Volcanic Bread. 9th April

King’s Road Lock to Fall Ing Lock, Calder and Hebble Navigation

I really should have held my nerve last night. I was convinced that my sour dough starter wouldn’t do the job on it’s own and I’d started the whole process too late in the day anyway, but my recipe said that I could add 3gms of dried yeast to the mix to give a lighter loaf. This also reduced the rising/proving time by an hour and a half. All mixed up it went into my 2lb loaf tin which I’d luckily lined with grease proof paper and it was then put up on my proving shelf across the way from the stove. Timer set for an hour and a half.

Snoozing

For our dinner I was making a chickeny pasta dish that I’d wanted to put a cheese sauce over and bake for a while, this would warm the oven up ready for the bread to go in, or so I thought! As I was about to make the cheese sauce I happened to glance across to the bread tin. The contents were rising quite happily and were visible above the grease proof liner. With full fat gluten bread this would be a very good sign, a nice bit of rise, but with skimmed gluten free it is not so good a there is no elasticity in the dough to keep the shape.

Erupted sour dough

The rise was such that a slow volcanic eruption was occurring on the top shelf. Globs of dough were expanding up and over the sides of the paper and blobbing down onto the shelf. Cheese sauce was cancelled, oven put on quickly, as soon as I thought it would be hot enough I carefully carried the tin to the oven, globs dropping as I went. These were really rather tasty! The tray in the bottom of the oven had boiling water added and I carefully popped the tin in and closed the door, the monster was at last contained. After an hour it looked like it should be ready. It took some prising off the shelf that it had welded itself through, it had made a grab for the tray on the oven bottom.

Yummy toast with crunchy handles

This morning it was time to sample it. The recipe said that if it was a touch under cooked then it would be good toasted, it did look a touch moist inside. Once toasted with a golden glow… well that is the best toast I’ve had in an age! Once this loaf has gone I’ll try a batch without the yeast to see if that controls it’s rise better, I’m on the hunt for a deeper bread tin too.

They were meanies and didn’t let me out. This outside was still being judged on it’s merit for a Mrs Tilly award. Although the lack of trees was a touch disappointing. 

Bit of a droop there

We pushed off soon arriving at Birkwood Lock. The old gates in the centre of the lock have certainly seen much better days, they are never used anymore and would most probably just disintegrate if you tried to move them. It’s also a good job the usable gates are operated hydraulically as the beams don’t look like they’d take much strain. This was to be our last fully automated lock for quite sometime, possibly until the Thames in the summer.

Crossing the old aqueduct

Our diesel tank gauge was reading about a third full, the lowest it’s been in two years. Places to fill up as you cross the Pennines get few and far between so there was no option for us but to fill at Stanley Ferry. Crossing the aqueduct we spotted the diesel pump, winded and then came back on ourselves to moor. A phone call was made and someone eventually turned up filling our tank with 100 litres, at 95p a litre we didn’t bother with the last inch, we’ll have enough to get to somewhere cheaper now.

Columns and pediments seen from the new aqueduct

3 bags of coal on the roof and we could keep warm again. We used the aqueducts as a roundabout, spotting NB Rebellion (the purple boat we see everywhere!) as we turned. We’ve only come across the old aqueduct before, crossing the new one alongside you get a good view of the columns and pediments on the old one.

Swing!

Across our path was the newly refurbished and reinstated Ramsdens Swing Bridge, an easy operation to get it moving, no key required. It was lunchtime now so we pulled in more or less where we’d moored in 2014, just after the water point at the end of the permanent moorings. This time however our second mate got to explore, Houdini wasn’t as so lucky five years ago. We guiltily had a barbecue whilst she watched from inside the cabin, she’d only been a boat cat for a matter of days and we didn’t want to loose our precious cargo, even if she was a grumpy old sod at times!

Broadreach Flood Lock ahead

Tilly came home, so we decided to carry on to Wakefield and get away from the incessant bark emanating from a boat across the way. That woofer was getting on my …. too, glad they took the hint! The log straight brings you to Broadreach Flood Lock and then back out onto the River Aire.

It’s a long walk round to close both gates

Much sooner than we thought we were at the foot of Fall Ing Lock ready to make our way up onto the start of the Calder and Hebble Navigation. Coming this way the lock seemed to have shrunk in stature, but it soon reminded me how long it was as I had to walk round to close both gates before it could be emptied. Windlasses back in hands we worked our way up then pulled in just after the new (to us) petrol station. That would do for the day and mean we could get a bit of shopping in the morning before pushing off.

Filling
Emptying

2 locks, 1 flood lock, 3.91 miles, 1 wind, 1 roundabout, 100 litres, 75kgs coal, 1 lunch break, 3 slices of tasty toast, 32 spurts of air.

https://goo.gl/maps/2z4vvPAmB6R2

The Narrowboat That Wasn’t. Epilogue. 9th April 2019

We’ve never believed that Kevin and Richard set out to de-fraud people in the beginning. They built nice boats and for a time we wanted them to build ours. Kevin lived on a boat, giving him far more experience of how one should work than most boat builders. Where they failed was when they hit financial problems, instead of putting up a hand and admitting it, they tried to make things better. They got a spade and started to dig. By the time we were shown ‘our’ boat Richard had brought in a JCB.

