Waiting Out The Rain. 7th June

Around about Bridge 80 to around about Bridge 87

The forecast was for rain, followed by more rain and then…. yep you’ve guessed it, more rain until about 4pm.

The blog took an annoying amount of time to sort, the internet being so intermittent. Just when you thought it was all sorted and eventually uploaded, I’d put it into preview mode and not only did the photos not appear but half of what I’d written had too! After a lot of frustration I gave up, I didn’t want today just to be about the blog, a rainy day meant I should be getting on with some work.

Dunchurch Pools Marina in the rain

I headed off into the woods. Once the trees had been climbed, I’d done quite a lot of that yesterday, Then some pouncing, I wandered that little bit further. There was a big brick wall. I prefer stone canal walls as they are climbable after some calculations. But this wall had very little claw factor (C) 0.1, Height (H) 1.3 trees high, Friendly cover (FC) 0, Angle (A) 90, Breakfast (B) 15 biscuits, wetness (W) 7.4, Tilly (T) 100%.

Drying off before my next adventure outside

I did my calculations (B x C $} T/W ~ FC x 0.7>A^H+C = :(abort attempt. Back to putting my arms down holes and climbing trees. After an hour or so the wetness rose to 8.2 time to dry off!

I drew out my scenery, everything starting from one point on the whole set means it takes a bit of marking up, but I got there in the end. It will be me painting this part of the scenery, I need to either simplify the floor design or manage to find a very quick way of marking it out.

A mound of scenery

We waited for the rain to ease. NB Chertsey braved the rain as did several hire boats. Every now and then the patter of rain stopped on the roof, Mick would look out of the windows, but by the time he’d stood up the rain had started again. At around 4:30 he decided to move. The annoying internet could not be lived with for any longer and we both knew what happened to Douglas Bader. Getting closer to Braunston would be good for tomorrow and hopefully improve the signal.

Seasonal wool decorations

We cruised only a couple of miles, to be within eye and ear shot of the Banger Spire of Braunston. Internet signal was checked, good, so we pulled in. Tilly went out and explored again, Mick got the stove going and we enjoyed the last of the pancake batter from the freezer.

BANGERS!!! Our mooring for this evening

With only one thing left in the icy box that went into the fridge for tomorrow night and the power was turned off at last. Just how long has it taken to empty the freezer!? But now that mission was accomplished. It will defrost over night have a clean, then be lifted out of the drawer to see if we can improve it’s ventilation anymore. Fingers crossed our combined skills can come up with something.

A rather lovely mooring

0 locks, 1.99 miles, 1 very wet day, 1 very wet cat, she may as well have fallen in! 664 inmates not the 625 it was built for, 2 hours wasted, 3 portals, 1 floor, 1 back cloth started, 2 much grey paint mixed, 2 savoury, 2 sweat pancakes each, 1 instep on its way.

A Good Place For A Conversation. 6th June

Rugby to Dunchurch Pools Marina Bridge 80

Well we had plenty of time

No rush to be on the move this morning, so Tilly was allowed to head off and explore whilst we had breakfast. Next was a shopping trip. We’d opted to moor nearer the station than Tescos so we had a bit of a walk there and back for supplies to keep us going for the next few days.

Lock 4 at Braunston has been shut for 48 hours, opening later today. C&RT have been carrying out repairs to the gates and cil to reduce water loss. Also overnight closures at Watford, Long Buckby etc have come into effect this week so that back pumping can be more effective overnight. Both of these things have put a stop to our plan of popping up to Crick to see our friend Lizzie, instead we hope to catch up with her a bit further south.

So we are in no rush to get to Braunston to join the queue to use the locks, we’d just get a touch closer today. The sun being out helped and despite us being on the flat for a while I decided to have a day off work, well almost.

The new bridge being clad

We pootled along towards Hillmorton. The new road bridge that will lead to Houlton (the new village of 6200 homes, 3 schools etc) has come on somewhat since we last passed. Now the roadway spans the canal and is certainly wide enough to be a duel carriageway. Big bold letters announce the bridges name Houlton Bridge 66A.

