have smaller holes, therefore making the bar smaller? Sadly they will be reducing their size soon so that they only contain 100 calories per bar.

Chewy caramel covered in chocolate

Anyhow we enjoyed chewing our way along the Crulywyrley canal especially those extra 18 calories!

Chopping back the hedges

Fountains were out cutting back the hedges along the towpath, as the chap turned his mini tractor round we hung back, just incase he didn’t quite judge it right and ended up in the canal. Then under Watling Street, we always wonder how many times the A5 crosses the canal system.

Coal shoots

Next we bobbed under the M6 Toll. Nearly at the end of the arm two old coal shoots still sit along side the canal, now redundant but once would have been filling boats from the local mines. Round a bend and up ahead we could see the bank leading up to the Chasewater Reservoir. Neither of us had thought of it being so high, but there it was towering above the canal.

The top of that hill there’s water, lots of it

We’d been warned that a chain had been put across the very end here. Before the chain two or maybe three boats could moor here side by side, but now only a short amount of hard edge is available. We winded and backed in for a closer look. On the northern side people have obviously pulled in, there is a ring at the stern and a bald patch in the scrub at around about the right position for most bows.

Moored up

Mick hopped off with a spike, pulled us in with the centre rope. At last! somewhere that looked really rather great! Sideways trees, friendly cover (even if it is a touch spikey) and trees! What’s not to like? Well the amount of woofers! She came for a walk with me then left me to my own devices. Woohoo Bunnies too!!!

Tilly at the end
My bench

Tilly was occupied for quite sometime, the number of woofers didn’t seem to bother her, but after about an hour and a half she made a dash back to the boat. This then gave us the opportunity to go and have a nosy at the reservoir.

M6 Toll and the reservoir to the right

Chasewater Reservoir was built in 1797 as a feeder to the canal and the 160 miles of the BCN. In 1799 the eastern dam burst releasing a flood that headed downstream towards Shenstone after a summer storm had caused the reservoir to overtop and erode the bank. By 1800 the dam had been rebuilt, much stronger with a limestone lining.

A Colliery this close to a dam!

In 1848 the feeder canal was made navigable due to the coal deposits in the area. In 1849 a colliery was opened right below the dam, would this be allowed today? The colliery only lasted to 1857 as it proved hard to contend with the local geology, but other collieries opened in the area and remained working into the 20th Century.

The station platform

A railway was built to link the collieries, this is now Chasewater Railway, which is run as a heritage railway.

Excuse me, you shouldn’t be walking along the lines!

We walked along the banks, the reservoir now caters for leisure activities with sailing, water skiing and wakeboarding. Of course nobody was out on the water today, just plenty of walkers and bird watchers.

Needing some TLC

At Chasewater Railway we were able to have a quick look around before it all shut up shop for the day, no trains running. Several Pacer trains sat on the lines, presumably recent acquisitions, along with much older rolling stock, some in great need of some TLC.


0 locks, 2.94 miles, 2 lefts, 1 wind, M6, A5, 10th in the queue, 1 appointment, 1 full water tank, 1 empty wee tank, 1 clean pooh box, 2 curlywurlys, 118 calories, 2.5 hrs shore leave, 2 coal shoots, 4.4 billion litres of water, 1 very windy evening.