Our original spec

There are questions which remain unanswered, which most probably would have come to light at a trial. At least we should get to know why charges were dropped against Kevin as the CPS are writing to us to explain.

I’m not sure what would have happened with us if Nichola hadn’t got in touch. The day we sat outside the workshop in Ripley looking at two narrowboat shells, neither one ours, we very quickly resigned ourselves that our boat was no more. That was something we would live with, we’d regroup and start again, which is what we did. However with all the statements from the Action Group and our photographs the police believed there was a case and investigated. Who knows if there would have been a case without our photographs.

In the next couple of months there will be more hearings in Derby regarding Richards assets, which will be confiscated and then split between the complainants. We don’t expect to get much, according to the CPS barrister, Richard doesn’t have much.

How do we feel about the sentence? Was it harsh enough? Well, we feel that the Judge summed the case up very well, the circumstances of the case were as we’d suspected. The guidelines for sentencing were pointed out to the Judge by the prosecution, without comment from the defence. The Judge was very clear that he wasn’t being lenient because Richard had pleaded guilty. It was a serious case and a lot of hard work had gone into gathering the evidence. I think that if there hadn’t been a Government guideline suggesting a suspended sentence be given then the sentence would have been custodial. The Government and taxpayer simply can’t afford to put everyone in prison. In some cases we believe it is better that people contribute to the purse rather than empty it by being provided with board and lodgings.

Tilly

What is wrong, other than the original crime, is the amount of time it has taken to come to court. It took the police longer to put the file together than they originally thought, but that all needed doing. I’d been told that court dates would be set about six months after the CPS had decided to press charges. From being told this to when we attended the sentencing last week it was a total of 33 months! First the case hadn’t been allotted enough time, then the Judge wasn’t available for half the hearing. All this time and all the waiting for everyone. The prosecution barrister was apologetic about it, too much crime not enough courts and judges. In the end the length of time it took to get to court also had a bearing on the sentence. Maybe if it had been heard on the original dates the sentence would have been stronger.

Communication from the court system has been lacking. When first the dates of the case were going to change I had a phone call asking my availability for the next six months, then new dates came though nine months later. I may not have been available! It also seemed that not everyone was informed of each step, several members of the Action Group were not informed of the guilty plea, it was only when people started emailing each other that everyone got to hear.

It has to be said that this was not always the fault of the Witness Care Unit. On Friday whilst we were trying to escape Leeds Lock my phone rang, it was the lady who’d been looking after us. She knew we’d been to the hearing the day before, so could I please tell her what the outcome had been, what sentence had been given. All the information she had been given was a court date in July. For a system you would expect to be faultless there are huge fissures in it. An email later that afternoon was sent out from the WCU to inform all the witnesses of the sentence, I really hope I remembered the details correctly.

We have done our best to stay level headed through out. Sadly what has happened has happened. Nothing can change that, we know we’ll never get all our money back, that is something we’ve always known. As a good friend has said, ‘There are no winners’.

Us and Oleanna

Over the last few years we have learnt several things.

  • A contract can be as water tight as you like, but when someone starts to lie that contract won’t help.
  • Those people on the Braidbar boat at Crick in 2012 were right, we didn’t want a cruiser stern.
  • However they were also wrong. We didn’t want a Trad.
  • Having a second hand boat for a few years has saved us getting things wrong with Oleanna.
  • It’s disappointing when a Judge doesn’t shout during sentencing.
  • Being a boater doesn’t mean that you can turn up to a court with a pen knife in your pocket! Luckily the nice man returned Mick’s Swiss Army knife as we left, this does now leave me trying to find something for his birthday this year.

We now have our wonderful boat, she is far better than she would have been, and we are thankful to be able to live the life we do.

Launch day, 2 years ago today

I needed to write about this more than I thought I did. Thank you for baring with me. But now it’s time to leave it all behind, close the chapter and carry on enjoying life.

She just keep smiling back at us

The Narrowboat That Wasn’t. In Court 2019

Part Four

Derby Crown Court

Last Thursday we were joined by Nichola and Andy at Derby Crown Court. We’ve met up a few times since the Action Group was formed. As instructed we arrived before 10am and headed to the first floor where Mick pressed a bell for the Witness Service. After a while of waiting we were fortunate that the wigged and gowned man who came through the door was the barrister for the prosecution for the Stillwater case.

After introductions he gave us a quick summary of the case. He’d received our Victim Personal Statements, however only mine would be included today.

Originally the case had spanned a period of three and a half years, but this had been reduced to 8 months, which meant that Andy and Nichola’s VPS wouldn’t be included. The case now centred around five boat builds, one of which was ours. Richard had pleaded guilty in return for no charges being made against Kevin his father who continues to suffer from ill health.