Proudly displaying it’s name

Hillmorton water point was empty. This tap is renowned for being one of the slowest on the network, but today that would suit us just fine. With the hose connected we started to fill up, I had a phone call to make about some possible work next year. Now Lynda can talk, but by the time we’d finished our conversation our tank was full, Mick had moved us off the water point closer to the locks and another boat had almost finished filling it’s tank!

Lock beam poetry
Hillmorton Locks

We worked our way up the three paired locks. One boat headed downhill towards us. The top two locks have three paddles out of order, so the chamber we’d chosen took forever to fill. Once they’ve finished at Braunston maybe they should try to get these working a touch better, they are after all the most used locks in the country.

Wild flower borders

Further along the building works are on going, but set back from the canal at the moment. Houlton will be huge, Will it extend down to the canal or will the banks of wild flowers remain?

Giant poppies
Witch in a well

On along Barby Straight, the old ambulance long gone, but giraffes graze the trees and a witch hovers in a well, it gives you something to photograph. The moorings between 78 and 79 were very full so we were surprised at those outside Dunchurch Pools Marina having plenty of space.

Barby Straight

Here Tilly was allowed two hours. Last time we stayed here she was out well past dark. Today Tilly stayed out for three and a half hours, returning for a pit stop only for the doors to remain shut for the night.

3 locks, 5.93 miles, 1 cooked breakfast, 0 boxes wine, 1 chicken, 1 huge bridge, 1 monster development, 1 house up to rent, 1 witch, 1 Mrs Tilly stamp of approval.

1 Mooring good for cats but not that much else!

Debbie Does Pinot or Potato Salad. 5th June


Our mooring was chosen for it’s proximity to the station. We had tickets booked to head to London for the day. Tilly was left in charge of the boat with an extra scoop of biscuits.

The walk to the station took us along the towpath, then down off the embankment and along a footpath before joining roads that led to the station. The station sits high above the roads, we spotted some steps that looked like they would lead us up to platform height. Except these steps just led up to the car park! We then spotted more steps that looked like they continued from the car park, so we climbed them. These did take us up and over the viaduct to the other side of the road we’d just walked along then down to the underpass to the the station. At least all these stairs increased our steps for the day!

I headed off to catch my train first, I’d opted for a slower train via Long Buckby, Bletchley etc to London, this was £6 cheaper than the faster trains one of which Mick had opted for ( he has an old foggie card and it was my idea to go to London in the first place).

BT Tower

My train arrived with an hour spare before my appointment so I got some lunch crossed over Euston Road and sat down in Gordon Square in the sun. Then a short walk around the corner to RADA. In February I’d been an observer at a Separate Doors 3 masterclass in Huddersfield making sketches for the report that will follow. Today there was to be a forum ‘Integrated Theatre featuring actors with learning disabilities, the will AND the way?’

One of my sketches

Over the last seven or so years I have designed a couple of plays with Vanessa Brooks and Dark Horse Theatre Company. I have also attended workshops and participated in the ‘Silent Approach’ a technique where all participants in the room are on a level playing field, a very inclusive method of working.

Royal Academy of Dramatic Art

Today the forum was attended by around seventy individuals ranging from Directors, Actors, Producers, Academics, Writers, a Composer and one Designer, me. Introductions were given by Geoff Bullen from RADA and Vanessa Brooks which were followed by three panels which discussed different aspects of integrated theatre.

Much has changed in the last few years, parts in television for learning disabled actors have started to branch out from just medical dramas. Next month the National Theatre will produce Jellyfish by Ben Weatherill with two leading learning disabled actors, more integrated pieces are starting to be produced around the country.

Physically disabled actors have a voice, funding has veered towards companies in that sector. Where as learning disabled actors often don’t have a voice of their own, not one that can be heard or understood by all, so others are speaking out for them. Those in the room today already support the sector, but the room needs to expand and loose it’s walls for the message of such talented actors to spread.

Todays programme

I live my life on a narrowboat away from most of my previous life of show after show after show. At times I have felt as though I have left that world behind and now live a separate existence at 3mph. But on days like today I feel included, my voice as equal as the next, If you look past the windlass and the muddy jeans there is still a Designer beneath. Possibly more confident in myself because of my time away. However I still can’t make my mind up quite how to paint my panto model!

