Ship's Log

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Day
Date
Activity
Engine
Hours
Miles
Total
Miles
Locks
Total
Locks
0
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985.0
0
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1
5/5/14

9.05am: Departed from Ripon Race Course Marina with Nathan Kong, an overseas student from Pittsburgh, as crew, and Alison there only as far as Oxclose Lock to teach Nathan the gentle art of lock operation.

Nathan Kong at Oxclose Lock

Once safely through an out onto the River Ure, Alison hitched a lift from a passing boat back to the marina. At Boroughbridge Nathan and I made a short excursion ashore to purchase sandwiches for our lunch, then at the lock we met Dan and Ruth Slatten (frequent soloists with Guisborough Choral Society) and family. A very peaceful journey ensued downstream to York, where we arrived at 4.45pm and moored up between the bottom of Marygate and the Scarborough Rail Bridge.

Nathan was then given a whistle-stop tour of York, including a walk along some of the wall, which was followed by a visit to the Pizza Express by Lendel Bridge, where we met up with George and Kit. I then bid farewell to Nathan at the station and had a fitful night's sleep aboard Kestrel.

Moored near Scarborough Bridge, York.

992.0
26.7
26.7
4
4
2
6/5/14

8.55am: Departed for Naburn Lock and arrived at 10.25am.

The Archbishop of York's Palace at Bishopthorpe

Locked through onto the tidal Ouse at 1.10pm. with two cruisers and another narrowboat, which shot of at great speed.

Approaching the Swing Bridge at Cawood.

Had to wait outside Selby Lock as they had got tired of waiting for me, but then made a clean entry into the lock. Two other boats, both also single handers were looking for help to go through the swing bridge, but in the end we just all went for it. Arrived at Selby Boat Centre, only to find that Simon had gone and that the yard was not actually open on a Tuesday. Moored up there overnight - fortunately I had come prepared for such an eventuality and had extra medication with me.

997.0
19.4
46.0
2
6
3
7/5/14 Booked Kestrel in for her service and bottom blacking, then returned home by train.
997.0
0
46.0
0
6
4
2/6/14

Departed from Selby at 2pm, somewhat later than planned as the bow and stern fenders hadn't been re-attached. Hoisted my newly created FMH flag which flew reasonably well, but I need to try different methods of attaching it to the mast to see if it will fly any better.


Flying the flag, just past Beal Lock

Progress was slowed a bit as all the locks were set against us, and all the flood lock gates were shut. The weather was warm and fine until just before we reached Bulhome Lock when a very light shower turned very rapidly into a torrential downpour as I was operating the lock. By the time I decided I really had to get an umbrella from the boat I was fairly well drenched. We decide to moor up just past the lock, as we weren't that far short of our original target of Castleford Junction. To compensate me for the discomfort Kit cooked a very tasty pasta dish, which restored my equanimity. The rain, of course, stopped shortly after we battened down the hatches for the night.

1003.1
9.5
55.5
5
11
5
3/6

Departed from Bulholme Lock at 7.40am, stopping briefly at Castleford Junction to use the sanitary station. Ground to a halt in Woodnook Lock when we couldn't get the key to turn in the upstream pedestal. Called the CRT and their brilliant suggestion was to wiggle the key in the lock. On about the fourth attempt it worked and we were ably to progress on our way. We had no further problems with the other two powered locks. Made good progress to Mirfield where we arrived 4.50pm. Several locks along the way were a bit of a challenge, notably Fall Ing Lock and Shepley Lock.


Kit trying to avoid being photographed at Fall Ings Lock

Shepley Lock was particularly bad as the bottom gates didn't shut properly and it required all four paddles to be fully open to maintain a level at which three of us (Kit, myself and a passing stranger) could force the upper gates open. Kit departed to catch the 5.07pm train back to Selby, unfortunately without the car keys…

1011.5
19
83
19
30
6
4/6

Quick visit to Lidl's to stock up on fresh food, then off at 8.45am, in company with my overnight neighbouring boat. He was around to help with the first few locks, which was a great help. Then on solo through the nine locks of the Huddersfield Broad Canal. Mostly they were not too bad to operate and managed to get into a reasonably relaxed rhythm. Nonetheless, stopped for 70 minutes, between locks 2 and 3, for coffee and a short kip. The weather forecast had been fairly dire so it was a relief to get off the River Calder and the risk of flood locks being closed. As it turned out the weather, although wet, wasn't that bad, and warmer than expected. Moral - don't lie awake at night worrying about forecasts…
Managed the Tunbridge Loco Lift Bridge without causing too much of a traffic queue.

The Turnbridge Loco Lift Bridge

Eventually moored up at 4.10pm at Aspley Basin, or rather on the long term moorings, as there was nowhere else available - certainly a lot more boats about than when here last year. Had a rather late lunch.

1017.6
6
89
14
44
7
5/6

At 7.20am moved up to the water point filled up with water and had a refreshing hot shower, then set about dismantling the 'garden shed' (wheel house). Decided that filling up with diesel would be a good idea, although the Aspley Marina Shop didn't open until 9am. Had to swing the boat round, but a favourable wind made the manoeuvre in the restricted space relatively easy. Seventy six litres of fuel later, I obtained the required assistance to take the roof off, then returned to the watering point to remove the rest. Finally made the off up the Huddersfield Narrow, following another boat, which had, unfortunately, sneaked ahead of me. I was followed by another boat which had been moored up at the diesel point. I didn't see the 'lead' boat until Linthwaite (just after Lock 10) where it had moored up. The following boat, finished of several of the locks for me, but also moored up at Linthwate. Had help from a passing stranger thought locks 9-12, which help progress, although while waiting to go into lock 12 I picked up a high viz. jacket on my prop. Fortunately it wasn't too difficult to remove. Made good progress up the remaining locks to Slaithwaite, meeting the only boat going the other way coming out of lock twenty - a bit of a luxury to be ably to sail straight in, as at most locks a deal of improvisation was necessary to be able to moor up for lock operation. Water levels along the whole series of locks wasn't too bad, although the early stages were a bit tricky - having water and diesel tanks wasn't the best preparation for this canal. Saw my first Kingfisher of the trip just after lock twenty.


Lock 13, with a 'dark satanic mill' (now converted into flats) on the left, and on the right, mostly hidden by the tree, the gardens of the mill owner's (?) house, with terraced gardens, on the right.

Although plenty of space at Slaithwaite, where I arrived at about 6pm, there are very few mooring rings, so ended up at the water point. There are one set of rings that I thought of moving to, but they are right next to the fire station and the local brigade launched into a full training session pumping water into the canal there, so stayed put. Booked to go through Lock 24 (The guillotine lock) at 9am on Friday. Good to be still on schedule.

1026.1
5
94
21
65
8 6/6

Tried out the magnificent boater's facilities at Slaithwaite - hot shower, what a luxury - although possibly the most difficult shower in the country to adjust. Moved up through locks 22E and 23E before breakfast to be ready at 9am for CRT staff operating the guillotine lock (due to be repaired over a fortnight, starting 23rd June). Had a very hard, but largely uneventful, trip up to lock 42E. Did have a bit of a surprise at one lock, when reaching the top of the ladder, being confronted by a very hairy large husky type job. I'm not quite which one of us was most surprised.

Lock 30E where, at last, one getts the impression of being nearly at the top. There are however, still another twelve to go...

At lock42E my luck changed when Kestrel became very firmly wedged in the lower lock gates, one of which hadn't openned fully. Decided that I could 'leg it' up to the Tunnel Visitor Centre and kill two birds with one stone of getting assistance and collecting my parcel at the same time. This is, of course, the longest section of the whole canal without a lock (excluding the tunnel itself). Collected my parcel, and hitched a lift from one of the boats that had just come through the tunnel. CRT were already in attendance by the time I got back. By dint of rocking the lock gate we managed to free the fenders, but Kestrel would still not move, but by opening the top sluices and flooding the towpath below we final succeeded in freeing her. Unfortunately, in the process one of the mid mooring lines slipped overboard and got wrapped round the prop., which stalled the engine. Half an hour later, after the application of a Stanley knife the prop was freed up and I was able to moor up just a couple of minutes walk away from Marsden Station. Alison joined me, having arrived by train, shortly after 8.30pm. By then I had got Kestrel more habitable and less like a bachelor's pad.

21
86
9
7
Wandered down into Marsden with Alison, who then spent a couple of hours in the Tia Charity shop buying heavy presents and books. This was followed by a visit to the Co-op and various other shops. Suitably weighted down, we staggered back up the steep hill, with numerous necessary stops along the way - almost as exhausting as doing the locks up from Slaithwaite. After lunch we set about making Kestrel ready for the arrival of Tom, Beth and Eddie, while it rained heavily outside. The family duly arrived in the early afternoon in time to walk along a very muddy towpath to the tunnel entrance only to find that we had just missed the 3pm boat trip into the tunnel. Having bought tickets for the 4pm trip we went to the main visitor's centre, where a very poorly attended Craft Faire was being held. The Centre is a magnificent space, but one has to wonder if just a little bit of the money spent on it could have been spent on Boaters' facilities, of which there are none. An evening meal of take-away pizza and fish and chips, depending on taste, was followed by a stimulating game of scrabble, while Eddie lay in his bunk and talked and sang to himself, and occasionally passed comment about how we were keeping him awake. This was the first night we have managed to sleep so many on Kestrel.

0
86
10
8

A quiet night and a good lie in was had by all. This was followed by an energetic cycle ride down the tow path to lock 35 and back by Tom and the children, with Eddie's feet swathed in plastic bags to protect the one and only pair of shoes he had with him (Nicky hadn't done the packing….). Meanwhile I attached one of the banners to Kestrel and set up a collecting bucket to get what donations I could from passers by who were making the most of the sunny weather to stroll along the tow path. Ended up with £3.00 in it - well, it's a start!
It was then all off to Jim and Rachael's house in Pudsey for Carole's Birthday Party. After which Alison departed for home with George and family, while I returned with Tom and the children back to the boat. We moved Kestrel up to the moorings at the tunnel entrance - pole position for tomorrow's passage through it .

Tom then walk back along the towpath to get his car so we could load up the bags and bedding more easily. They then departed for Bishop's Stortford, leaving me to contemplate my own next stage of the journey there.

0
86
11 9/6

Early start again - ready to go through Standedge Tunnel at 8.30am. Made it through without incident, but I remember now why I didn't take any pictures along the way - it takes an awful lot of concentration to steer through without hitting the side too much, and without hitting one's head - which I only did a couple of times. They provide hard hats as a sensible precaution as there some very low sections.

Ready to go, at Standedge Tunnel, with banner proudly displayed, while the boat behind is being measured.

Emerged into daylight at Diggle at 10.10am, so almost the same time of 1hr. 40mins. as last year. After depositing my CRT 'Chaperone', fire extinguisher and the other miscellaneous equipment they provide, I made my way on down the west side as fast as possible to minimise the distance Dave Dodds would have to tramp up the hill from Greenfield Station. A slight problem at lock 27W when I didn't realise at first that one of the downstream paddles had been left open, and partly drained the pound, but managed to float Kestrel off OK. The weather by this time had turned from being bright and sunny to misty with heavy downpours. Met up with Dave at lock 24W, and successfully made our way down to Roache's Lock (15W), where we decided to moor up for the night and have a pub meal. We had taken a three-quarters of an hours break at Saddleworth Fold at about 1pm, as by then we felt in need of a change of clothes, and the sun had deigned to shine again, which made the afternoon a lot pleasanter. Again, a mostly uneventful trip although between locks 20W and 19W - the longest pound on the whole canal (excluding the tunnel) - the water level was very low and we were only able to go at a snail's pace. Considering the amount of rain there had been, and the amount of water going down the side washes at the other locks, this can only have been due to bad leakage.