We were shown to the second floor to Court 3. A jury had been recalled at the start of the day for another hearing, we had to wait for the judge to see them and send them back out to continue with their deliberations. The CPS barrister said not to be surprised if the judge shouted when giving out his sentence.

Of course both Richard and Kevin were also waiting with their briefs. This made for awkward moments, I stood with my back to them, Mick didn’t recognise them anyway! Daryl another of the Action Group was there too, only having met him once before we weren’t too certain that it was him until the end.

Once the court was ready we filed in taking the back bench. The room was a lot smaller than I thought it would be, no balcony to protest from. All was quiet as the Judge scanned through documents on his laptop, clerks did what they do, barristers prepared themselves. The lady in front of the judge made a phone call, then from the rear of the dock, behind a glass wall, a prison guard brought out a prisoner. Who was he?! What had he done?! Maybe he was the secret mastermind behind Stillwater Narrowboats! No he was just the defendant for the next case and the prison guard had got it wrong.

Richard and Kevin came into court, there was a slight deliberation as to whether Kevin should go in the dock with Richard, but in the end he was allowed to sit in front of the glazed wall. Richard was taken into a back room, then brought back ready for sentencing in the dock.

Something obviously signalled the start, as both Richard and Kevin stood and confirmed who they were in turn. With everyone now sat the prosecuting barrister started to run through the case, a summary for the Judge.

Five boat builds had fallen within the eight months the fraud had taken place.

One customer had paid his deposit then seen things weren’t going too well financially he pulled out, loosing his deposit.

Another had ordered a boat, paid his deposit and first stage payment, when he’d wanted to visit to see his shell he was told that it had gone away to be shot blasted. It in fact didn’t exist.

One chap had handed over more than his first stage payment and ended up with just a shell, no insulation or engine. The details are now a bit hazy for me, but I think he collected his boat and finished it off him self.

Another similar case, but this time the owner couldn’t collect his shell as he was abroad, so lost his stage payments and had nothing to show for it.

Then us. You know all about our story.

Finances were mentioned, the total amount taken fraudulently over the 8 months amounted to £130k from the five complainants, ours being nearly a fifth of this, some lost more, others only their deposit.

Victim Personal Statements were read out from us. A lot of people had handed over their savings to have a narrowboat for their retirement. We were using inheritance from Mick’s Uncle and my Father to build our boat. Some victims had to continue working so as to be able to finish their boats. Understandably I now have trust issues, contracts have to be stuck to by the letter. Also the length of time that the case had taken to get to court has affected all of our lives.

A defence barrister for Richard stood next. Not much to say in his defence as he’d pleaded guilty. He hoped that his Mothers severe illness and the fact that he has young children would guide the judge in is sentencing. Richard now had a job and hoped to repay our lost monies. Another barrister, presumably Kevin’s stayed seated as Kevin was judged ‘not guilty’.

The Judge made comments directed towards us, the public. He wanted us to understand that this was a serious offence, the remorse and contrition that Richard had put in a letter to the court had followed a negotiation, so therefore the Judge did not consider it as true remorse. Despite nearly all the victim statements saying they hadn’t believed that Richard and Kevin had set out to defraud them in the first place, Richard had knowingly committed fraud in our case.

The company had been failing financially. The prices that were put in our contract were already a couple of years out of date and had not kept in line with the price of materials. They didn’t buy fancy houses, cars or go on extravagant holidays, they just used the money to try to keep the business afloat and pay their salaries.

The Judge also wanted the public to be aware of how much work had gone into the case by the barristers. It wasn’t by any means a simple case, but quite a complex one. He also understood our frustration with the delays to the case.

The sentencing guidelines for such a fraud was three years with a variant of 18 months. The Judge started with 30 months, reduced it by 10 months as the £130k was towards the bottom of the category and the fraud had only spanned 8 months. He arrived at a sentence of 20 months Due to government guide lines, the length of time the case took to get to court, our belief that they didn’t set out to defraud us from the start he suspended the sentence for 2 years.

The prosecution barrister asked for there to be a ‘confiscation order for compensation’. This would mean that the court would seize Richards assets and they would be distributed pro-rata amongst the complainants. This would include those who had given statements but not been included in the 8 month period the fraud covered.

Dates for future hearings were made where Richard will declare his assets and the prosecution will argue that he has more, or agree if he has declared them all.

The door to the dock was unlocked and Richard was allowed to leave with a 20 month sentence suspended for two years.

Meanwhile Back On The Cut. 8th April

Lemonroyd to King’s Road Lock, Aire and Calder Navigation Wakefield Branch

Fishing at Lemonroyd

Time to move on. As we started to make ready a boat came past us heading towards the lock, we wanted to fill with water before descending so didn’t attract their attention. As we ourselves got close to the lock two Shire Cruise hire boats were heading towards us, they’d just come up and helpfully suggested we should try to catch the boat ahead. We thanked them and then pulled into the water point.

