Sunday, 10 April 2011


Sunday 10 April 2011
A monumental decision has been reached. We are going to sell Martlet; we had intended so to do at the end of the summer. We will be buying a campervan and visiting those parts of this wonderful country that are not accessible by narrowboat, also to visit Ireland and France before age prevents us from enjoying a good walk around.

We have met a lot of interesting people over the last 11 years and have kept in touch with a lot of them, we know that we will miss the canals and the other boaters.
There is a new breed of boat owners afloat that we will not miss; the old ideas of helping at locks and slowing down passing moored boats are going, we will move on before they are completely dead.

Looking at the log book, since September 1999, we have done 8,170 locks, 14,193 miles and the engine has run for 5700 hours. We have visited Bristol, London, Ripon and Tewitfield; the latter being the most Northerly point on the Lancaster canal.
We have travelled the length of the Manchester Ship Canal and have crossed the Mersey; the Thames from Limehouse to Teddington four times and have spent a total of eight months on the non tidal Thames. The River Nene, Middle Levels and the Ouse, Cam and tributaries, all of the canal system apart from some Birmingham canals.
We have enjoyed it all.

I have enjoyed keeping the Blog and who knows, there may be a land based sequel!
Thank you for looking and for your helpful and kind comments. The photographs were taken with a Canon PowerShot SX100, to which all credit is due for the result. I merely pressed the button (I know, that excuse has been used many times).

Farewell, good health and happiness to you all.

Friday, 1 April 2011

April Fool's Day

We had our customary 24hrs moored below Bosley locks with the view of The Cloud before we 'did' the flight the following afternoon. 9 locks were our way, the other 3 had worse leaks at the top than at the bottom gates, we made full use of the services at the top lock and moored for the night.

This morning, we travelled to Gurnett Aqueduct at Macclesfield; the Royal Oak (formerly Fool's Nook, no longer appropriate for today) swing bridge behaved itself which lulled us into a false sense of security. The next swing bridge is now locked shut across the canal, it used to be better as a foot bridge open to the canal and pulled across by a chain as required. The new, improved vehicle wide version is terrible. It required my 16 stones of brute force and ignorance in abundance to get it moving and to close it again.Some deft footwork managed to coax the locking mechanism into place to allow removal of the key.
Heigh Ho, it made our pies at the Kings Head at lunchtime more welcome.

The Cloud, from Bosley Locks

A good display

Bosley Locks

Gurnett from the Aqueduct


Having arrived on the Macclesfield Canal we next stopped at Congleton Wharf. There is a good depth of water against the piled edge thus removing the need for acrobatic exit and entry.
The main excuse for visiting the town was to go to the Post office, which is sited at the opposite end of the place to the canal. There are a few good buildings and a pedestrianised main street. This enables one to wander along unencumbered by traffic or indeed by any interesting shops, with one exception, a bakers - the Bath buns are excellent!

The impressive Victorian Town Hall was designed by Edward William Godwin, who was the Architect also for the Shire Hall in Northampton. We returned to the boat through a small but beautifully formed park using up the site of two demolished buldings.

Our forward journey afloat was short as we moored up on the Biddulph Valley Aqueduct, which took it's name from the river flowing beneath, the Dane. This valley separates Congleton from Buglawton, which is probably a good thing; it gives also the residents of both somewhere to evacuate their dogs.

Congleton Wharf

The Town hall, Congleton

Old and new bridges, Congleton

From Biddulph Valley Aqueduct

Monday, 28 March 2011

View South from Red Bull Aqueduct, Kidsgrove.

Mow Cop

Peace, perfect peace

Welcome wagon, agricultural style.......

Hello again; the blog that reaches parts that others can remember only with dread IS BACK!
I am now on first name terms with Martlet's fuel tank drain pipe and a number of 20 litre cans. The tank has been flushed and refilled with clean diesel to which I have added fuel set. The first thing I have noticed is that the Shire engine now emits very little smoke all of the time which is especially good news in locks. Enough of the news from the power house.

We left Endon Wharf yesterday (Sunday) and stopped for the night below Engine lock, a good first day as we were finding out again where we had stored the everyday boating items such as coffee mugs, windlasses, BW and handcuff security keys.