1044.4
9
106
17
103
12
10/6

Sunshine! - and it lasted nearly all day, as we made our way down the rest of the Huddersfield Narrow, stopping briefly outside Tesco at Stayleybridge to stock up on supplies.

Dave helming on the Huddersfield Narrow canal.

Convenience shopping! Moored up, we are actually closer than the car park, which is on the oposite side of the canal.

We passed a few boats going in the opposite direction, so at least twice I was able to steer straight into a prepared lock - quite a luxury. At lock 1W Dave wore himself out working the hydraulic winches on the paddles, and peculiar to this lock, the gates as well. It was therefore, with some relief that, at 2pm we turned left onto the Peak Forest Canal, where, so far, there has only been one lift-bridge to contend with (which I did). A very peaceful and verdant canal it turns out to be. Having neared our planned stopping place, just north of Woodley Tunnel, at 4pm we contemplated going on, but the sky turned a very dark grey and the heavens opened. We managed to drive some pegs into the towpath and get under cover without too much difficulty and without getting too wet. Shortly after that the weather fined up again, of course, but we decided by then that we had had enough, and decided to stay put for the night. After a quiet pub meal in the nearby local hostelry Dave and I spent some time looking at the various aspects of making the return jouney via the River Trent - which is do-able, but a bit daunting.

1051.4
12
118
15
118
13
11/6

With sixteen locks to do before Dave left to catch a train home from Marple, we made an even earlier start, getting underway by 7.30am. By 8.45am we arrived at the first lock, having passed through the Woodley Tunnel (167yards) and the Hyde Bank Tunnel (308yards) and across the quite spectacular Marple Aqueduct over the River Goyt. (photo from Dave) and the climb commenced.

Even after the eighth lock (the closest to the station) Dave's enthusiasm was undiminished and we finally reached the top by 11.30am. Along the way we had a little bit of help from a couple of passing volunteer lock-keepers, and at a couple of locks we passed boats coming down, which also speeded up the process, so managed a creditable 10minutes per lock, including the travel between them, which in some cases was no more than a couple of boat lengths.

At the junction with the Macclesfield Canal Dave said his farewells and departed for home and I turned right, through the low bridge (No.1) onto the main branch. Not far along the way I gave a cheery wave (as is my custom) to a guy working on his boat, and a mother and daughter onboard. I was extremely touched, a few minutes later, when the same guy appeared at the next bridge, on a bike, and handed over a very generous donation for FMH. Certainly the effect of having the banners on the boat has been very positive. If only I could work out some way to make the flagpole less vulnerable to low bridges…

Stopped at Higher Poynton (a lot of boats there) to refuel, but found, when I dipped the tank, that I hadn't used as much fuel as I had thought, which was good to know. I topped up anyway, not being sure when the next opportunity would come. Certainly a lot more traffic on this canal than I had experienced so far on the trip, with a number of hire boats in the mix. Moored up just north of Sugar Lane Bridge (26) just after 3pm, believing that I was well ahead of schedule, but in reality only about half a mile further on from the planned stopping place. Still, much better than being behind schedule and playing catch-up. Thought about going on a bit further, but the mooring place was good and quiet, and my afternoon nap was calling...

1058.5
11
129
16
134
14
12/6

What a scorcher! Put shorts on for the first time this trip and applied factor 18 to exposed skin. Another bright and sunny morning, but quite cool in the shade, and under way by 7.30am again.

Early morning sunshine through the trees

 

Eleven goslings with three adult escorts.

Easy cruising until the first swing footbridge - on a bend, with someone coming though it in the opposite direction. At least I didn't have to operate it, so once I was off the mud-bank I could continue without further ado. The second swing bridge was a minor road, off the main road, which ran right next to the canal. It was fully automated and even had decent moorings either side and a high level footbridge, so single hander operation wasn't an issue. Typically there was a heavy patch of traffic when I was ready to set it going, which I had to wait to clear, but very little once I had got it open. I was about to close it when a following boat hove into view, so I let that one through as well - turned out to be a smart move as they later gave me £20 for FMH! On arrival at the top of the Bosley flight (12 locks) I topped up the water tank as I had to wait for the boat ahead, and one ahead of them, to go down. Several boats were on their way up, which made life easier and for lock 7 down to lock 12 a single-hander boater, out for a walk with his three dogs, did all the hard work for me. I was able to reward him with a refreshing glass of lemonade, having nothing stronger on board to offer him. While downing it he regaled me with his life story, which was interesting, but not appropriate for this page…

After a short break for lunch at the bottom of the flight, I continued on to Congleton and moored up at the wharf moorings, which puts about 3miles ahead of schedule. The weather still being hot, I decided doing my washing was a preferable task to walking into town for more supplies. I then spent some time having an on-line chat with Ian from Virgin Media to try and find out why I couldn't pick up my emails - all to do, apparently, with the great god google changing their systems. By 6pm it was a bit cooler and I managed to find my way to the nearest Co-Op, about three miles away. I had failed to find the local Spa, which, according to the sign just next to my mooring, is only 50 yards away, or perhaps more believably, 200yards according to the felt tip scribbling over the top. At the Co-Op I felt like a man 'out-of-time and out-of-place', as I was the only male of the many in the shop, there to buy groceries.

The impressive Congleton aquaduct.

1066.3
14
143
12
146
15
13/6

Total panic this morning when I looked at the schedule to see the day's target and realised that not far ahead was a rather long tunnel - the Harecastle Tunnel. Checked the CRT website and it said something about booking passage though it, giving 48hours notice, and to go through on a Monday notice had to be given by 4.30pm on the Thursday - seemed to make a mockery of my schedule. Phoned CRT at 8.30am, as soon as the office opened and was told that no booking was necessay, but to be there by 4pm to guarantee passage that day. Greatly relieved, I set off, arriving at the north portal at about 10.30am, having negotiated the strange arrangement at Hardingswood Junction, the junction of the Macclesfield Canal with the Trent and Mersey. The Macclesfield crosses the T &M between locks 42 and 43, but then joins it just above lock 41.

Curious bridge design at the Macclesfield Canal stop-lock

Had to wait awhile for a boat coming through rather slowly - it transpired that it had managed to hit its smoke stack on the roof of the tunnel, a clever trick considering how much headroom there is.

North portal of the Harecastle Tunnel, with the incredible orange colouring of the water. The entrance to the original tunnel id to the right of it, behind the building.

Once under way we shot through at great speed doing the 2926 yards in about half an hour. Compared to the Standedge Tunnel there is very little excitement as it is very straight and brick lined along its entire length. After that it was a pleasant enough hour's cruising through to the junction with the Caldon Canal at Etruria before commencing decent down the Stoke Flight (5 locks). Three boats coming up eased the pain slightly. Along the next stretch should have been pipe bridge 111, my scheduled stopping place (before I got ahead of myself) but there was no sign of it - it was apparent that some industrial site clearance had taken place in this area some time previously. Keen to keep ahead of schedule I kept going until 4.40pm at Old Road Bridge (bridge 104), where there were proper moorings and several other boats moored up. The sign for the Wedgewood works is visible over a hedge in the distance. Saw a Kingfisher fleetingly, several herons, and in the evening numerous bats, and a barn owl over the fields on the oposite bank.

1073.7
16.5
228
7
153
16
14/6

After a not very good night's sleep (personal reasons…) made an 8am start - What did I see today, other than some very pleasant English countryside? Two very proud parent swans with ten young cygnets in tow, a man with a great bunch of helium filled foil balloons of all different shapes and sizes, in danger of getting lifted over the bridge parapet, a very useful sign at a lock-side pub "Emergency life-saving equipment locked in bar. Available during licensed hours only.", and a very attractive statue in another pub garden.

Unfortunately, by the time I had got the camera out the cob had disappeared out of view.

I noticed that most of the bridges along this stretch of the canal are made up of two halves, presumably so that a tow rope can pass through it. I did try using it at one lock but reckoned that the effort of pulling Kestrel through was more than the effort of climbing down, using the engine to come out of the lock and then climbing back up to close the gates.

Had three close encounters with my jack staff flying my FMH flag: the first at a low modern concrete bridge - the staff scraped along the underside of the bridge all the way through, making a terrible screeching noise, but other than the flag sliding gracefully down due to the vibration, there was no harm done - a tribute to modern engineering skills that the bridge was so consistently level. At another bridge I decided, rather late, that it just wasn't going to fit under and managed to stop Kestrel just as the pole touched the bridge, again no damage. Lastly, a bridge at which it started out OK, but just made contact a couple of feet form the end, but again it survived. I have several ideals of how to make it resilient to contact, but not yet found the energy to implement any of the schemes.

The multiple layers of brickwork on the arch of the bridge at Salt, reminiscent of the doorways of York Minster.


Moored up just after 4pm at Great Haywood, where hopefully I should be able to stock up on supplies. My brief earlier stop near Salt for that purpose was abandoned when I was informed by some local boaters moored up there that it was a shop free zone. Having been mostly warm and sunny, although at one time some big black clouds threatened rain, it stayed dry until just after mooring up, so I was able to put the cover up in relatively dry conditions. Put out my collecting bucket, as usual, but not very hopeful as the rain has sent everyone scurrying off indoors, very sensibly.

Met a couple of Dutch guys who had hired a boat for a fortnight, and said that they were enjoying their experience on our canals hugely, very different from their canals back home. The following boat, full of Kiwis (I think they were Kiwis, but may have been Aussies - until doing some research just now, I was a little shaky on the difference between their two flags) made no such comments. I was told by another passing boater that they had read about me and my Bishop's Stortford quest on someone else's blog - I just hope it wasn't anything too rude…

Must up-date the St Mary's Church website tonight.

1081.6
14
174
13
166

17

15/6

The footbridge over the River Trent at Great Haywood leading to Shugborough Hall Estate.

Father's Day: Not the most exciting day, boating wise - no photos, not even of Rugely. Reached Fradley Junction at about 1.30pm and turned right off The Trent and Mersey Canal onto the Coventry Canal and off page143 of Nicholson Guides Book 4 onto page 61 of "Birmingham & the Heart of England". Highlight of the day's cruising was after passing under the low 'New Bridge 90A' slowly to try to make sure my flag pole wasn't snapped off, I was aware of two impatient cruisers behind me. I pulled in to let them pass and was rewarded with a tenner from the first one and a fiver from the second one for my collection bucket. This means that the cost of the banners has now been matched, so anything collected from now on means my outlay on them was worth while. Stopped at about 3.30pm, quite tired, having passed my revised scheduled stopping place, which would have been a bit noisy as it was about a foot away from the A38, and am now at a much quieter stop near King's Orchard Marina. Just checked Google and find the marina isn't shown, however, on the satellite picture it is shown in the process of being built.

Opened my Father's Day cards from the boys and grandchildren, which was lovely.

On the outward journey: One mile short of half way and fifteen locks over half the locks.

1088.2
15
189
4
170
18
16/6

Another pleasant day's cruising, although T-sheet and short's was enough to start with, the fleece had to be donned several times. Moved seamlessly from the Coventry Canal onto the Birmingham and Fazely Canal at some undefined point (if marked, I didn't notice it) and then back onto the Coventry Canal at Fazely Junction. For some reason I always expect canal junctions to have some stature to them, but Fazely junction was as modest as them come, with a narrow entrance under Watling Street Bridge and a finger post hidden under a tree, being the only evidence.