Hopefully that looks good now I’ve woken it up

Tank topped up, Christmas tree watered, I remembered I’d wanted to have a go at some Sour Dough Bread today, I needed to wake up my starter, giving it a feed and warming it up. By the time all this was done Lemonroyd Lock had refilled itself saving us a long wait.

Turning right towards Wakefield

Down we went back out onto the river a grey day surrounding us. Another Shire Cruise hire boat came past, they must have all set off from Sowerby Bridge on Saturday. At Castleford Junction we turned right, in the direction of Wakefield, back on course now after our detour for my meeting and Derby Crown Court.

Woodnook Lock
Slightly smaller locks now

We’ve only been down stream on the Aire and Calder before never upstream and approaching Fairies Hill and Woodnook Lock seemed very unfamiliar. Checking on Waterway Routes we had a choice of moorings, one a short distance from Woodnook Lock. But this was right alongside a made up track that led to the lock cottage, there was plenty of footfall too. So we carried on to where we’ve moored before above Kings Road Lock.

Windingly in the way

A Dutch Barge was winding below the lock as we came near, they’d been filling with water and were then returning to their mooring on the other side. A chap up at the lock looked like he was trying to press the buttons on the panel to open the gates, no obvious sign of a key of power. I hopped off and went to help just as the gates opened. The chap was an ex-boater, he had the first boat that moored at Stanley Ferry over 30 years ago. He and his wife have cruised the whole network through their decades of boat ownership. Now no longer a boat owner he takes his pleasure by coming down to the canal on Monday afternoons, whilst his wife plays cards, to see if he can help at the lock. A lovely chap.

Chilly before
Happier after

I prepared the sponge for a loaf of bread made from some of my sour dough starter and left it to do it’s stuff whilst the afternoon ticked by. Mick has had a towpath haircut, I still can’t get used to the new clippers, but at least he doesn’t have a stripy head.

All the rest of the ingredients have been added to the bread and it is now sitting in a tin rising. I’ll have to be very careful when I move it to the oven as any tap will knock the air out of it as there is no gluten to help hold it’s shape. As ever I’m not too optimistic about my results. It’s always strange pouring bread dough into a tin.

3 locks, 7.74 miles, 1 right, 1 full water tank, 0 rubbish left, 1 bridge to mention, 4 hours of shore leave, 1st gluten free sour dough rising or not, 9mm hair cut, 4 recurring blocks sorted, 1 classic block to help Tilly speak again, but where to put the TV thumb?

The Narrowboat That Wasn’t. The Long Wait. 2015 to 2019

Part Three

Crick Boat Show 2015

We visited Crick boat show in 2015. Right back at square one where we’d been in 2012, looking for a boat builder. There was still a very slim possibility that we had a shell of a narrowboat somewhere, if we did and the police recovered it what would we do with it?

People we’d met in the past asked us how our new boat was going. Andy from bearBoating even offered to finish the build for us after hearing the tale. Other builders would rather not take over a project from where someone else had left off.

We were kidding ourselves, we already knew that there was no shell with my name on the weedhatch. Ian who’d worked for Stillwater had been told, the day after the photos were taken, to angle grind my name off the boat. The larger bow locker lid had only been laid on top of the original smaller opening for the photograph. The shell was then worked on for someone else, we’d most probably met the owners at the Action Group get together in Tamworth.

We looked at numerous boats, many too expensive for us, others we didn’t like the sound of their contracts (we were being very VERY careful this time). Three were shortlisted, visited, credit checked, contracts checked over. In the end we chose Jonathan Wilson, he knew of our past and wanted to help us believe in boat builders again. Oleanna would cost more, a lot more, but we’d end up with a boat this time!

Mick standing 58ft 6 inches away on OUR baseplate

Mid February 2016, NB Oleanna’s base plate was laid on the floor at Tim Tylers workshop in Newcastle Under Lyme, we got to stand on it that day. This time this was most certainly our boat, those cheesy grins that had eluded us at Ripley were well and truly planted on our faces. She moved over to the Sheffield workshop a few weeks later, her shell finished by Jonathan and fitted out by Finesse.

Every now and then we’d enquire as to how things were progressing with the case against Richard and Kevin. DC Jones would report back saying that he still had more statements to take. He was hoping to be in a situation to interview Richard and Kevin before Christmas.

Passing through Alperton

In April 2016 I missed a phone call as we cruised out to Horsenden Hill, it had been DC Jones wanting to talk to me as he’d just handed over the file to the CPS. His request to the CPS had centred around some of the individual boat builds with support from all other witnesses from the Action Group, my statement was very much at the centre of the case. When he and his sergeant had interviewed Richard they had left the photographs of the locker lid and weedhatch till the end of their conversation. Richard could not explain them, he had been speechless.

Now the waiting started. First the CPS reviewed the case. In July we heard that both Richard and Kevin had been reported for two counts of carrying on a business with intent to defraud creditors/ for other fraudulent purposes. Court dates would now be arranged.