It was lovely to see a lot of familiar faces today, one of which was Mick’s sister Kath. She was at the forum representing The National Theatre and we’d arranged to meet afterwards for a catch up. We walked to Euston to meet up with Mick. He’d also had a busy afternoon, having met up with a friend who is over from Australia and then popping over to Hackney to pick up our post.

Well it had to be tried!
Post at last

A nice meal was had at Cafe Rouge followed by beer and a glass of Debbie Does Pinot in a pub just across the way from the station. A nice catch up with Kath, who hopefully we’ll get to see again in a few weeks when we reach London by boat.

Our train back was a speedy one. But as we neared Milton Keynes the train slowed and made an unscheduled stop. A fault had occurred with the train meaning it could no longer head northwards. The next London bound train pulled up and the passengers from both trains swapped. Our train would return to London, Mick thinks it maybe had a cracked windscreen, whilst our new train would now head northwards. Only a slight bit of confusion as everything on our new train suggested it was still going to London, at least it exited the station in the tight direction.

The delay luckily had been only half an hour, Tilly was hungry, very hungry on our return.

0 locks, 0 miles, 7 trains (1 broken), 2 tubes, 26 bus, 1 sock almost finished, 70 forum attendees, 1 potato salad analogy, 15 known, 60 seconds avoided, 1 sister-out-law, 2 burgers, 1 salmon steak, 1 cat home alone, even Tom Tom didn’t come to see me!

On The Flat to Our Destination. 4th June

Power Station Footbridge to Broughton Road Bridge 59

There are advantages of working whilst we cruise on the flat. Today that advantage was that I stayed dry, well most of the time.

Quite a soggy day really. Mick prepared well with coat and a brolly. Normally on days like today we’d not bother moving, but we needed to be in Rugby by the end of the day. We pushed off a little after 10am then I retired below to get on with work.

Trains with cars!

First the M6 sits along side the canal, then after a few minor wiggles the West Coast Main line joins and sits right along side for several miles. Mick was treated to quite a lot of trains wizzing by. I popped out on deck in case my assistance was needed to get through the swing bridge at Rose Narrowboats. At first it was across the cut, but then it swung out of the way. No need for me to step off.

Swing Bridge ahead

A boat was coming towards us but we were already through the narrow section before they had negotiated the bridge ahead. Mick pulled us into the side and let them and a second hire boat pass before we carried on.

She doesn’t mind the rain, she just keeps on smiling

Down below I decided to start again on my over all paint scheme for panto. So I redrew out a sample piece, based it in and then started a fresh. My design is based on some photos of the underground that took my fancy, yesterday I’d got carried away and possibly veered bit too far away from what I liked about the images. Today I stuck to the bits that I liked the most and adapted them to what I was after.

Mark 2

Of course halfway through the penny dropped and I knew which way I should take the main setting, this was no longer possible on the sample I was doing, but if I’d not done it then the penny wouldn’t have dropped.

There was a space at All Oaks Wood, so we pulled up for lunch. We’ve never seen a space here before and have often carried on a touch further to where there is a view overlooking a farm and a great field to play in for Tilly. But this was only a brief stop and we were on our way again shortly.

Newbold Tunnel

A boat pulled out from Brinklow Marina and took his time weaving back and forth across the cut slowing our progress somewhat. Below deck at Newbold Tunnel Tilly was awake. She really is flummoxed by them. Despite the cabin lights being on for me to work she quickly notices that the outside lights have been turned out. I’m really perturbed that She didn’t seem too bothered by the situation so tried running around to make her aware of the problem. She still took no notice so only one thing for it but to shout to Tom at the back doors! He ignored me too!! Eventually someone turned the lights back on.

Why won’t anybody listen to me!!!

A chap on the towpath asked Mick if he’d seen a boat! He’d popped down to Tescos for some shopping (not on his person) and when he’d come back the boat had gone. Maybe they were on a hire boat, confined spaces and some people just don’t get on, so they’d left him!

We carried on slowly to the water point where the slow boat moored up. Our destination a short distance further on, just as well as just about all the moorings were taken. We found a spot with not too much tree coverage and let Tilly out, lit the stove to help Mick warm up and finally got to eat our barbecue supplies we bought a week ago. All was cooked inside out of the rain and very tasty it was too.