A tantalising glimpse of Pooley Hall (built in 1509) on the outskirts of Polesworth.

Stopped for about three quarters of an hour at Polesworth to have lunch and do some shopping. I was going to moor up for the night at the scheduled stopping place shortly before Atherstone Bottom Lock (Lock 11), but was advised by a moored up boater that there was scheduled work to be done on Lock 10 tomorrow to replace one of the up-stream paddles. He was also kind enough to give me a donation and took my picture to put on his website! Went up through the two locks, with the help of a volunteer lock-keeper, and moored up shortly before lock 9. Spent a beautifully warm evening sweeping out the cabin and washing the port side of Kestrel.

1095.0
16.5
206
4
174
19
17/6

Woke early with a boat going past and was underway by just after 7am. The remaining nine locks of the Atherstone flight came thick and fast, with a bit of help from the boat just behind. Then, full steam ahead for Nuneaton, and even fuller steam ahead to get out of Nuneaton - too much graffiti and too many plastic bottles floating by for my liking. Then through Marston Junction where the Ashby Canal dives off, before negotiating a left hand bend where there is a 'boat yard', and adjoining property filled with the most amazing collection of figures in all sorts of garb, including a wedding couple on a horse (sorry, no photo). By 1.36pm I was passing my scheduled stopping place near the 'Site of the Newdigate Colliery Arm', but feeling it was a bit early to stop I continued on and before I knew it I was at Hawkesbury Junction, where the entrance to the Oxford Canal is magnificently spanned by an iron bridge.

The iron bridge at Hawkesbury Junction built by the Britannia Foundry, Derby. Dated 1837

The Oxford Canal actually starts parallel to the Coventry Canal, but the U-turn required to get onto it was quite easy as there was plenty of room, but I had to come to an unexpected stop a there is a stop-lock there which I hadn't notice in the guide book. An antipodean hire boat was just entering the lock and my comments about the depth was met with "I've no idea, mate. We've only just got here." Apparently it was their first of the trip, and the lack of much of a change in depth was causing some confusion. Eventually found somewhere quiet and possible to moor up - quiet, except the frequent trains on the main line a short way away, but better than being anywhere near the M6 or M69.

1102.6
16.5
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10
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18/6

Still managing to move further ahead of schedule - except for the fact that I have re-re-scheduled the whole trip, to include return via the River Trent, and giving myself a couple of extra days in Bishop's Stortford. Today, was a long day, having started at 7.30pm, it was only 1.30pm by the time I reached Braunston, which is the start of the Grand Union Canal. I had toyed with stopping early at some nice quiet moorings there, but decided to bat on, especially as Alison had talked about possibly meeting up with me at Milton Keynes at the weekend if I was in that vicinity. On the other hand, the GUC starts with a series of six locks and the Braunston Tunnel (2042 yards long). The trouble with Braunston is that there are just too many boats, hundreds and hundreds of them, so pressing on was what I did. I teamed up with Iron Henry and rapidly made progress up all six locks (back on to broad locks, which I haven't seen since Huddersfield), as at the first five there were boats coming down at exactly the right time, which always speeds things up. I then left Iron Henry as they were mooring up for the night, and batted (good word) on through the tunnel at great speed, to arrive in a cutting very similar to one at the far end of the Chirk Tunnel. Three miles further on it opened out more and I was able to find a quiet sunny spot to moor up, getting to within a short step of the bank.


Just for a change: View from a bridge - the hurly burly of the Grand Union Canal east of Braunston

The weather through the day had been variable, getting quite cold at times - long trousers, rugby shirt and fleece becoming the order of the day, but by the time I stopped, at it was gloriously sunny and warm - which reminds me, I must get my washing out into the fresh air to finish drying off. It has been in the cratch all day with one of the cratch covers open, and the door, so it shouldn't have been too bad.


The locks at Hillmorton, on the Oxford Canal, are quite interesting in that there are actual two locks side by side at each rise - like supermarket check-outs, just go to the one with the shortest queue. A pair of very helpful volunteer lock-keepers (one of whom threatened to post a sighting of me on twitter, or to look at my tweets, I'm not sure which) and the crew of a hire boat just behind me, had me up all three locks in no time at all.


One of the pairs of locks on the Hillmorton Lock flight


Now that I am back on a broad canal, I should be able to have my 'garden shed' back up, but with the weather set fair, I've decided to leave it down for the time being. Tomorrow on to "Waterways Guide 1 - Grand Union, Oxford and the South East"!
<End of Day Location>

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21
19/6

Had a bit of a lie-in this morning, and wasn't underway until 8.10am, and before I knew it I was at Norton Junction, where the Leicester Section of the Grand Union Canal heads of north. Stopped just above Top Lock No.7 of the Buckby Flight, to take on water and have my breakfast. While doing so 'Pieces of Eight' decided they were ready to make the descent and headed for the open lock - this was too good opportunity to miss, so I curtailed both activities, and joined them in the lock. We soon established a reasonable working pattern and reached Bottom Lock No. 13 with only one embarrassing moment for me, when I casually threw my mooring line aboard Kestrel before descending the ladder to drive her out of a lock, when I realised that there was no way I was going to be able to get from the ladder on to her. I could only stand and wait until she drifted agonisingly slowly to the other side and I could board her again. At every lock after that I held on tight to the mooring line until I was safely aboard. At another lock I managed to snag one of the fenders on the gate as I was entering the lock, the rope snapped and the fender disappeared from sight, never to be seen again. It was a well worn and abused fender that I had already decided needed replacing, so it wasn't a great loss. At the bottom of the flight we both called in at the nearby marina shop for provisions, and I was able to buy a suitable replacement fender and some 'string' to tie it on with (I do like to use the correct nautical terms when I can). We parted company, the couple on Pieces of Eight having given me a donation, to resume their task of navigating their daughter's boat from Nottingham, where she had bought it, to Tottenham, having spent three weeks re-fitting it for her. Cruising after that wasn't too exciting, brightened by the sight of a green woodpecker, which darted from bushes by the canal to land on an electricity pole nearby, hopefully not to start drilling holes in it. The other encouraging moment was when a boater, walking along the tow path on his way to dispose of his rubbish, flagged me down at a bridge and made a donation.


I must confess to waving at Virgin trains on the main line where it ran very close to the canal. One never knows if there was someone waving as it's impossible to see into the carriages through the tinted windows, so I may I have appeared to have been responding to them. Just before 1pm I moored up for some lunch, something I don't normally do, and while stopped Pieces of Eight sailed on by.

'Pieces of Eight', built in the 1960s, apparently of some historic interest.


Slipping quietly across the bottom left hand corner of page 80 of the guide book, where the Northampton Branch of the GCU also heads north, from Gayton Junction, I was soon into Blisworth, and just round from there, is the start of the Blisworth Tunnel. At 3075 yards long it is, apparently the third longest tunnel in the country. It has two way traffic through it (max. beam of 7', other than by arrangement), so in preparation I took the flag down and donned waterproofs. The former action turned out to be unnecessary as there was ample headroom, the second was a sound move as it was quite wet in places - it would have been even better if I'd closed the hatch at the start as well. Seeing a light in the distance one has to speculate if it is literally the light at the end of the tunnel, or the headlamp of an approaching boat. In my case it turned out to be an approaching boat, but we passed quite easily about two thirds of the way through. A further boat entered as I neared the end, but we also managed to pass without difficulty. On emerging, after almost exactly half and hour, the weather had almost transformed itself, from being really cold and overcast, to almost warm and sunny. Quite quickly waterproofs, fleece and rugby shirt were shed, as I began the descent of the seven locks of the Stoke Bruerne flight, in the company of my good friends aboard Pieces of Eight. Even though most of the locks were full, by the time we reached the bottom I was very glad to moor up for the night at 5.45pm. It had been a long, long day, but at least I was half a mile and five locks ahead of schedule.


After a short nap I cooked and ate supper to the singing of Kathleen Ferrier, which was very soothing, having tried Scott Joplin and found it far too wearing.

<End of Day Location>

1119.9
17.5
262
14
207
22 20/6

Woke early and departed my moorings at 7.15am, arriving uneventfully at Cosgrove in time to go straight into the lock as another one was coming out, then across the slightly scary Great Ouse Aqueduct.


Tried not taking more pictures of bridges, but couldn't resist this one at Cosgrove.

 


Great Ouse Aqueduct - not a good place to have vertigo...

Onto Milton Keynes - not a great start with the first tatty bridge, complete with graffiti, but a rapid improvement after that, and I don't recall seeing a single floating plastic bottles. Very little of MK is visible from the canal, with few houses actually having a waterfront, even though the canal passes round the north and east sides of the town.


Train Mural on the outskirts of Milton Keynes

Stopped briefly in Downhead Park area to make a couple of sandwiches, before passing the proposed site for the start of the 'Bedford and Milton Keynes Waterway' - seemed a strange place to start it, as the ground falls away quite steeply there, but presumably they know what they're doing - maybe a big lift is planned. Somewhere on the left was Walton Hall, home of the Open University, but not visible from the canal. Fenny Stratford Lock was also just being vacated as I approached. This is an unusual lock as it has a swing bridge in the middle of it. It also only has a rise of 13". Once under the A4146 bridge it was back into open countryside and plenty of opportunities to moor up, which I did at 3.15pm, just short of Stoke Hammond Lock, by which time it was warm and sunny again. Things I saw today: Caution: Elderly Ducks Crossing (A welcome variation on the Slow down past moored boats [please]); Boots and Muddy Paws Welcome.

Nearly of the same latitude as Bishop's Stortford!

<End of Day Location>

1127.5
19.5
282
2
209
23
21/6

An even earlier start today (6.50am!) as it was a beautifully calm, warm morning.

Got through four locks before breakfast, although the middle lock of the Soulbry Three Locks (24-26) was a bit uncomfortable. There is a pub between the two locks, and nothing to moor to. When a boat coming down released water into the pound, Kestrel swung out into the strong flow and nearly got away from me. Fortunately they noticed and closed the paddles down a bit to reduce the flow. Leighton Buzzard was a bit of a non-event, although there was a handy Tescos close to the canal where I was able to stock-up. After that it was very pleasant cruising, but with a lot of locks. Having passed my scheduled stopping place by a couple of locks I was looking for the ideal spot to moor when I was confronted by yet another a pair of locks, the Marsworth Locks (37-38), both 'ready to go', with gates open. It seemed silly not to go up them, as otherwise they would be waiting for me in the morning and would probably need doing from scratch. Moored up shortly afterwards, but under the trees, out of the sun, and with a lot of other boats around. Not as much traffic today as I had expected for a Saturday. Tweeted the Herts and Essex Observer, with a picture of Kestrel showing the banner, and see that they have re-tweeted me. Don't think it will bring out the brass bands…

<End of Day Location>

1136.4
12.5
294
16
225
24
22/6

It's Sunday, so a leisurely start to the day with a hot shower and breakfast before setting off at 8.30am and soon past the Ayelsbury Arm, which shoots off westward from the junction at Marsworth. Then came the first seven locks of the day (Locks 39-45) before arriving at Bulbourne Junction, where the Wendover Arm of the Grand Union Canal heads towards Wendover, but isn't yet navigable all the way. Had some help up the seven locks from a boater moored further up, who was out having a walk, which was a great help. All day I had been expecting quite heavy traffic, but as it turned out it was all very light, and I wasn't able to share a single lock all day.