In October 2016, I was asked to keep a week free the following October to be called as a witness at Derby Crown Court. This we did and arranged the years cruising around the dates. We wanted to be able to attend the rest of the hearing once I’d given my evidence, so planned on being as close to Derby as possible by boat. Later in the year I was informed that the hearing would take two weeks.

In late September the court dates were confirmed, as there were lots of witnesses there would be a meeting to decide on who was to be called when. Two weeks later, ten days before the trial was due to start we’d reached Stone on the Trent and Mersey Canal only to find out that the hearing had been postponed. When I asked what the reason was for the delay I was told it was either that the defence wanted longer to prepare or that there were too many witnesses and a longer time in court would be needed. The hearing would now start at the end July, 2018 and span four weeks. A new date to plan around.

Lapworth Top Lock our 1000th lock on Oleanna

Life continued on board. We’d moved onto NB Oleanna in April 2017 (two years ago today!) and continued to cruise the network all year round. In June after we’d passed through our thousandth lock on Oleanna, we were asked if we could be available for the hearing two weeks earlier than planned. The reason for this was explained to us, the dates either hadn’t been put in the judges diary properly or he’d booked a holiday for the last two weeks. Without him there was no trial.

Not enough of the witnesses could be available at short notice. There was a chance that Richard and Kevin would change their plea to Guilty, but this didn’t happen. So the next date we all wrote in our diaries was 13th May 2019. A four week trial. Another year of planning our lives around a court case. We planned to head to Langley Mill on the Erewash and see if we could get a mooring there so we could attend court when we wanted to.

Then on 13th March a letter dropped into my inbox from the Witness Care Unit. At a hearing the previous day at Derby Crown Court, Richard had pleaded guilty to Fraudulent Trading. The case had been adjourned for sentencing. The CPS had decided to offer no evidence again Kevin, therefore the hearing would no longer take place.

After all this time, there was now a guilty plea. We no longer had to be around Derby for four weeks, I’d no longer be giving evidence. Although relived at not having to stand up in court, I also felt cheated. We of course knew what had happened to us, but I wanted to know what else had gone on and experience a Crown Court hearing. Why was no evidence being offered against Kevin, there was no explanation.

Only one thing for it, we made plans to go to the sentencing.

Meanwhile in 2019. 7th April

My migraine has been easing, but we decided to stay put for another day and then push on in the morning. Tilly liked this idea.

Veggie apart from the black pudding

Because we forgot to take sausages out of the freezer last night we had to make do with a partial cooked breakfast. Not bad, but also not up to Mick’s full standards.

This afternoon we went for a stroll. A fishing match was going on behind us towards Lemonroyd Lock, one chap was just reeling in a catch. He thought all the fish had moved to his patch, but a chap further up said he’d thought that too a short while back.

A man stood puzzled by the bottom control paddle for the lock. His keys were in the panel but nothing was happening. We stopped for a chat, he said he was waiting for the lock to empty. Well, he’d be there a very long time if he didn’t open the sluices! I pointed out the button to press and he set the lock in motion. He was quite concerned that the lights didn’t work and he’d been waiting for them to illuminate before he did anything. Not all locks have lights that work, but then as we found out coming down through Leeds Lock not all lights that do work work at the right time!

We stayed for a while chatting. I wondered how he’d got to the lock by boat without having worked one like this before. There are automated locks in all directions from here. But when his wife brought the boat into the lock the penny dropped, it was a shiny green shareboat, they must have just picked it up today or yesterday.

A sedate lock when only using one sluice

They shared the lock with another boat. We’d warned him that they might want to pass a rope around one of the risers as the lock gets a bit unruly as it fills. But we’d forgotten that one of the top sluices is out of action at the moment. He must have wondered what we’d been on about as the two boats gently bobbed about below.

Weir

We walked to the two weirs, the two of them together couldn’t make up the full height of the lock, there are another two before the river reaches the one at Thwaite Mills. Between the river and the cut is the old Bayford Thrust Oil site. Some of the buildings have been knocked down, a rather perilous entrance for wagons leads straight into a pond, but the oil storage tanks looked in reasonable nick and the earth around them has been worked over recently. We’d heard rumours of more commercial boats up around here, but we thought they were going to be from gravel, maybe they are.

Mick has spent much of the remainder of the day trying to work out what is wrong with our UK Waterways Sites Ranking. Since moving the blog over to WordPress our ranking has gradually been falling. We’re normally ranked around 8 or 9, today we have fallen to 16. This happened when we had our NB Lillyanne blog too. Mick may have sorted it by adding an S to some code, time will tell if it’s worked or not.

0 locks, 0 miles, 9.5 hours Tilly will be exhausted, 0 sausages, 1 roast chicken, 2 weirs, 1 very full lock, 0 clues, 1 sluice makes for an easy ride, 2 ‘S’s, 1 camera needing replacing, 2 years of being the very proud owners of NB Oleanna.