Monday. Moved off at 7.25am in thick fog which lifted as we approached Stoke and the Ivy House lift bridge. Myra had let down the bridge after Martlet had passed and had lifted one of the barriers. She walked across and began lifting the other barrier when a woman (YES) in a beetle began to drive underneath until my shout and waving fist stopped her. The barrier did bounce and begin to descend, stopping a few inches off the car. Now that would have been an interesting point of liability in law......

By the time that we had joined the Trent & Mersey canal at Stoke on Trent, the Sun came out and stayed that way most of the day. We had to wait at Harecastle Tunnel which gave Myra the opportunity to make our lunchtime snack and for me to open the weedhatch cover and to clear the prop before the run through.

We were alone travelling North as the boat following us from Stoke did not have a working light and was refused entry. 35 minutes later, we were out into the light again and heading for the Macclesfield Canal. The last two times that we have arrived at Scholar Green, we have met Marie from the Stoke Boat Club: today was no exception as there she was taking the dogs for a walk (or is it the other way about?). Anyway, a brief chat ensued as a boat was leaving the stop lock and Martlet replaced it.

A short stop at Heritage boats for some coal; it takes more than one sunny day for me to be persuaded to let out the fire. A mile further along is one of our many favoured mooring spots where we indeed moored up for the day. We are now officially boating again, it says here!

We received the traditional local welcome. Last year; on 29th April as the log shows, the farmer was muck spreading on the field opposite. He is earlier this year and began two hours after our arrival. We will give next year a miss.......

Friday, 8 October 2010


Because I have turned off the engine. We have arrived back at base on the Caldon and can try to relax a bit. The diesel problem has taken the edge off the return from the Thames as we just wanted to get back. Myra, so that she could get home and begin to make mince pies, puddings and cake for Christmas; myself, so that I could arrange a number of 20 litre drums to contain the diesel that I will drain from the boat tank in order to clean it. Can life get any better?
Well, another boating year has passed; highlights were the week that we spent moored in the boat museum at Ellesmere Port and of course the eight days in Albert Dock, Liverpool.
Pride of place is given to the crossing of the Mersey to Eastham and along the Manchester Ship Canal to the River Weaver; the weather could not have been better.
Thank you again, Ian Fletcher and Mike Carter for all your hard work and our safe crossing.
We enjoyed our eight weeks on the Thames, our alternative to the severely restricted and eventually closed Leeds and Liverpool canal owing to water shortages.

Myra and I have our land legs back and fully functioning, walking around our block we still stop and admire the beautiful countryside which is the Derbyshire Dales.
We may have a few days on the boat with engine trials, but no serious journeys until next year.
Thanks for taking the trouble to follow the blog and for your kind comments.
I hope to bore you to a standstill again next year.
Happy Christmas!

Armitage 'Tunnel'

Brindley Aqueduct, across River Trent, Rugeley

Horse tunnel, Stone

Limekiln Lock, Stone

Almost timeless - Stoke locks

Back on the Caldon Canal, Staircase lock

Stockton Brook top lock - Last one!

Staffordshire moorlands

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

UNCLEAN, UNCLEAN............

I refer to the diesel in Martlet's tank; not to Myra and myself. I have been emptying the water trap every couple of hours to enable forward motion to continue; the novelty has worn off. We are currently at Barlaston and given a bit of luck, we should be on the Caldon and nearly back at Endon tomorrow.
I have included some photographs taken en route, I am not writing much at present as it is quite tiring waiting for the next series of splutters from the exhaust signalling my next visit into the engine 'ole.
You will be the first to know of our return.