At Bulbourne Junction I met the narrow boat Lark, which had come up from Bishop's Stortford and was on its way to have a repaint. Apparently there was nowhere closer that could lift a seventy footer boat. Lark was kind enough to make a very generous donation to the FMH cause. I was going to stop at a water point just by the Upper Icknield Way Bridge (couldn't resist the name), but missed it, as it was tucked away out of sight, and stopped instead at the lock at Cow Roast (46). As it turned out I wasn't as in need of more water as I thought, but always good to get some fresh in the tank. Also able, and remembered to, get rid of my rubbish, but no recycling facility. Then commenced the descent, through a further ten locks, down through Berkhamstead, to moor up just before the start of the Bourne End Locks (56-59). The Rising Sun Lock has a pub (called 'The Rising Sun', or 'The Riser', apparently and perhaps unsurprisingly) immediately adjacent to it, which was, not surprisingly on a hot Sunday afternoon, well patronised. However, I have not yet developed the skill or nerve to (or established the legality of) shaking my collecting bucket under their noses, so left empty handed, but I did get a hand with openning and closing one of the gates, which was something.

Things I saw today: a rather large fisherman catching a very small fish - and a hundred yards further on, a not so large heron, catching a very large fish, which it then proceeded to work round in its beak in preparation for swallowing the fish whole. It's something I have seen before, but which one can hardly believe is possible; a Red Kite soaring over a marsh area adjacent to the canal.

Red Kite - photo courtesy of Wikipedia

I have seen what I thought probably were Red Kite earlier in the trip, but this was so close and so low, that it was easy for even me to identify with certainty.

Just seen my good friends on Pieces of Eight sail on by and give me a cheery wave.

77 miles to go! and only 73 Locks...

<End of Day Location>

1142.8
8.5
303
17
242
25
23/6

Early start, as my cunning plan was to catch up with Pieces of Eight to share the workload of the continued descent for the next twenty locks (actually turned out to be 21) target for the day. The plan worked and after four locks we were once again working them together. The fully automatic swing road bridge at Winkwell was no problem as a kind boater moored close to it volunteered his services, and there was little traffic on the road. One diversion for the never ending supply of locks was finding a boat floating mid channel, with its mooring lines dangling in the water. That a wide beam boat had just recently been passed was, I'm sure, totally coincidental. We managed to capture it and re-secure it. I left a polite notice onboard advising the owner it had been rescued, and inviting a donation to FMH - one never knows… Nearly falling in, at another lock, is not worth mentioning (the reasons are complex, and not entirely my fault…) - fortunately my left shoulder was up to the challenge of avoiding a wetting. With three locks to go before reaching my scheduled stopping place at Grove Park, south of Abbots Langley, Pieces of Eight decided they wanted a break and moored up.


I've seen all sorts of adaptations, but this is a first...

I was joined, after the next lock, by a Coal and Diesel barge, which made a change. Found a decent mooring place on the second attempt - an inviting place opposite the golf course proved to be too shallow to be able to get to the bank comfortably, but had more success just past the Grove Park Ornamental Bridge (No. 164).

The Ornamental Bridge - having mentioned it, I had to show it...

Looking ahead I notice another boat floating out into the channel, having had its stern mooring pin pulled out, so performed my second rescue of the day, but didn't bother with a note on this one…

Sad news, that one of the fish is on its way out. I have put it into an isolation tank (a plastic beaker), but is definitely looking beyond revival.
Started raining, and now pondering whether to put the garden shed back up. There's a bit of rain forecast for the middle of the day tomorrow, but nothing more until the end of the week, so probably keep it down for the time being.

<End of Day Location>

1151.3
8.5
311
21
263
26
24/6

7.45am start and 12 locks done during the day, three of them before breakfast. Went through one of the rest with my good friend on the Coal and Diesel barge, and teamed up later with a couple on Prestige for a few more, and with help from volunteer lock-keepers at Widewater Lock, before mooring up just a whisker short of my scheduled at 2.30pm. The sides of the canal along this part are very shallow, but having spotted a place where it was possible to get to the bank it seemed too good an opportunity to miss. A little bit close to the rail bridge, but otherwise beautifully quiet, with lakes on either side of the canal. Moored up briefly along the way at Batchworth, where a branch of Tesco provides very handy and well equipped moorings for its customers, so plenty of fresh food on-board. Forgot, however, to buy any tonic water, which my friend on the Coal and Diesel barge had recommended to me as an effective deterrent to horse flies, which are feasting themselves on my legs.

Strange wildlife in these parts...
Having stopped early I took the opportunity to do all my washing, and make good use of the good drying weather. Also checked the weed-hatch and removed a load of cloth and bits of rope - should be able to go a bit quicker tomorrow.

Sadly the fish died today - it looked as if it was recovering, but now is no longer with me. It will receive the canal equivalent of the traditional 'burial at sea'.

<End of Day Location> 59miles and 42 locks to go!

1157.7
9
320
12
275
27 25/6

Another lovely bright sunny morning, though not as warm, and got distinctly colder during the morning with a chilly wind - back to rugby shirt and fleece, but survived in shorts.

Overnight stopping place, just before Denham Green Rail Bridge

Two locks before breakfast, then into the third, and last lock for twenty seven miles, assisted by a volunteer lock keeper. Fairly rapidly the pleasant country surroundings gave way to urban sprawl and industrial areas, particularly after the left turn onto the Paddington Branch. The canal experience reached its lowest point through Alperton, where the graffiti, floating plastic bottle count and underwater obstructions soared to new highs. Crossed the North Circular Road on the aqueduct which was so familiar from my days at Harlesden, then in towards the heart of London, arriving and mooring up at Little Venice at 1.50pm, as per schedule.

Crossing the North Circular Road (A406), and its traffic jam.

Little Venice. Kestrel is the third boat along on the right.

As the Guide Book says there are plenty of moorings along this stretch, but there are also more than plenty of boats to use them, with breasting up very common.
In spite the environment, Heron, Coot and Moorhen abound and along this stretch, and I even saw a quite serious looking spat between two Moorhens and two Coots. Apparently water levels at Little Venice are quite low, and there are overnight restrictions on the next locks.

<End of Day Location> 38.5 miles and 39 locks to go!

1164.0
20
341
3
278
28
26/6

Slipped away quietly from my moorings at Little Venice at 6.50am, after a very peaceful night, which surprised me - even fish restaurant The Summerhouse, on the opposite bank, was all quiet well before midnight. A neat left turn took me onto the Regent's Canal, then through Maida Hill Tunnel (272 yards), which, unsurprisingly was clear at that time in the morning. Cruising through Regent's Park, green as it was, was a bit of a disappointment - a few large houses visible, surrounded by sharp pointed topped iron railings and aggressive private property notices - and of course, the graffiti on every available surface. A bit of a glimpse of London Zoo, and Snowdon's Aviary and an intriguing notice for the Water Bus, saying not to moor or land if the emergency red flag is flying - don't envy the job of the person who has to rush out and hoist a flag when a lion has escaped.


Regent's Park with the Snowdon Aviary

Arrived at the Hampstead Road locks (a parallel pair) at 7.45am to find that they were all locked up due to a shortage of water in one of the pounds further down. Another boat, who's name escapes me (but it was also a bird) was patiently waiting to go down, and making good use of the time to wash down their immaculate paintwork.


Kestrel at Camden Market, with the locked-up gates in the foreground.

I took the opportunity to have some breakfast. At 8.15am a couple of CRT workers turned up and unlocked the gates as water levels had been sorted. We locked down the next four locks together before arriving at the Islington Tunnel (960 yards). This tunnel was also clear, but before entering the tunnel I was flagged down by a charming young lady, who wanted a lift through the tunnel, to save her a long walk over the top. Being the gentleman that I am (and was obviously recognised to be), I readily agreed, and delivered her safely to the other end, having "made her day". Unfortunately she didn't have any money with her, so was unable to make a suitable donation to FMH in gratitude. Four more locks took us down to the junction where I was to turn left onto the Hertford Union Canal, and my companion boat was going straight on down to Limehouse.

No comment...

The Hertford Union Canal is very straight and has three very annoying locks in that the gates never stay where you want them to. Once through one arrives at the junction with the Lee Navigation and the Olympic Park. I had had this fond notion that everything had been done and dusted back in 2012 in time for the games, but there seemed to be an awful lot of building and landscaping work going on, so I had obviously got that wrong. I have to say that the next stage of the journey, at least up to the first lock on the River Lee, the Tottenham Lock at Tottenham Hale, was the most depressing of any part of my trip from Ripon. An endless, endless line of moored up 'live aboard' boats (DC's answer to the housing crisis), floating and sunken debris, graffiti, weed, overflowing rubbish bins and high density housing - new blocks being built to the same design of those a short way away, which are already looking shabby.

Made an enforced stop to remove weed from the prop. having already several times successfully managed to displace other debris by putting Kestrel into reverse several times.
Tottenham Lock was a relief in that it, like the others on the River Lee, is automated - but a bit different from the controls on the Aire and Calder automated locks. Moored up for the night at 2.45pm just below the Stonebridge Lock, where there happened to be a free spot where the water was deep enough to get to the bank easily enough.
Addendum for yesterday: Was given another generous donation, this time from a passer-by, enjoying an early morning stroll (not a boater, this time). I had thought I might get something while passing through London, but my collecting bucket remained stubbornly disappointingly empty.

<End of Day Location>

1170.9
13
354
12
290
29 27/6

Had a lie-in and wasn't underway until 8.15am. The first three locks of the day were full automatic, in fact there was a choice with them whether to use the automated chamber or the manual chamber - bit of a 'no brainer', as they say. After that the locks were all manual, with heavy steel gates, which were usually a bit of a b… to move, except a couple which had electrified lower gates where they were very close to a bridge. The River Lee gradually became a lot pleasanter to be on, and once I had made the right turn onto the River Stort, it was positively rural. The locks, however, are just as hard work, and are apparently too narrow to get two boats in together. The last bridge before arriving at Roydon Station was so low that the flag had to come down, and the first bridge of tomorrow looks even lower - it's as well that I decided not to put up the garden shed yesterday.


Conical wicker hanging baskets on the bridge at Carthagena Lock, on the River Lee

The rain we had late morning was short lived, and the afternoon and evening turned out very pleasant. The mooring here would not be my first choice, sandwiched as it is between the main line to Stanstead and a narrow road that leads to Royden Marina, but it's secure, and there is an inviting Italian Restaurant (Franco's) in the station building - table booked for 8pm!. Just received an email alert from CRT about a stoppage on the River Stort - apparently the very last lock, at Bishop's Stortford is closed because of a fallen tree. They hope to remove it on Sunday. Quite ironical really, considering that in the whole journey this far I have only lost 40minutes due to system failure.

Had an univited guest onboard today when, just as I was going below to get my waterproofs, a fledgling sparrow fell out of an overhanging tree, went through the hatch and landed, rather startled, at the foot of the ladder. I was able to gather it up without any problems and return it to the shore to regather its composure.

<End of Day Location>

1179.4
11
368
11
301
30 28/6

Woke up at a very late 8.15pm, but since my crew was not expected until 10.15am I had plenty of time to get Kestrel tidied up in readiness. The crew: Tom, Eddie, Tilly and Nina were duly dropped off at about 10.30am by Nicky, and we were soon underway. Working as a cracking team we managed lots of locks, having also been joined by George (after he cycled to us along the towpath from Harlow Mill), without anyone falling in, getting their fingers trapped in lock mechanisms, or dropping windlasses overboard. Unfortunately the weather wasn't too kind later in the morning, and most of the time the younger members were persuaded to wear waterproofs. At about 1.30pm we were greeted by Nicky, Beth and Sam from the towpath (who had been at gymnastics) and we continued our journey to Harlow Lock, where we moored up to have some lunch at the Harlow Mill Beefeater - one table for the children and one for the adults, and all very civilised.