The Narrowboat That Wasn’t. 2013 to 2015

Part Two

Our 2A stage payment took a while to get through to Stillwater, my bank put it back into my account before finally paying it through. When I asked them about it they said that they were checking the transaction for fraud (!). That September our share in NB Winding Down finally sold, leaving us without means of getting on the water until our new boat was completed.

On our helmsman course with BearBoating

Our RYA helmsman course with bearBOATING gave us a much needed fix in October, a weekend course that took us into Leeds and back from Apperley Bridge. Well worth it as we both learned new tricks and I gained confidence at the helm.

We took a detour on our way home to visit Sofabed Barn so that we could check out colours for our planned sofa on the boat and see what one of their sprung mattresses would be like. Michael had reserved his last mattress of this type for us and would keep it until we knew when our boat would be ready.

What a lovely mooring on the South Stratford

Once my Christmas shows had opened we hired an Anglo Welsh boat from Wootten Wawen for a few days. A chilly break but worth it to be back out on the water and go back over the things we’d learnt on our helmsman course. We got a very good deal from them and really enjoyed the South Stratford Canal, just what was needed after the mayhem of work.

Every now and then we’d give Richard a phone call. Kevin had taken far longer to recover from his heart operation than had been expected and progress at the yard was slow. Our boat hadn’t come on any since we’d been to visit in August, our new mental delivery date was now slipping past Easter.

In January 2014 we talked with Kevin, there still had been no progress on our boat as they were working hard to get a boat that we’d seen in build at Betton Wharf completed. Mick by now was chomping at the bit to get a boat. I was in a situation of not knowing whether to take on work or turn it down for the months to come.


Over the next few weeks we decided to start looking at second hand boats, so that we could set out on our year afloat. A second hand boat had to fulfill certain criteria. It had to be as close a layout as possible to the boat we were having built, be within a certain budget and be a boat that we hopefully could increase the value of so by the time we came to sell it we’d have lost little or no money. A try before you build boat. But the main rule was that the clock for our year of cruising would not start until we moved onto our newly built boat.

Lillian our lovely yellow second hand boat

By April 2014 we had bought NB Lillyanne, affectionately known to us as Lillian. She was a bit longer than originally wanted and needed a few adjustments. These we got done whilst we finished work and packed up the house to rent out. On 9th June 2014 we pushed out of Crick Marina and started off on our journey on the waterways. Even though this had kept us busy every now and then we would try to contact Stillwater. We got their answerphone time and time again, emails remained unanswered. Nothing. Zilch.

In November 2014 we had a hire car for a few days, so decided to visit the workshop in Ripley, we still hadn’t heard a word from Stillwater since January.

The shed where our hull had been was now being run by another company. There were no boats out the front. We asked a couple of people about Stillwater and they said that there were still narrowboats in the main workshop. This however was all locked up. We tried to find someone from the units to ask, but offices were empty. We drove round the back to where Richard had shown us where boats came in and out of the workshop. Here out the back were two boat shells, primed with window apertures, no spray foam or engines. Was one of these our boat? A quick look around and the positioning of the windows confirmed that neither was ours. Was she in the workshop behind locked doors?

Boats, but not ours

The letter Richard had given us the previous year telling us about restructuring had the phone number of their accountants on it. So we called them, after a while we had a phone call back. They had no idea where Richard or Kevin were and they were owned money.

What to do? We sat for a while in case anybody happened to show their faces. In the end after an hour of silence we gave up and headed home. What should we do next? We really didn’t know.

Advent Sunday came along with a Facebook message from a lady who’d also been having a boat built by Stillwater Narrowboats. This is when we found out that several people had been recently notified by Richard that due to the company going into liquidation, they should come and collect their boats. We’d not had one of these calls, why hadn’t we had one? We already suspected we knew the answer.

Nichola had managed to gather names of other clients of Stillwater and managed to track people down. Some people had received a shell but paid further stage payments, receiving no work for those monies. An ex-employee had made contact as he’d not been happy with how things had been run. An Action Group was formed, a couple of conference calls were held between us all before Christmas to see what might be done followed by a get together in Tamworth in the new year.

A suggestion was to file a case on the Action Fraud website. I can’t remember how many people were in the Action Group now, but at least five sets of owners filled out the forms. A time line was collated to assist the police.

Towards the end of January CR&S Leisure filed to be struck off at Companies House as they had ceased trading. We as creditors should have been notified of their intention to voluntarily dissolve the company, so we objected to it. This was followed by our last communication from Stillwater/CR&S Leisure.
“As you have previously been made fully aware of the company, CR&S Leisure has ceased to trade.” That was the first we’d heard of it from them.

A Kingfisher for a bit of light relief

At the beginning of February as we worked our way up Apsley Lock on the Grand Union I had a phone call from a Detective Constable at Derbyshire Police. The case had been passed onto him and he was trying to get statements from all those in the Action Group. Our cruising plans meant that he could come out to visit us himself rather than us calling in at a nearby station. A date and location was arranged to meet up.