Sheep may safely graze - Braunston

Starter Signal post, Braunston & Willoughby Station

Yet another Marina - Barby, Nr. Rugby

Hillmorton Locks

Very rare - Three phase Ivy

Birds of Britain No.1 - The Kingfisher

Sunday, 26 September 2010


The first lift bridge that we encountered after leaving the Thames was fitted with one of the new lockng devices which require a BW water-mate key to release. This done, the bridge is lifted up and pulled down again FROM THE TOWPATH SIDE! What an improvement for single handed boaters; it must have been a mistake by someone in an office somewhere.
We found a space at Thrupp, and had an enjoyable afternoon, evening and next morning in the company of cousin Jane and husband Justin. A lot of chatting took place and we will do it again sometime. We moved off after lunch and were surprised at how few boats were on the move.
One boat we did recognise: Mick was on his own and as we drew near her told us that Kate had died one month after he had retired in 2008, so sad. We will remember her as another one who was always smiling.
We stopped for the night above Dashwood lock and were treated to an amazing cloud display over the next hour, the heavy rain kept just missing us, but it was definitely all around.
Early start next day saw us through Banbury after a few coughs from the engine, whcih I suspect is caused by dirt or water in the diesel. It allows about three hours before it plays around again. We are carrying on and will clean it all out when we return to the Caldon canal.
The next morning was cloudless and clear, great boating weather and having done 18 locks and 21 miles we tied up at Flecknoe after appreciating the lovely surrounding countryside and a lovely sunset set off the day.
Sunday saw us stopping to chat to Karen on her boat at Barby straight and then to Mick and Crystal at Clifton before eventually tying up for the night at Hungerfield next to Brian Holmes in Tuesday's child. A brief chat and then it was time for supper.

Our last Thames morning in 2010

New lift bridge lock

Martlet at Thrupp

Its clouds, not Ayres rock!

Fine morning, Claydon flight

View from Wormleighton

Flecknoe sunset

Tuesday, 21 September 2010


Our last full day on the river dawned misty and a bit on the chilly side. We bade our farewells to Tim and Daphne Brown at Pinkhill lock, Myra came away with some large cooking apples; they (apparently) are just asking to be baked as we have visitors in the shape of cousin Jane and cousin in law Justin staying overnight with us on Wednesday.
Then it was down to Eynsham where we then moored below the lock and caught the bus into Oxford to stock up the larder for our homeward journey. On our return, we said farewell to lock keeper John and then moved away closer to Dukes cut; we will be moving off early in the morning hopeful of finding a space at Thrupp where we will meet our visitors.

Now which one was it?

There is a pub there somewhere!

Last evening at Pinkhill

Pass the parcel - Grebe style

Pass the parcel - 2

Pass the parcel - 3

Sunday, 19 September 2010


Bus passes in hand, we boarded the bus at Lechlade. 'Where to' asked the driver in a lovely rounded Gloucestershire accent.
Cirencester I replied.
'What do you want to go there for?'
To have a look around
What bus are you getting back?
The 13.25
'Better walk slow then'
This exchange set the pattern for an interesting journey, every passenger was greeted in a friendly manner, and the driver waited until everyone was sitting down before he moved off. At Fairford, where a good number got on, as he was about to move away he looked around the pillar at all of us and said ' I must have done something terrible bad in a previous life to be lumbered with you lot' It was an enjoyable journey; as was the return with the same driver.

In Cirencester it was market day; about a dozen stalls confirmed our thoughts that most street markets have shrunk considerably over the last few years. The buildings around the market are an interesting mix and the magnificent parish church of St John the Baptist dominates.
Present day Cirecester was once the Roman town of Corinium. The first church is believed to have been established here in about 300 AD. In 577, the church and the town were destroyed by Saxons; who built another on the site in 700 AD.
This was subsequently demolished and a Norman church was built in 1117 AD, only the chancel remains today. The nave was rebuilt between 1515 and 1530 in the late perpendicular gothic style and the height of 57 feet creates a very large church.
For us, one of the more impressive parts of the interior is the pulpit; stone carved beautifully in the wineglass style and dating from 1440 AD.
Another treasure is the Boleyn Cup, made of silver gilt for Anne Boleyn in 1535, the year before her execution. The church is massive and claims to be the largest parish church in England. A full restoration was undertaken in 1865-7 by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott.

We then had a look around the Corinium Museum which displays the history of the Roman town. It has a large collection of interesting artefacts and has well set out displays and information, from pre history up to the 19th century including an Anglo Saxon burial site discovered in Lechlade which contained 219 bodies.

A short wander around the town centre, picnic in the churchyard and it was time for the return journey. The driver certainly earned his money as the bus wound its way around ever smaller lanes and villages partially obstructed by badly parked cars.

Back aboard Martlet and moving down river, we said our goodbyes to John at Buscot lock and on to Grafton where the farewell took longer. Keith Webb will have retired by the time that we return to the Thames; he is a lovely man and we will miss his smile as well as his quiet and kind personality.
We wish him a healthy and happy retirement in his bungalow on the coast.
We moored above Rushey lock; only one other boat moored between here and Radcot, it is very quiet and we are not complaining.

Market place, Cirencester

St John the Baptist, Cirencester

The Nave, St John the Baptist, Cirencester

Wineglass pulpit - in stone!