Younger Team Group photo - flying the flag.



River Stort Maidens, with willow headdresses.

A weary crew prepare to disembark at the end of a long hard day's lock working...

We then continued our journey to Sawbridgeworth Mooring (the sign says 'Moorings', but there was only room for one boat, so we moored awkwardly on the opposite bank, and had to deploy the plank for the first time. I explored further upstream and found a better place just above Sawbridgeworth Lock, while Tom cycled back to Harlow Mill to get the car from where Nicky had parked it earlier, and one of the crew (no names, no pack drill) accidentally tested the depth of the water… Nicky and George then took all the children, except Eddie, home by car, while Eddie, Tom and I moved Kestrel up to the new mooring.


Having packed a bag and shut Kestrel up tight in preparation for my first night ashore in just under a month, we walked back to Sawbridgeworth Station, where Nicky had come back for us and parked the car. All the children were bedded down in one room - by request - and after reading bedtime stories I was made a delicious cheese sandwich by Tom.

<End of Day Location>

1184.8
7
375
8
309
31 29/6

Last leg of the journey: Sawbridgeworth to the End of Navigation at Bishop's Stortford. After the 11o'clock service at St Mary the Virgin, Sheering and a family lunch, we said goodbye to George, Tilly and Nina as they headed home, and then Tom, Nicky, Beth, Sam and Eddie, plus Bengie headed back to Kestrel with me, in the pouring rain, to complete the journey to the end of the line. Sam seemed to delight in getting as wet as possible by sitting, almost figure head style, on the front of the boat and Eddie never lost his smile while helping at the locks in the rain.


A very wet and worried looking Eddie.

Unfortunately a careless helmsman, less keen on being soaked, managed to lose an umbrella overboard, while trying to juggle tiller, throttle and said umbrella when approaching a lock. Bridges along this section were as low as ever and we nearly lost Tom's bike as it caught on the underside of one of the bridges.

Passed the CRT work boat, who assured us that the tree that had come down across the Navigation had been cleared, and passed the site a short while later. There certainly was plenty of tree that they had had to cut up. Arrived at the End of Navigation, the Causeway Bridge at Bishop's Stortford, turned round at the Winding Hole there and moored up at the Visitor Moorings at 5.20pm.


The River Stort beyond the Causeway Bridge

Invited aboard the Tour Boat that operates from here, for a drink, by way of celebration. Unfortunately Tom missed out as he had to cycle back to Sawbridgeworth for the car. My crew for the day left for home, leaving me to contemplate my achievement in reaching my destination, and wondering how the return trip will go…

< End of Day Location >

1187.1
5
380
4
313
The Return Journey
32
30/6

After a quick shop in an elusive Sainsburys in Bishop's Stortford (it turned out to be on the second floor of the Jackson Square shopping centre) I started my return journey to Ripon at 10am, and ended the day's cruising five miles, four locks and two hours fifty minutes later, back at Sawbridgeworth. Nicky then came to collect me so that I could stay with them another night and go to the children's sports day on the Tuesday. The only thing to have changed from my previous encounter with this section of the river was that it was sunny and dry, and that I had to do all the locks by myself - although at one of them I was startled to see a small steel rowing boat being moored up in the lock, after I had started shutting the downstream gates, believing there to be no one around. Unfortunately there was no sign of the umbrella lost overboard on the way up - I just hope that it went to a good home.

More photos from yesterday


Rooftop celebrations as Kestrel reaches the final Winding Hole.

The wet weather team in action.


The remains of the fallen willow tree that would have scuppered the closing stage of my schedule, had I cunningly not re-worked it to spend more time with the family on the Saturday and Sunday morning.

<End of Day Location>

1189.9
5
385
4
317
33 1/7

A non-travel day: Went to Beth & Sam's school sports day, which seemed to be enjoyed by all, especially as it was a lovely sunny morning. Nicky then took me back to the Kestrel where I had a short nap and then spent the afternoon fitting my new solar panel. No sooner had I placed it on the roof than a very dark cloud appeared overhead, but fortunately there was no precipitation. It took a while to work out a suitable cable route so that it could work equally as well in the roof down and roof up position, and, once I had got the polarity correct - by ignoring the markings on the plugs and sockets,


Solar Panel attached to the 'garden shed' roof


The solar panel controller tucked away in the coat cupoard, adjacent to the invertor. The left hand green light showing it's charging the battery and the right hand green light showing the battery is in good condition.

I finally had it generating at about 6.15pm, by which time the weather was once more sunny. The green generation light continued to glow until after 9.30pm, so hopefully I will get the benefit of it long after I have stopped running the engine.

<End of Day Location>

1189.9
0
385
0
317
33
2/7

Short day today of five and a half miles: Start at 9.50am and moored up at 2.40pm. Was planning to stop again at Roydon, but an inviting place at Hunsdon Mill Lock tempted me (even though the lock was filled and ready to go). The only draw back is that it is a bit under the trees, so the solar panel isn't going to contribute as much as it might. On the way I stopped at Moorhen Marina, just before Burnt Mill Lock, where I topped up the water and did a pump out. I wasn't sure that the cards I had with me were valid, but the one I used worked just fine. I wouldn't normally think a picture of a pump out in progress was worth photographing, but when you're a young lad, keen on all things canalish, these things are important - so here you are Eddie:


The big hose, with a special nozzle on it and a tap with a big red handle, goes into a special hole which connects with the bottom of the tank in Kestrel. There is another hole, just in front of it, where fresh water can be put in to help rinse out the tank.


The big hose from the Pump Out machine going to Kestrel. The yellow pipe is the fresh water hose for filling the water tank at the front of the boat.

<End of Day Location>

1194.9
5.5
390.5
7
324
34 3/7

Another short day today: Started at 8.30am and moored up at 1.55pm, not far past Carthagena Lock - the one with the hanging baskets. Nearly ended up in the Roydon Mill marina as the Navigation takes a sharp left under a road bridge bridge, whereas straight ahead into the marina looks like the main line, until you (or rather me) spots the signpost cunningly displayed where its not at all obvious until you (or rather me) has passed the point where the turn should have started.

Took a short diversion to go up the River Lee from its junction with the Stort and filled up the diesel tank at the Lee Valley Marina - I must get around to graduating my dip-stick properly as I overestimated the amount of fuel I needed and ended up with a very full tank. At least none was spilled.

Once onto the River Lee I shared a couple of locks with "Daisy May", and met a very splendid wooden boat "Kingfisher" on its way up to Ware for the boat fest there this weekend. "Daisy May" herself is quite uncommon as she is steered with a wheel from the front of the boat. Chose a mooring well out of the shade to get maximum benefit from the solar panel, the disadvantage being that it was pretty warm below decks. Once rested I then set about making the best of the drying weather by doing my washing - a long and tedious job by hand - but necessary.


Getting desperate for pictures: Improvised washing line for shirts. Sox and unmentionables are safely hung out of sight in the cratch.

<End of Day Location>

1199.9
7.5
393
7
331
35 4/7

Moved on down to Tottenham Marshes, about half a mile up from Stonebridge Lock - the plan to be to pick Alison up just below Tottenham Lock reasonably early on Saturday morning before going on into London, to stay overnight in Little Venice again. A right scorcher of a day, with quite a breeze, so I took the opportunity to wash the pillow cases - sorry no pictures of them drying. Very little traffic on the river, although I did manage to share a couple of locks with another boat. Also received another donation from someone out for a walk, who stopped for a short chat at one of the locks. First donation for a while - perhaps a second visit to Little Venice may be more productive. Have had various words or gestures of congratulations along the way at having made it to Bishop's Stortford.


The stretch of the river where I'm moored up isn't too inspiring, but if one ignores the gasometers and the pylons and the dull background noise of distant traffic and trains, it isn't too bad. There is a family of coots living nearby and a heron emerged from the reeds on the opposite bank briefly. The towpath is well used by walkers, runners and cyclists, who wizz along at great speed. The water here is also remarkably clear and I even saw someone having a swim in it to cool off - wouldn't be my first choice - I chose, instead to read my book The Voyage of the Narwhal ~ "exploration, endevor and evolution in the frozen north" as an antidote to the heat.

<End of Day Location>

1204.8
10.5
409.5
8
339
36
5/7

7.15am start to be down the river and through two locks (automated) to meet Alison by 8.30am. Moored up below Tottenham Lock with plenty of time to have a cup of coffee before she arrived. We then set off for Little Venice via the Hertford Union Canal. There was a bit of an issue with water levels between the Middle and the Top Lock, which is quite a small pound and a boat moored there ended up aground. A boat going down also, apparently managed to go aground. We, however, didn't have a problem, although as it was impossible to moor up for the top lock and had to wait quite close to the tail gate there was an anxious moment as Kestrel got drawn into the current from emptying the lock. Once through the first of the locks on the Regent's Canal we teamed up with Down Under (previously owned by an Aussi, apparently) and went through all the remaining locks up to Little Venice.


The Gherkin just visible on the skyline.


Chinese Restaurant at the end of Regent's Park

At Camden Lock and Hampstead Road Lock there were plenty of spectators to check our locking technique, and I think we passed with flying colours. It was good to go through the Islington Tunnel with female company again. Nearing the entrance to the Maida Hill Tunnel we caught up with a party boat going very slowly, which was a bit frustrating as, by then I had had a long day and I was keen to moor up. However we were invited to pass them once through the tunnel. At Little Venice we were mooring up, breasted up to another narrow boat, when we were accosted by my old friends on Pieces of Eight and their daughter. I had thought they would have been up at Tottenham by now, but had obviously been lingering on the way. Alison then went scouting further along the tow path and found a space a short way ahead big enough so we could be moored up against the bank. After a suitable rest we then went off for a meal at a local Italian restaurant.

Weather wise it was a very changeable day, with some very wet rain (not heavy, but penetrating) and almost sunshine, so we ended up the day reasonably dry.

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6/7

A 'no travel' day today. Alison and I went to the Parish Mass at St Mary Magdelene's Church, a short walk from the boat, which follows a 'higher' tradition of service (incense and bells) than we are used to at Nunthorpe. At the service we found out about a Canal Concert taking place on Monday night in Little Venice, and met the conductor, who was in the seat just in front of us - decided that I would stay an extra night to be able to go to it.


A near neighbour - seems to get photgraphed quite a lot, for some reason...

After lunch we went by bus to Kings Cross for Alison to catch her train home. Bus travel in London has changed a bit from when I last did it - I can't think how many years ago, with cleaner, modern buses and more information - it had the added advantage in that it was also free as we both had our bus passes with us. Having waved Alison off I then made my way back to Paddington for a quiet evening aboard Kestrel.

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1213.3
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38 7/7

Another 'No Travel' day today, by boat that is. Took the train to Sawbridgeworth and spent the day with Tom & Nicky and family cycling to the nearest point on the route of the Tour de France (about five miles from their house). We watched hundreds of cars, vans, motor cycles, gendarmes on motorcycles, British Police on motorcycles and other dubious looking advertising vehicles passed as part of the 'caravan', some of them chucking out various 'freebees'. Although the children were very good at collecting these items up, they failed miserably to get a packet of Yorkshire Tea (fortunately, I had already got a free packet at Paddington Station) A couple of hours later, about 45minutes later than predicted the helicopters came over, the support vehicles arrived, more police motor cycles then a couple of cyclists - the leaders, then more support vehicles and then lots and lots more cyclist all bunched up together, and then it was all over… The crowd dispersed by bike, on foot and by car, the barriers were removed, and the winners reached the finish before we got home.