Indoor, but still yummy

0 locks , 12.66 miles, 1 swing bridge swung, 1 rainy day, 2nd go at painting, 3rd idea, 1 slow boat, 1 lost boat, 1 destination reached.

A Lot Quicker. 3rd June

Whitley Bridge 47 to Power Station Footbridge, Oxford Canal

Better weather today and an earlier start for us than normal, we had water to cover.

Sunnier day

Boats were already going up the locks ahead of us so we pulled out and joined in. NB Piglet was just pulling out of the first lock of the day, NB Trinity waiting below, we pulled up to wait our turn. The pound between this and the next lock is quite short, NB Piglet and NB Trinity ended up both sitting waiting in it, the level slightly low.

Up went Piglet, I waited for Trinity to start emptying the lock before I started to fill the lower one, not wanting to steal the water that was keeping them afloat. We then pulled out and awaited our turn as a single hander came down.

Stuck and not at the cill yet

The pound between locks 8 and 7 was quite low, a couple of boats moored on it were definitely sat on the bottom. NB Trinity was having difficulty getting into the next lock. Pulling on the bow line didn’t help, pushing them over to the other side didn’t either. So some water was let down hoping to lift them off of the bottom and get into the lock. With water coming down and a diagonal pull on the bow they got moving just as two C&RT volunteer Lockies arrived. They set about running more water down to try to return the pound to a better level without starving others above.

Our turn, we suspected our draught was deeper. Oleanna got stuck sooner, Mick reversed her back a touch and tried a different line. Definitely a build up of silt from a bywash, he got her closer to the lock where she stopped again. I got the bow rope, water was let down and bursts of engine got her moving again and over the lump into the lock. Apparently they had had a single hander on the flight who’d been leaving paddles up, not good practice espcially when there isn’t plenty of water about!

Carrying on up

Some boats were pausing for lunch in the longer pound, others stopping to go shopping, but we carried on, too far to go today and the locks were taking that bit longer than normal. More water was let down by the lockies doing their best to get boats floating again. One chap came past enquiring as to when his boat would be off the bottom, just as water was flowing straight through a lock. Have to say if that was us, we’d move our boat at the first opportunity not stay put for a full two weeks and complain about it. But each to their own!

A pretty flight in the sunshine

We carried on up, boats now coming down the flight, most stopping to wait above lock 5 and taking advantage of the water point there. A slight pause below lock 2 for a boat coming downhill and then we were on our way again and at the top of the flight. After half a mile or so we pulled over for some lunch before carrying on.

Bye bye Atherstone

I retired below to work as Mick pootled us through Mancetter, Hartshill, past our favourite mooring near Springwood Haven, slow going through Nuneaton.

Hello NB Cyan!
Turning to the Ashby Canal

At Marston Junction I stuck my hand out of the side hatch to give navigational direction to keep going straight.

Quick glimpse of Charity Wharf

I only just made it out in time to take a photo of the last mannequins at Charity Wharf before they all disappeared behind the willow trees.

Hawkesbury Junction

Approaching Hawkesbury Junction the moorings were full, a couple of git gaps with familiar culprets in the middle of them. Mick carried on would we have arrived in time to get a mooring anywhere?

I hopped off at the Engine House Footbridge and walked across the grass to Sutton Stop Lock. A Kate Hire boat was coming the other way, the lock in their favour. Outside the pub was heaving and a young lady stopped and asked for directions to the Ricoh Arena. I was able to point her in the right direction to follow the canal.

The gate shutting itself behind us

The hire boat were wanting to moor up in front of the pub,I suggested that was maybe not such a good idea as the 180 degree turn from the Coventry Canal for a 70ft boat would necessitate the full amount of space there. They’d be shouted at by the first boat to come through, as soon as they were out of the lock they could see what I meant and rounded the bend to find a mooring.

Conserving my energy for hunting later

Up we went and then started to look for somewhere to pull up. Rather than moor right on a bend we carried on and found space where we’d moored last year very close to the power station. We’d reached our destination with enough time for Tilly to do some hunting and Mick to have a towpath haircut.