On the 26th March 2015 DC Jones joined us on board Lillian. He first listened to our story and then we decided that it should be me who gave a Witness Statement, my memory is that bit better than Micks. With the handy list of dates we’d complied for the action group I was able to make a detailed statement. This took getting on for three hours.

When we brought out copies of the photographs that Richard had sent to us, a smile crossed DC Jones’ face. He said thank you. These photos proved it was fraud. We’d been asked for money, we’d asked for proof, it was given, we paid, we have nothing for it!

The nosy Crick ducks who heard every word

There were more investigations to do before he’d be able to put a file to the CPS. More statements , more research and an interview with Kevin and Richard. He and his Sargent would have a look around the Ripley site, he thought that there was a slim possibility that our hull might still exist, somewhere.

Meanwhile back in 2019. 6th April

Yesterday afternoon She got a headache. It was so bad Tom had to cook and she didn’t do even one stitch of knitting. It must have been bad. I stayed close all night.

Toe eating duck at the lock

This morning I got an hour and a half to see how many friends I could find. This also meant that I could use the toilet in amongst the friendly cover. Yes it is still there, even though a lady thought it had gone.

Tom went to get the newspaper whilst we stayed put. She doesn’t like moving when her head is like this, She says it complains, but I can’t hear anything.

Back to above Lemonroyd

Today they had planned on moving the outside to Stanley Ferry. But that would take quite a few hours. Instead they moved the outside up a bit and we went back to where we’d been about a week ago. They span it around and then tied it up. Five and a half hours to find friends. Brilliant!

1 lock, 1.06 miles, 1 wind, 1 newspaper, 1 toe eating duck, 2 outsides, 7 hours, 5 friends, 1 higher than the other, 1 congratulations to Duncan (at last!).

5 years + 1 day of being boat owners!

The Narrowboat That Wasn’t. 2012, 2013

This is the first part of our account.

Back in 2012 Mick had received as unexpected inheritance from an uncle. We’d dreamt of having our own narrowboat for sometime and the money was enough to get us a practical boat that we could cruise around the network in. So we visited Crick boat show to look at prospective builders. Two builders were short listed and we arranged to visit them at their workshops.

One builder didn’t see any problems with our spec and sent us a quote. The other had plenty more questions for us and sat down to work through all our requirements. The father (Kevin) and son (Richard) team came across as knowledgeable, friendly giving us advice on things that we’d not thought of. Stillwater Narrowboats Ltd had built our friends boat so we’d been able to quiz them about the company. As with a lot of boat builders they were renowned to be late with builds, we did financial checks on the company which seemed okay.

Stillwater got the job, we paid our deposit and started to plan our layout, 58ft, cruiser stern, reverse layout, bow thruster, cross bed, etc. Our build slot was to be July 2013, so we thought we’d most probably get our boat around December that year.

Betton Mill, Market Drayton

October 2012 we went to visit them by boat on NB Winding Down (our shareboat) as they had recently moved from Hilton, Derbyshire to Betton Mill, Market Drayton. Kevin had always wanted a waterside workshop and here they had one. My Dad had recently passed away, so he would now pay for the extras that Uncle Mark’s money wouldn’t have stretched to. We came away after a good meeting, contract in hand for us to sign and return, at this point they hadn’t signed it.

We didn’t hear much from them for a time and in April 2013 we got a phone call from Kevin saying that they were wanting to get ahead on themselves and were looking at laying our base plate at the end of May beginning of June. For this they needed our first stage payment so as to be able to order the steel. Kevin was due to have a heart operation so starting earlier may of course not mean that we’d get the boat any sooner. The following day we got a list of all the extras and their prices sent through along with an invoice. We’d still not received the signed contract back from them, but this arrived the following day, a standard contract that most builders use. Our first payment was made. We were excited and celebrated with a bottle of wine that night.

Our first design

During May we did more work on our plans and finally arranged to go and visit Stillwater on Mick’s birthday. We drove over with plans and a model, had a good meeting, discussed a few alterations, looked round the boat currently in build. All good and very exciting.

The boat we trained on

We visited Crick boat show again that year, ordered a sofa bed and made note of ideas that we could incorporate into our boat. A helmsman course was booked for later in the year and our share of NB Winding Down was for sale at the show.

Mid July we were starting to get a touch twitchy. We’d sent through our final plans and spec but heard nothing back. When eventually we got through to Richard the steel order had been held up and the Kevin had had his heart operation, which had slowed things down. By the beginning of August our boat was to be the next to have it’s base plate laid.

Mid August. We’d noticed things had changed on their company records, we were wanting to seek assurance from them about this. Mick called to find out that our hull had been started, she was possibly up to the gunnels, but as the steel work was done at another site they weren’t too sure on the latest progress. A restructuring of the company meant that our boat would no longer be transported over to Betton Mill to be completed, they were going to lease a unit next to the steel workshop in Ripley to do the fit outs. Kevin was no longer a director of the company and we were told that they would be trading under a different name. Our excitement that the build had started was tinged with concern.