Some interesting spectators...



The head of 'The pack'
- a couple of minutes behind the leaders

I caught the train back to Paddington and arrived,after several delays, in time to grab some instant energy and make it back to the start of the Canal Concert. Walked the tow path to Camden Lock with the concert barges and back again, about 4miles in all. All very peaceful and enjoyable, although a little tiring after my exertions on the bike.

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1213.3
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8/7

8.20am serious start for home. Twenty miles and three locks later I moored up (at 5.15pm) having made three stops along the way; one to shop, one for water and to remove weed and other debris from the prop. and another for lunch. Of the three locks, the first was manned by two volunteer lock keepers - always welcome, the second was almost empty and ready to go. The third, Denham Deep Lock, was, of course, full to the brim and had to be emptied. Managed to moor up at exactly the same place as on my way down. The place is along a long, straight and very inviting stretch, however, the places where the water is deep enough at the bank are few and far between. Just before 6.30pm the heavens opened, but I was able to get the back cover on quickly enough not to get soaked to the skin. The thunderstorm came a bit later.


A rather pleasing wooden bridge on the Paddington Arm of the Grand Union Canal.


Heard on the radio recently what an invasive species the Buddleia is. Travelling along the Paddington Arm of the Grand Union Canal seems to confirm it.

Things I saw today: A coot's nest with four of five, remarkably large, eggs; a barbie doll lounging in makeshift barge made out of polystyrene packing, complete with fairy stickers on the side; a fleeting glimpse of a kingfisher; the Met. Police Underwater Search Team about to start a search in the canal at Southall - a lot of sophisticated equipment, but the warning signs (diver's down 'A' flag) looked positively home made and hard to spot.

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1222.1
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9/7

Oops! Slipped a bit on schedule: Should have stopped at the M25 bridge, but stopped at the same place as on the way down, by the Ornamental Bridge, four locks and one and a half miles early. However, having already done twelve locks, in the company of Cluedo, I was ready for a break. A bit more traffic around, but didn't have to wait any significant time for any of the locks - in fact several we sailed straight into. Said Hello to the coal and diesel barge that I shared a couple of locks with on the way down - I guess it will be a feature of this part of the return journey until I divert onto the new route. Also met a boat from the Ripon Motor Boat Club, but travelling south. The weather stayed fine all day, and I even changed into shorts for the latter half of the day.

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10/7

Hot shower and ready for the off at 7am! Made up the four locks from yesterday and then another two before meeting up with Cluedo again. Managed a further 16 locks after that before grinding to a halt in Berhampstead, happy to be back on schedule. Again, not a lot of traffic about, but quite a few of the locks were empty, which always speeds up the process.


Nessy on her summer holidays - unfortunately I was a bit late getting the camera out.

Stopped briefly before entering one of the locks for a dash into a nearby Sainsburys - I had notice an apparently isolated set of 24hr moorings, which turned out to give easy access to numerous shops. The worst lock by far was 'Sewer Lock' (No.58), which was a very slow filler, and its proximity, as its name suggests, to the adjacent sewage works, made it not a very pleasant place to hang about.


Some entertaining African art on Africa - Unfortunately I was a bit late getting the camera out - and trying to get ashore to get a better picture only ended up with
Kestrel going aground.

At the penultimate lock I was luck enough to get the additional help of young Tilly, who helped me with the opening and closing the gates - supervised by her father. The towpath that I'm moored up against is obviously on a lot of people's route home from the nearby train station, so I put out the bucket, just in case anyone was feeling generous on such a lovely sunny evening…


View from the window at the moorings.

At last got round to reinstating the navigation lights, but balked at giving Kestrel a wash - she could do with one, but after twenty two locks my muscles need the time to recover, ready for the morrow.

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11/7

A wet start to the day, so dressed accordingly, thinking that perhaps I should have put the garden shed back up by now - however, it is still high summer (British) so still plenty of good weather to look forward to. After three or four locks came across Cluedo still moored up, but no sign of life, so carried on regardless. At Bulbourne Junction, where the Wendover Arm dives off to the West, started the descent of the seven locks of the Marsworth Flight. Noticed a hire boat (Oak) entering the second lock down, but they didn't wait for me - it turned out that there was a boat waiting to come up, so it was perfectly reasonable, and then found them waiting for me at the third lock. There was also a volunteer lock-keeper on who, apparently, had been Oak's helmsman's Area Manager ten years previously. Oak's helmsman's wife is a fitness instructor, so between the four of us we were through the flight in no time at all. Oak was going to moor up for lunch at Marsworth, so I continued on through the next two locks on my own, stopping briefly just past the Aylesbury Arm Junction, to top up the water and dispose of my rubbish. However, while completing the second lock I noticed Oak entering the previous lock - obviously having changed their plans, so I waited for them at the swing bridge just before Great Seabrook. While enjoying a cup of coffee and slice of birthday cake a woman walking her dogs along the towpath volunteered to open it for me, having realised the difficulty for a single-hander. I accepted the offer, with still no sign of Oak, and went on to prep. the next lock. By the time the lock was full, Oak appeared at the swing bridge, so we joined up for the next three locks after which I moored up at my scheduled stopping place at the same spot I stopped at on the way down.


That sinking feeling...

During the day the weather had improved and had become almost sunny, so took the opportunity to do my washing again.
Saw two kingfishers today - the second I would have had a really good look at as it flew the full length of the boat, but I was so admiring the Visitor Moorings at Tring - under overhanging trees, towpath knee deep in mud and no mooring rings or 'nobbles' (Eddie's highly appropriate name for bollards) in sight, that I nearly missed it. Also saw another Red Kite hovering overhead.


Kestrel by moonlight

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12/7

Grey start to the day, but the sun eventually broke through and it became a bit of a scorcher. Two or three locks before breakfast and teamed up with a hire boat for several, including the Soulbry Three Locks. Was given a donation by Slow Joe, my first for a while - I did think of shaking the bucket at the pub at the Soulby Three Locks, but everyone seemed too intent on their lunches. Moored up slightly short of target as there was a suitably quiet spot, rather than risking not finding somewhere suitable closer to Milton Keynes. A more restful and uneventful day, with more miles (just) than locks, for a change. Updated the map on the website to show my return route.


How the other half cruise.

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1251.3
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Moored up north of the Blisworth Tunnel, not far from Gayton Junction, where the Northampton Arm of the Grand Union Canal branches off North Eastwards to Northampton where it, in turn, connects with the River Nene. This makes me two miles and one tunnel ahead of schedule, having negotiated nine locks - but I have to admit to only having to work two them as, for the seven Stoke Bruerne locks, I teamed up with Jupiter, and we both benefited from a team of strollers on the tow path, who openned and closed gates for us. I felt very idle, all I had to do was to enter the locks in a seemly manner, in spite of the quite strong wind at times, so as not to make a fool of myself in front of the numerous onlookers, particularly at the last one.

The weather started grey and overcast, but soon deteriorated by by-passing Milton Keynes when I donned full wet gear, which didn't come of for some time - but by the time I moored up it was beautifully sunny.


Make up you own captions...

Along the way: Disrupted a fishing competition soon after starting, although I notice one of the anglers caught something as I approached - a theory I have is that fish tend to grab for the bait before swimming away from the boat, without checking carefully for fish hooks before they do. It's not the first time I've seen angling success just before reaching them. Passing Bletchley I was treated to the sweet aroma emanating from the Sensient Flavors UK works, close to the canal side. Saw a large bush very stuffed with very noisy starlings, which would have pleased Alison. Passed two boats moored up quite close together, one was called Mid Summer, followed closely by Autumn Mist. There were also three called Kingfisher today, but maybe that has something to do with the fact that I also passed Kingfisher Marina. I also passed the hire boat that I had negotiated a couple of locks with yesterday - it turns out it was called Pied Billed Grebe, which is maybe why I had difficulty remembering it.

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14/7

Early start (6.50am) on a beautifully bright and sunny morning. However, there was a very chilly north easterly blowing, and shorts and T-shirt were not an option. At one stage the sun was roasting on my back but really rather cold on my front from the wind. It wasn't until about 11 o'clock that the fleece came off and I changed into shorts.

Stopped at bridge 18, Muscott Mill Bridge, where there was an advertisement for a "Shopping Village, only 3 minutes walk away" - the exercise was, I'm sure, good for me - particularly after my indolence yesterday - but other than that, not a useful exercise in re-provisioning.

Arrived at the bottom lock of the Buckby Lock Flight (13-7) to be joined by Sidney. We met various other boats coming down, in ones and twos, but otherwise it was reasonably uneventful, and we got into a good working pattern using a single gate, with Kestrel going in and out first at each lock. It really does cut down the effort when two boats work well together. The only problem was at the sixth lock, when I realised that I had left my windlass behind at the previous lock (for the first time in the over 410 locks done so far on this trip strip) and had to scurry back for it - typically it was one of the longer pounds, and the beta blockers were put on overtime. At the last lock, where there is a pub right by the lock, I had to disperse some on-lookers who were standing right by the beam of the closed gate as Sidney was coming in, and who would have been sent flying if Sidney had happened to nudged the gate. After the top lock I stopped to top up that water and realised that this was the place I had first teamed up with Pieces of Eight. Then came the moment, at Norton Junction a hundred yards further on, to make the right turn (Northward) onto the Leicester Branch of the Grand Union Canal, and into new territory and the pages of the "Birmingham and the Heart of England" waterways guide. Moored up at the scheduled stopping place, which, unbelievably - considering the tranquillity of the place - is only about half a mile from the Watford Gap Service Station on the M1.



Treated to another couple of Kingfishers (the real thing) today, but otherwise not a lot else of particular note (that I recognised). I must say that seeing horses lying flat out - I saw several in one field today, and several foals yesterday, always makes me feel slightly uneasy.

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Having previously studied the guide, I promptly forgot the restricted opening hours of the Watford Flight (seven) Locks, so when I turned up at 7.20am, and saw notices about Queuing and reporting to the lock-keeper before entering the locks, I was rather crestfallen. I was also surprised to see that they were narrow locks, which I had not read about at all. I followed the instructions to find the lock-keeper, either on the flight, or in the hut at the top, with very little expectation, but just as I arrived at the top, so did a car bearing the said official. Jim (not his real name), agreed readily to get me going up the flight, although officially he didn't start until 8am, and ten minutes later I entered the bottom lock, having had time for my breakfast (a simple affair, you must appreciate). By 8.20am I left the top lock and thanked 'Jim' once more. We had swapped stories of instances of lack of courtesy we had experienced at locks, but I was very happy to conclude that 99.9% of the time it was the complete opposite.


The bridge carrying the main rail line to Rugby and beyond. The outer couple of metres of both sides of the bridge holding the parapets, retain the original iron and brick barrel vaulting, but the inner section is concrete. This bridge is unusual in that it is square to the canal, but with the rail lines themselves running diagonally across the bridge.

As the guide says, the only other 'canal excitement' for the next twenty and a half miles are the Crick Tunnel (1528 yards) and the Husbands Bosworth Tunnel (1166 yards), both of which were negotiated safely, only meeting one boat coming the other way in both of them. The Crick Tunnel is rather wet, particularly at either end, but I was well prepared for it this time. At Crick I stopped off and achieved a more successful shop at the local Co-Op than I had done yesterday.


Although now at Crick, north of the Watford Gap, it seems I am not yet that far north...