Patterns and colour, still some way to go

Today we passed through the pound from Atherstone to Hawkesbury in 5 hours 13 minutes, last year it took us 32 days, 2 hours and 55 minutes!

Best loaf so far

As the evening went on we could hear music from the Arena. Sadly I hadn’t spotted any ticket towts near the Greyhound Inn so we had to make do with the muffled music from the Arena. A shame as Mick had so wanted to see the Spice Girls!

10 locks, 12.96 miles, 2 canals, 1 straight on, 180 degrees left, 2 stuck boats, 15 tissues all day, 1 painting scheme started, 2 friends, 1 quite tasty,  1 sour dough loaf, 4 Spice Girls, 0 tickets.

Falling Behind. 2nd June

Meadow Lane Bridge 50 to Whitley Bridge 47

With precipitation likely for much of the day and snot levels also high we decided to see how things were by the time we got to the longish pound between locks 10 and 9 of the Atherstone flight. Boats were already coming past before we pushed off. A few jobs to do first, yellow water, a load of washing and give Tilly a clean pooh box. We pushed off following on after NB Piglet whom we’ve been playing leapfrog with since Stone or maybe earlier.

Nearly 150 years worth of paint

They pulled in at the services at Bradley Green, so did we to dispose of rubbish, top up the water and have a chat with them. As we filled our tank it started to rain. A steady stream of boats coming past. Here our milometer, if we had one, would have clicked over to 500 miles so far this year.

With chores done we joined the queue at the bottom of Atherstone, I walked up to lend a hand.

A single hander was coming down and an elderly chap from the boat in front of us was giving him a hand with the gates. The single hander pulled out of the lock and the old chap started to close the gate, ‘You might want to keep that open’ I said. He said he wasn’t quite with it yet (taking a swig from his can of Old Speckled Hen), but would be by the time they reached the top of the flight. Maybe the beer helped!

The bottom two locks of Atherstone

Turning to watch for his boat coming into the lock, his wife was struggling, clinging onto the centre line for dear life. The single hander had shot out of the lock at a rate of knots just as she was untying. Mick tied Oleanna up and rushed to give the lady a hand, it took quite a bit to pull it back in. The single hander joked as he passed Mick saying he hoped there weren’t anymore locks, Mick replied with ‘I’m more concerned about the speed your doing!’

1 casualty, a mug

The speed had been so great that Oleanna, tied only on a centre line, had tilted over creating a five drawer moment. Our pull out corner cupboard hadn’t been latched properly so had also pulled itself out smashing a mug in the process! A nice calm morning boating.

Rising in the bottom lock

I helped the octogenarian couple up the lock and a passerby walked up to empty the next one for them. We worked our way up and swapped places with a hire boat coming down. The rain kept coming and going, decision made we’d pull in for the day. My snotty head didn’t fancy the idea of another 9 locks in the rain, it would just mean a few longer days to come.

Tilly was quite happy at the early stop and made the most of her time behind the very thick high sideways trees. Mick pottered away the afternoon. I woke my sour dough starter up, fed it and got a sponge mixed to be able to make a loaf tomorrow after the locks. The rest of the day was spent watching Columbo on the sofa with my second box of tissues.

2 locks, 1.65 miles, 1 full water tank, 1 empty wee tank, 1 clean pooh box, 500 miles, 335 locks, 2nd box tissues started, 90 grams brown rice flour, 120 ml water, 2 episodes Columbo, 1 sofa Sunday.

Flue Fear. 1st June

Hopwas Wood Bridge to Meadow Lane Bridge 50, Coventry Canal

Pootling along today on the flat meant I’d be working, however having a snot filled head did mean that what work I managed to do, in between blowing my nose, may get redone at a later stage. I did manage to draw up my panel design for the boozer, but the painting of it isn’t as good as I’d like.

South please

Meanwhile up on deck, Mick pootled us towards Fazeley Junction where we turned left towards Coventry. This route avoids the numerous locks up into Birmingham and then the numerous ones down again off the plateau that the city sits on.