The box locker to be made with a larger opening
58ft up to the gunnels

On the 24th August we headed over to Ripley to see our boat for the first time. There she was up to the gunnels, a giant metal bath tub, pretty much like any other 58ft boat. The gas locker was needing some alteration as we wanted to be able to store our Brompton bikes in it, a new lid had been cut to size and laid on top. She seemed very wide but a quick measure of her width by Richard reassured us that she’d go through narrow locks.

We were handed a letter that should have been posted to us a few weeks earlier which explained that Stillwater Narrowboats had got into financial difficulties. All the boats in build were owned by the customers and would be finished off by the new company CR&S Leisure that had existed for some time. Our first stage payment had actually been made to the new company without us knowing. Richard explained that from now on stage payments would be split into three instalments, so we’d be able to see where our money was going and it would aid with the companys cash flow.

Mick at the helm

They had already started to move from Market Drayton. A large workshop across the site was filled with narrowboat shells. In all we counted six boats ahead of ours. One thing was certain our boat wouldn’t be ready for Christmas. If they managed to streamline their working practices as Kevin recovered from his surgery, then it was hoped we’d have our boat early next year, 2014. We headed home to alter our Christmas plans, coming up with new ideas for the spec, but lacking the cheesy grins we’d expected to have after seeing our boat for the first time.

A couple of days later we received an invoice for the first instalment of our second stage payment. Before we paid this we wanted to be reassured that the boat we’d seen was ours, so we asked Richard if there were any unique features which proved that the boat was ours. The following day some photographs were sent through to us. The larger gas locker lid had been finished and welded onto the weed hatch was ‘M and P Leckenby’. They had chosen my name as it had less curvy letters than Micks.

Enlarged Bow Locker
Name on the weed hatch

We were ecstatic, our concerns vanished. Payment 2A was forwarded to Richard.

Meanwhile back in 2019. 5th April

Leaving the dock

Today we have left Leeds. Leeds Dock had been a 48hr mooring, but because of attending court we’d asked if we could over stay. We’d been told that if we didn’t hear anything back then it would be fine.

Leeds had served its purposes and we wanted to be off. In between the Waxis coming and going Mick winded Oleanna and brought her back out from the dock whilst I went to get the lock ready. It was full, but the level light didn’t illuminate. I lifted the sluices to top it up and waited. And waited….. and waited the light didn’t come on. I tried opening the gates, but had no joy. Mick tied up above the lock as some helpful gongoozlers tried to push the hydraulically operated gates open, strangely enough that didn’t work!

Mick had a go. Still no joy, so I emptied the lock, then refilled it. The level above the lock looked like it had been dropped, work was going on at the weir to remove a large tree with a crane. Maybe the lower level above the lock was affecting its operation. After a few minutes though the level light illuminated. Hooray!!!

LEVEL!!!!

As Oleanna descended the trip boat from Thwaite Mills approached from below. I waited. And waited for the water level light to illuminate. No joy. The gates wouldn’t open. Everything was tried, but still no luck. The chap from the trip boat tried. We waited some more. In the end a call to C&RT was made and we were told someone would be with us in an hour. The trip boat decided to wind below the lock and head back to base just as another boat arrived.

Get on with it! You’re wasting my tree climbing time!

After about twenty minutes I decided to give the gates another go. When I reached the panel the water level light was lit. Brilliant! Gates open and we were on our way. We called C&RT saying we’d got through the lock, but another boat was now heading up, we hoped the gates would work for them.

Back out on the river it was windy. Our fat fender which I’d popped on the roof blew off. Mick reversed to try to get it back just as a swan landed and decided it didn’t want us there. After some discouragement using the engine Mick managed to pull the fender on board again.

One narked swan

By now it was too late for us to see if the water wheel at Thwaite Mills was working again so we carried on to Woodlesford where we moored up. We’d aimed on going a touch further today, but the wind put us off. Once moored up Tilly was allowed out, a happy cat again.

This afternoon we took one of the bikes up to Lidl and did a shop to last us a few days, hopefully until we get near to shops again or can find somewhere to get a delivery.

3 locks, 4.61 miles, 1 wind, 1 stubborn lock, 1 big tree, 1 chat with Margaret, 1 letter, 2 late for the mill, 1 tail held high again. 

Our Hour In Court. 4th April

Congratulations! You have reached our new blog.

 

Just over four years ago we had a Detective Constable from Derbyshire Constabulary visit us at Crick. He spent three to four hours with us taking a statement. After many years of waiting, today we have finally been to Derby Crown Court.

IMG_20190404_094231smTomorrow I will tell you the story behind our statement and what happened today in court.

This evening Mick and I are going to go out and have a nice meal, a few glasses of wine to mark what is the end of a long chapter in our lives.