I was scheduled to stop before the Husbands Bosworth Tunnel and was tempted to stop early at some inviting moorings, but decided to bat on to the indicated stopping place - however, no suitable moorings appeared until a couple of miles after the tunnel which has a pleasant open aspect on one side over a maize field. Unfortunately, I later discovered that behind the hedge on the tow-path side the farmer is busy muck-spreading, which has only become evident now that the wind has dropped.


Seen huge numbers of beautiful Banded Demoiselle damselflies, particularly today, with one landing on Kestrel just in front of me - but not for long enough for me to photograph it. This photo courtesy of Dave Kilbey Photography.


The guide is also correct in stating that this stretch of canal meanders a lot - the worst excess of which is between bridges 19 and 26; as the crow flies: 1.6miles, by canal 2.25miles. The guide, however, does not show the sizeable Yelvertoft Marina, which, although newish looking, seems a strange omission for a brand new edition.
Tested the solar panel at about 5.30pm and found that it is delivering just under 0.5 amp., which considering the lateness in the day, and the fact that the batteries should still be pretty well charged up, seems fair.

Received 80 identical emails from CRT about the Scarborough Rail Bridge in York - are they trying to tell me something?

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16/7

Sampled the morning air at 5am, but glorious as the morning was, I decided it was too early to be going, and surfaced later in time to be at Foxton Flight, four miles away, by 8.25am.


Bronze Work Horse at the top of the Foxton Flight.

Checked in with the Lock Keeper, and had to wait until just after 9am before I could make the decent as there was a boat on its way up. After four locks the lock-keeper became available and he had me down the two staircases (each 5 locks) by just before 10am, which was pretty good going.


The Foxton Flight

Turning left, ignoring the Market Harborough Arm, I negotiated the Saddington Tunnel, only meeting one boat coming through in the opposite direction, to arrive a short while later at Kibworth Top Lock. Much to my surprise this turned out to be a wide lock. Just entering the lock was a hire boat Weaver Valley, from Coventry, which I had passed the previous day. I then shared the next eleven locks with them, and since they had six bodies on board there was very little for me to do, so, although I've been through 22 locks in one day, I've actually only pushed a couple of gates and wound about six paddles. The canal along this stretch is narrow, windy and not very deep in places, and we were warned by a boat coming in the opposite directions that one of the pounds was no more than a 'muddy puddle'. However, when we reached that stretch we had no problems at all. I would have moored up sooner, but where I finally ended up was the first place there was any decent access to the bank. Weaver Valley were kind enough to give me a donation for FMH before we parted company.

Saw yet another Kingfisher today, which did a more leisurely flight across my bow.


I've seen a lot of rabbits in fields and on the tow paths, but this is the first hare I've noticed.

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17/7

Sampled the morning at 5am and found it a bit misty, but by 7am it had turned into another sunny morning. Found there was a funny smell in the food cupboard and had to give a decent burial to something unidentifiable. Fortunately it was sitting on the top of the biscuit box, which has rim round it, so any leakage was contained and easily washed off.

Once under way passed Weaver Valley moored up at the official Kilby Bridge moorings, but no sign of life on board. Stopped momentarily to dispose of rubbish there, before continuing through the next seven locks on my own. Weaver Valley arrived on the scene at Gee's Lock 36, just as I was leaving. I therefore waited for them at the next lock - Blue Bank Lock and we continued on together into Leicester where we moored breasted up at the secure visitor moorings adjacent to the Castle Park.


Rooks (or are they Crows) sit menacingly in a blasted oak - there were a lot more, until I decided to take the picture. Vestiges of the moon are just visible.

The water after Bush Lock (33) was remarkably clear, with thousands of fish, mostly quite small, clearly visible. Lock 35 was a pig to do, and it was only by leaving all paddles open that I was able to open the upstream gates. At Gee's Lock, as it was empty, I was just going down to check for any approaching boats, when I was met by a fox on the towpath, who looked me up and down, decided he didn't like the look of me, and disappeared through the fence. This was followed by two pigeons on the ground having a right go at each other. Tickled by the fact that there was a bridge called Knight Bridge (90) and surprised to find another bridge called Knights Bridge (95) not a lot further on. After the wide weir at Freeman's Meadow Lock (41) the canal joins the Soar again, in sight of the modern Leicester City ground.


An unusual towpath bridge on the approach to Leicester City Centre.


Kestrel (nearest the bridge) moored up in Leicester, complete with pigeon flypast.

After a walk round the city centre, found a Tesco Extra a short walk from the moorings where I was able to restock ready for my forthcoming joining crews. It seems that De Montford University are having their Graduation Day today, judging by the number of young persons walking around in academic gowns with proud parents in tow.


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1290.1
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18/7

Was woken at 4am by rain on the roof, but it didn't sound too heavy, so decided to ignore it. By 4.15am I decided that perhaps it was getting rather excessive not to have the rear cover on, so got up and rectified the situation. Dozed a bit more, then headed off back to Tesco for the things I had forgotten, but not including eggs. The park was still locked but the Watermate key worked OK in the allocated gate. By 7.10am I disengaged from Weaver Valley as quietly as I could and headed off for Loughborough. The first lock (North Bridge) was another one which was a bit of a pig to do, and not altogether the pleasantest of places to be - even the work boat moored up there had graffiti on it. However, shortly before the next lock there was a long weir on the left and in the pond bellow, half hidden from view was what looked like a breeding ground for swans. Ironically, at the weir by the next lock after that, called Swans Nest Weir, there weren't any swans to be seen, however there was an obliging heron, who let me get quite close.


Just out of site to the left is possible the most hideous building ever created - although perhaps its actually a blow up cover for a magnificent new building yet to be unveiled.

By Birstal Lock graffiti and floating plastic bottles had become a rarity, and the scenery a lot more pleasant. At Hope and Anchor Bridge I filled up with water, after which I was joined by Second Thoughts for a couple of locks, losing them when I stopped for diesel (70 litres) at Sileby Mill Marina.


This bridge carries a conveyor on which the hard, igneous pink rock called “granodiorite is transported.

Unfortunately, at Mounsorrel Lock I made a complete fool of myself entering the lock, not allowing enough for the crosswind and the cross current of water heading for the weir, and being too generous to the boat coming out on one gate.


Unusual architecture to be found in rural Leicestershire...

Passed Second Thoughts, which had moored up shortly before Barrow Deep Lock (9' 7") and they were kind enough to close the gates for me, saving me yet another climb. The Pilling Flood lock was fully open, so that was a good freebee to have towards the end of a long day. Eventually moored up in Loughborough about a 10minutes walk away from the station. By this time the weather was pretty hot, with only a light breeze for relief. Can't say that I have seen yet anything that I remember from my student days in Loughborough, though I see from Street View that 98 Leopold Street is still standing and apparently in good condition.

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19/7


About the only place I still recognised in Loughborough - 98 Leopold Street - Tom's very first home.

One of us got up shortly after 7am and moved Kestrel down to Loughborough Basin so that we could use the facilities - particularly the hot (and it was) shower. We then set about putting up the 'garden shed', during which time it started to rain, and didn't stop for at least the next five hours, so glad we were to have it up. Unfortunately, due to an incident earlier in my travels, the headroom is a little less than it used to be, but something that one gets used. There is also a bit of problem with leaking at the edges, which, when it is dry, I will tape over.


St James Church, Normanton on Soar, "based in the 12th Century. Beautiful church, beautifully located.

Locks came and went, without incident, meeting several boats coming the other way, which always helps, but none going our way. A couple of locks turned out to be open flood locks, which is even better. At Trent Lock we made the right turn onto the River Trent (non-tidal section), leaving "Birmingham & the Heart of England" for the pages of "Nottingham, York & the North East" - feels like progress.

At Beeston the navigation leaves the Trent to by-pass an unnavigable section, becoming the Beeston Cut, connecting with the Nottingham Canal. We moored up in Nottingham at the extensive Visitor Moorings, not far from the Castle, and complete with a Sainsburys close at hand. The weather by now had turned dry and sunny, so we decided to take a stroll round the city centre, without coats or umbrella, confident that the weather would remain dry, which it did - except for the torrential downpour, but which fortunately only lasted about 10minutes. In our wanderings we went to the Theatre Royal to see what was on, but it was closed for the week, so we tried the Nottingham Playhouse, but that had an evening of poetry with John Agar, which neither us particularly fancied.

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1303.5
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A slightly delayed start this morning, as on checking the rudder / tiller assembly after Kit noted that it seemed a bit wobbly, I found that the two clamping bolts holding the swan's neck were loose. With these suitable tightened the whole thing seemed a lot more secure, and we were under way 7.30pm. Castle Lock and Meadow Lane Lock were both manual, and quickly done. The latter of the two locks took us back out on to a broad stretch of the Trent, at Trent Bridge, famous as a venue for some sport or other.


Trent Bridge, with Nottingham Forest's City Ground on the left, with the entrance to the Nottingham Canal in the foreground on the right of the photo.

With a good current under us we made good time down to Holme Lock, which is the home of the National Water Sports Centre. It was not possible to see much of the place from the river, but even at that time on a Sunday morning it seemed to be a hive of activity. Holme Lock and subsequent locks were all powered, and very large. Locks after Holme Lock were all manned as well, so other than controlling Kestrel in the lock there was little to do.


"Come on guys, honestly, it's lovely in..."

At Gunthorpe Lock the lock keeper said he had measured our speed and reckoned that we had averaged 6mph - which agree with my Sat Nav App., and that was without using excessive revs. on the engine. We eventually locked through Newark Town Lock and moored up at 2.30pm on the Visitor Mooring Pontoon, where we were also able to top up the water. Manoeuvring here was a little bit tricky because of the strength of the current, and we ended up turning round to stem it. All I have to remember to do in the morning is to turn round again, before heading off. Phoned the lock keeper at Cromwell Lock to book passage on the tidal section and get times. Advised that as long as we, Phillip (my new crew as from tonight) and I, are there before 1pm we should be OK to go down as far as Dunham, and moor up there overnight, before completing the rest of the tidal section to Torksey Junction on Tuesday.

Found out that there was a free Brass Band concert by the Newark Town Band, in the grounds of Newark Castle, which we went to, fully optimistic that it wouldn't rain. We were wrong, of course, although the rain was very light, and brief, so we didn't suffer.


Newark Town Band in the grounds of Newark Castle

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A leisurely start at 9am, after a brief shop at the nearby Aldi, when we untied, turned and headed downstream. The first lock was an automatic lock, but no sooner had Philip mastered the operating procedure when a friendly lock keeper, mug of tea in hand, turned up and took over. Then on down to Cromwell Lock where we moored up and had a full briefing from Philip, the friendly lock-keeper there, who assure us that, with a lot of fresh [water] coming down and neap tides, we would have a comfortable and easy ride down.

We duly penned out at about 10.50am, and, as promsed, had a very peaceful and sunny trip down to Torksey Lock, where we moored for the night on the visitor moorings outside the lock at 2.20pm, which is the start of the Fossdyke Navigation to Lincoln and Boston. There we spoke to another friendly lock-keeper to report our safe arrival and our intentions for the following day - it should be noted that, in fact, ALL lock-keepers that I have met along the way have been friendly and helpful.


Teapots on the unused gates at Torskey Lock - the old, unused gates have all the original operating equipment, while the new set of gates are all automatic, with touchscreen control.

We both took our accustomed naps, Philip's while I replaced the old stern mooring line with the new rope I had bought for replacing the port side centre mooring line, which I had accidentally shortened last year, but having then accidentally also shortened the starboard centre mooring line this year, decided to keep at its reduced length (if you follow me). This re-visited my skills in eye-splicing from days of my youth. I then repaired the old stern mooring line, by cutting out the badly frayed section, and joining up with a long-splice, and adding a new loop to the end, making it useable again. Quite simple, really, when you know how…
Philip then took over in the galley and cooked a delicious spaghetti bolognese, followed by a very pleasant sit out on the pontoon as we drank tea and ate flapjack in the evening sunlight.