Detail from Roman mosaic floor

Nice stone terrace

Friday, 17 September 2010

TALK TALK.......

Into Lechlade for the Tesco free bus. Bert (95 and a half) was in his usual place at the back so I joined him and we chatted nearly all the way there and back whilst Myra chatted to Audrey and Gloria. It is a friendly crowd that use the bus which is why we enjoy going even when we don't need much.
Returning to Buscot, we walked into the village, called in at the tea room where we sat in the garden with our cream tea. Very civilised and pleasant. We assisted the owner to put her broken washing machine into her car; the postman had disconnected it for her when he called to empty the box outside. You cannot beat the village life!
We stopped and chatted to John at the lock; the second owner of his old boat 'Popacatapetl' had brought it up to the lock a short while ago and John had driven it in. He said that it did feel strange, but it was not in as good a condition as when he had sold it - such is life. Before we knew it, it was time for supper. This boating malarkey does give one an appetite!


At 8am we were heading for Northmoor lock as we wanted to reach Buscot by early afternoon. The wind had been very strong yesterday and more of the same was promised for today, another reason for moving off early.
Rounding the bend approaching the lower lock landing I heard phut phut, splutter splutter from the exhaust and then silence. Martlet had a bit of way on, although my hopes of reaching the landing were dashed by the wind as we were blown into the bank some five or six boat lengths short. Oh well, up to the front and grab the long shaft, initially pushing off the bank and then off the other side successfully reaching for the river bed. Soon I was mooring up front and middle to the landing. Off with the engine covers and reach for the replacement fuel filter. Old filter removed, new one duly filled and fitted. Wait a few minutes with the fuel turned back on and Hey presto - noise once more and we were back in business. Total time from first silence was 20 minutes, all that remained was dealing with the wind; not difficult but tiring.
We had our mid day food on the move, and very nice it was too as the crumbs no sooner landed on the deck than they were whipped away by the obliging wind!
I was glad to arrive at Buscot where we tied up and I sat down to verify that both of my arms were the same length: they were, both had been stretched!

Halfpenny Bridge, Lechlade


Monday, 13 September 2010


Here we are again; it is a nice day and as the earliest opening building today is 11am, we have a later start. First stop the delicatessen for a pair of filled rolls, then the building spotting begins.

The Bodleian Library is a collection of lovely buildings, the Divinity school dates from 1427, the present library configuration dates from 1612 with additions in the late 17th century. By the late 18th century, the shortage of space caused the library to take over the adjacent Radcliffe Camera. This iconic building was designed by James Gibbs and the foundation stone was laid on 17th May 1737 and the building was eventually completed in 1748.

A college was founded by William of Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester in 1379 and was thus called New College. The grounds (which house the largest herbaceous border in the United Kingdom) and buildings have taken pride of place in our Oxford excursions.
The chapel is breathtaking, the 62 misericords date from the 14th century, the high hammer beam roof, glass by Sir Joshua Reynolds and a portrait by El Greco and the east wall filled with niche statues. The dining hall is wonderful with a square clerestory centrally positioned for additional light.

St Edmund Hall is a smaller but beautifully formed for all that. The buildings have a welcoming feel, perhaps the size is a factor. Again, the grounds beautifully laid out
and maintained. We had a picnic soaking up the sunshine in the grounds of the Chapel, very tranquil and almost no road noise.

Years ago I had occasion to visit a Synagogue in Holland Road, Hove and was taken aback by the beauty and amount of gold and gold leaf in the interior furnishings. Seeing that the Oxford Jewish Congregation had opened their doors to visitors on the Sunday I had suggested that a visit could be quite spectacular. I was wrong as the Oxford Synagogue is housed in a new building, refurbished in 2004.
However, it was the first occasion that Myra has had to submit her handbag for a search by plain clothed security staff before we were allowed to enter the building!

We had not visited as many buildings as we did yesterday, but we had covered quite a distance and decided to wander back and get our feet up. Almost back at Martlet which was moored at Christ Church Meadow, we saw Nb Nye Bevan with Jamie and Kat. They live aboard in the Oxford area and we have met them a few times. We chatted until my legs began to threaten a strike, then we did get back and put our feet up.

Divinity school, Bodleian library

Divinity school ceiling, Bodleian library

Radcliffe Camera

The Chapel, New College