Joining the queue

Today we’d pass through two locks, Glascote Locks. There are nearly always boats waiting to go up or down and the slow filling chambers mean you have to be patient. Today was no exception, there being what looked like three boats ahead of us. We pulled in behind and waited our turn. The middle boat of the three turned out to be a C&RT work boat moored on the end bollard of the lock landing.

There seemed to be plenty of people around to help, but not many with windlasses. I walked up to help. The first boat rose in the lock as one was coming down from above. As we were mob handed I walked up to help the lady at the second lock, then walked back thinking that the crew would walk up with the boat, but they were the crew from the next boat in line. Snot induced lack of enthusiasm on my part, I stayed put and waited for Oleanna.

No extra pairs of hands for us

With each boat going up one would come down, but no more boats appeared behind us, so we were left to work the locks with just the two of us, everyone else had stopped for lunch.

We pulled up on the moorings above the locks, Mick popped up to the Co-op hoping that there would be a copy of our newspaper left whilst I put the kettle on. Success! After lunch we pushed off again our aim to get within striking distance of Atherstone. However our progress was halted very soon.

Quite a catch

From below I knew from the change in engine tone that a blast of reverse wouldn’t get rid of what ever had wrapped itself around our prop! Mick didn’t even try, instead we drifted to the side where he tied up then loosened the weedhatch. A small duvet and cover was the culprit and fortunately easyish too remove.

Little Chimney Company

I worked as we pootled along spotting various familiar sights, the numerous well kept gardens of Tamworth, Alvecote Marina, the boats that had been ahead of us, the railway coming and going. Passing moored boats Mick would slow us down, one of these boats he’d been keeping an eye out for, The Little Chimney Company Boat. Normally around this area, there it was just before the M42. We pulled in.

Since having Oleanna we’ve been a touch concerned about the height of our flue from the stove. Being a new boat we had to have a double skinned flue fitted, Ricky at Finesse had done his best to get the flue looking good inside the boat, but this had left us with quite a bit of extra height outside, around 10 inches that is fixed. So far low bridges haven’t been a problem, there are still a few we know of to try, but Standedge Tunnel could be a whole other matter.

From this
down to less than half

A second opinion was needed. Kim came along and had a look and could see our dilemma. He could cut it down to a more manageable height, the extra length of flue that we had in a locker we could then use to regain the height we’d be about to loose. But most importantly at low bridges or tunnels we’d have a lot more chance of getting through.

Kim cutting away

Tilly was locked in the bedroom so we could run an extension lead out to Kim for his angle grinder. He marked the chimney five inches lower, covered our solar panel and set to work. With any burrs ground off the cut edge, our extension piece was tried, a fit. Brilliant! Ten minutes of cutting and chatting and we were good to go.

5 inches lower with the top back on

I returned below to carry on working and to let Tilly out from the bedroom. Normally she is either asleep or chomping at the bit to get back into the rest of the boat, but she was nowhere to be seen! Behind the bed by the steps she was cowering, the first time I’ve ever seen her truly scared. I did my best to reassure her that all was fine but she wasn’t having it.

After quite a lot of coaxing she edged her way towards the bathroom. The towel rail must have been what was making all the noise! Low and slow, keeping it in her sight at all times, she edged past it. As we made our way onwards she stayed jumpy and very very cautious of the bathroom, but slowly she started to calm down.

Troublesome towel rail

We reached where we were meant to be tonight, Tilly had I hoped calmed down enough to come home again so normal shore leave was granted, off she went into the sideways trees.

A couple of hours later she reappeared but seemed reluctant to come back on board. Only one thing for it, I stepped off gave her some chin rubs and picked her up, we can’t have a cat afraid of her home! Inside she took things slowly, the bathroom still a problem.

Her litter tray was moved out so she could check behind it, that was fine. Still the towel rail was the centre of her problem, she’d jab at it, at one point even hissed at it! We removed the towels so that she could see there was nothing hiding there, still she was very cautious.

2 locks, 9.91 miles, 1 left, 3rd in line, 0 behind us, 1 full box tissues used, 5 inches lower, £20 well spent, 1 seriously scared cat, 1 very very scary towel rail, 2 hours of trying to hide, 1 hissing fit, 1 cat needing reassurance in her own home.