A moment's relaxation after a hard days helming down the tidal River Trent, lock operation AND cooking.

Phoned the lock-keeper at Selby to confirm passage up the tidal Ouse on Friday, with a 6am start...

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Sunset last night - one of many power stations to be found in this part of the country.

Talked to the helm of Quiet Lady who was also going down to Keadby and he said he was going off shortly after 8am, rather than 9am as originally planned. Based on this we also decided to head off early and left out moorings at 8.30am. With plenty of water going down stream we managed a steady 6mph at between 14 to 15 hundred rpm. The journey was uneventful, with not a lot to see on the way because of the flood defences. The spires and towers of several churches were visible, but not a lot else. The latter part was a lot of mud bank and willow trees. Phoned the lock-keeper at Keadby when passing Gainsborough, but got the answer phone. Phoned again when passing Althorpe, this time to the mobile and spoke to Mark, who told us we would have to moor up outside the lock, against Quiet Lady, as there was currently insufficient water to get over the cill. This we duly did at 1.10pm, to wait until the tide turned, and while waiting were joined by Largesse, who moored on the outside of us. About half an hour later the tide turned and we made our way into the lock, but with some delay as Quiet Lady needed to be untied from the mooring at the top of vey high piling by the lock keeper, who's attention was elsewhere at the time.


In Keadby Lock

Once through the lock, and the swing bridge immediately beyond it, we moored up for the night at the visitor moorings just beyond. We spent the rest of the beautifully sunny afternoon and evening in quiet contemplation and bemoaning the fact that there was no pub or eating establishment left in Keadby - possibly due to the loss of the commercial trade on this part of the river. Now on the Sheffield and South Yorkshire Navigation - Stainforth & Keadby Canal

After an excellent meal of fish and chips, cooked on board, I walked up to the rail swing bridge, about a quarter of a mile further up, and agreed a suitable time to go through with the bridge operator.

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Taking the opportunity to top up the water and use the shower, etc. at about 7.10am we turned Kestrel round and went back to the sanitary station nearer the lock, then suitably refreshed, turned again and headed down to the rail bridge, which magically opened at our approach, as per our arrangements. The canal for several miles from here on was dense with duck weed, which slowed progress and, although we met several boats coming the other way, the path that they had cleared rapidly disappeared.


Weed as far as the eye can see...

Phillip came in to his own, operating the many swing and lift bridges along the way, most of which had differing operating methods, varying from the totally manual, to the full automatic. Some were even linked in to the rail crossing gates, as the track ran very close to the canal in several places. At Thorne I went through my 500th lock of the trip. This was actually an automatic lock, with lock-keeper, who also controlled the swing bridge immediately up from it.


The 500th Lock!

For some reason the next lock was totally manual, but the one after that was also automatic, with lock-keeper in attendance, who also operated the manual swing bridge in the middle of the lock - variety in everything. At one point we passed under a pip bridge on which there were some kids playing, and one little boy did what little boys will do, but since we had the roof up it didn't affect us at all. Just after Bramwith Lock we made the sharp right hand turn onto the New Junction Canal (one of the last canals to be built in the country and opened in 1905) and headed north once more. Not far along we came to the aqueduct which takes the canal over the River Don. It is quite an imposing structure as it has large sluice gates across the canal at either end. Water floods over the side of the aqueduct into the river below. Some youths were finding this an excellent place to cool off, but sensibly got out of the water as we approached. We moored up for the night slightly ahead of schedule midway between Sykehouse Lock and Kirk Lane Lift Bridge.
After our traditional afternoon naps, we headed into Sykhouse to The Old George Inn, where we had a splendid meal, with generous helping. The book helpful says it is three quarters of a mile west of the canal. By road, which we took, it was more like a mile and a half. After taking directions from the barmaid, we decided to take the shorter, more direct route via footpath from the back of the pub. Unfortunately the path is not used that much and not clearly signed, but we did eventually make it back, not too damaged by nettles and brambles. The afternoon had been roasting hot, and Kestrel was still very warm when we retuned, with the fridge working overtime to stay cool, doing goodness knows what to the domestic batteries.


Peace and tranquility on the very straight New Junction Canal.

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An earlyish start was thwarted when we got to the XXXX Lane Swing Bridge and found that it wouldn't open. Waited until 8.02am and phoned the CRT to let them know and was put through to the Leeds Office. They tried to phone me back to let me know what was happening, but I missed the call, and could get back to them. However, by 8.30am a cheerful CRT man turned up in his van, reset the power and we were through and on our way by 8.32am, so not too much time lost. The next bridge, a lift bridge, worked without problem, so we lost no further time.

The last part of the journey on unfamiliar water went smoothly, with a left turn from New Junction Canal onto the Aire and Calder Navigation ( Knottingley and Goole Canal) at Southfield Junction - at least this junction was clearly signposted. Shortly before reaching Bank Dole Junction, where we were to turn right and lock down onto the River Aire, we were overhauled by another narrow boat ("Freedom"?) who wanted to give us a donation. After some skilful manoeuvrings this was duly handed over, with gratitude expressed.

Then came Bank Dole Lock and Beal Lock - neither locks being the easiest of locks to do, and landing after Bank Dole Lock being made more difficult than usual by the fairly strong breeze across the river. The flood lock at the end of the Selby Canal was open, although I had landed Phillip to check, as I have been caught out in the past, expecting it to be open and finding it closed. As predicted the Selby Canal was thick with weed, despite the valiant attempts of the weed boats, which we met half way along. They had managed to do a reasonable job of clearing the basin, but the piles of weed on the bank, at various stages along the canal, was testament to the extent of the problem. We arrived at the basin at 4pm and moored up behind a craft that was intending to go up the river at 6pm. We thought about joining them, but since we had already had along day, we decided to stick to our original plan of catching the morning tide. We did, however, watch them and a couple of other boats make their departure up the Ouse.


Turn left, perhaps? "Watt Now" exiting Selby Lock onto the tidal River Ouse and heading for York.

Hot showers, a meal in town (had to try several places as not eating out on a Thursday appears to be the local tradition) and an early night prepared us for an early start in the morning. On the Selby Canal we did have to contend with some youths swimming by a bridge who thought it fair contest to pit them selves against several tons of mooving steel in a confined channel, with a rotating propeller at the stern, but again, due to some skilful helmsman ship we didn't get any red on our paintwork.

Spent some of the day mopping up water from the bilges of the cratch - I'm not quite sure how it got so wet there, although I have my suspicions, but identified that it is an area in need of some TLC as the rust is getting quite bad there.
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Woken by the alarm at 5.15am and started preparing Kestrel for our trip up the tidal Ouse. We moved up to the watering point to top up the tank and use the facilities, and on the dot of 6am we were ushered into the lock - the only boat going up this morning. Five minutes later it was full steam ahead as we entered the river on the flood, reaching up to 8mph for the initial stages . There was not too much debris about so we made good time, without incident and without passing any boats on the way down, arriving outside Naburn Lock at about 8.15am. We had to wait a few minutes while they disgorged six narrow boats from the lock, and entered in solitary splendour. It was then a less exhilarating full steam ahead again up to York, where we found a suitable mooring spot by Museum Gardens, not too distant from the facilities.


Passing the Palace again - always a delightful sight.

There were a number of young rowers out on the river, plenty of very noisy geese and a slow build up of Red Boat and York Boats Tour craft to contend with. Shortest day, but earliest start of the whole trip, with a change of crew as Phillip was to make his way back by train to Yarm, where Alison would pick him up and convey him back to Guisborough, ready for his return to South Wales. Kit to re-join me tomorrow, to complete the final leg up to Ripon tomorrow.


Kestrel in York.

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Woken at 6.30am by the noise of water (?) being discharged into the river from the direction of the Museum. Lingered over getting up, for a change as I had arranged to pick up Kit from Clifton Bridge at 8.30am. We duly met up as arranged, and against very little fresh coming down, made good time up to Linton Lock. There we teamed up with Samantha Lois - the helm hadn't intended going through straight away, but when assisting us to open the down stream paddles to prep the lock, he decided he didn't fancy doing them a second time, so joined us in going up. With Kit at the helm, I took the opportunity for a ten minute catch-up on sleep, although he claims, it was more like an hour and a half.

We met up with Samantha Lois again at Milby Lock, where, unsurprisingly as it was a very hot day by then, there were numerous young men waiting patiently to use the lock as an improvised swimming pool. At Boroughbridge I had intended to refuel, but couldn't get access to the bank there. I dipped the tank, and since Kestrel was still two thirds full, decided that it was too hot to hang around - being able to open the front window of the 'garden shed' was a great for making the most of the light breeze as we were going along. Kit then thought it his turn for forty winks, but having totally forgotten about Westwick Lock, his break was somewhat curtailed.


Newby Hall from the river - a fleeting glance of the beautiful gardens.

At Oxclose Lock we found that the helm of Samantha Lois was just about to start filling the lock when he noticed us approach, so opened the gates, and we joined her once more. With Alison informed that we were nearing the end of the journey and that it was safe for her to leave from home to join us, I decided that I really wanted to do the last bit of the Ripon Canal up to the basin, rather than just turn into the marina, so I would have done the system end-to-end. We duly went up through Bell Furrows Lock and Rhodesfield Lock and on up to the basin, where we were greeted by Alison, adding a further one mile four and a half furlongs to my total mileage. Pausing only long enough for a photograph, we headed back to the marina and final moored up at 6.45pm - job done!


Re-united at Ripon Basin - the end-of-the-line.

All that was left to do was to convey Kit back to York - by car.

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After a rather restless night, Alison and I attended the 10.30am Eucharist Service at Ripon Cathedral and then set about clearing Kestrel of food, rubbish and dirty washing and anything else that we would be glad not to come across when we next come aboard. While starting to pack my bag, which had been stored in the cratch, I came across a hand written note and a donation of £20, which had apparently been placed there by a fellow boater while I was moored up in Little Venice - The generosity of fellow boaters that I have met while on this journey has totally amazed me and all of it spontaneous from seeing the banners on the side of Kestrel. On behalf of the Friends of Murambinda Hospital (www.fmh.org.uk) I can only say a very big 'Thank You', and to the lady who shouted at me from the towpath as I passed, that "all the money sent to Zimbabwe just goes in Mugabe's back pocket", that is not the case with FMH funds. I assure all those who gave me donations for FMH, that the trustees of this charity, who pay all the expenses of running the charity themselves, keep very tight control of where the money goes, and direct it to where it can do most good. They have worked at the hospital, they know the staff and they know the needs of the local population. It is through the support of FMH that Murambinda Mission Hospital has remained an effective institution despite lack of funding from central government. The hospital has 200 beds and is the only hospital in Buhera District, with a population of nearly 300,000 over an area with a radius of about 100 kilometres.

Kestrel at Oxclose Lock at the southern end of the Ripon Canal - stipulated in my will as to be the starting place of my last ever trip down river (when the time comes)...

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Footnote: I am reliably informed that Eddie, my youngest grandson, is now so taken with canals and boating that his parents car cannot be moved without being untied from its moorings, that tables become boats and doors become lock gates... sorry!

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Note: To avoid rounding up errors the Total Miles is recalculated from Ripon Marina each day (using Canal Plan), rather than adding the day's mileage to the previous day's Total Miles.