All posts by Sarah

Tunnel Rage

A different alarm wake up this morning, with boats heading down the flight a bit too quickly and us bouncing off the side. First boat at 6.25, and then another one ten mins later – that second boat must be gutted to be following the other.

Tardebigge Top Lock

One lock and then a quick water stop with this tap more than the previous trickles. Four tunnels today, first two I steered and no boats (yey!), Toby steered in the third one with was quite long and took 40 mins, we didn’t mind as it was lovely to be in the cool and shade.

In the tunnel
Me steering in the lock

The last tunnel didn’t go so well. We entered the tunnel as we have the others, and the boat coming the other way beeps his horn and starts shouting. I go up to the bow and ask if they’re a widebeam (silly really as it’s narrow locks, just not too familiar with the canal here). He states it’s one way and we’re in the wrong, we state it’s two way traffic, he’s adamant and won’t move.  So Toby did an awesome job reversing out, as did the boat behind us who had just entered the lock. The sign by the entrance had a lot of graffiti on, and I read the instructions when we were back out stating one way, what I hadn’t realised is that referred to non-powered traffic. I apologised and off he went, Toby then pointed out we were in the right, I’m kicking myself as he’s gone off thinking he was in the right. I can only hope he’s doing the Avon Ring like us, and had another three tunnels to follow – let’s hope there were LOTS of boats coming the other way!

Some much welcomed shade
Not sure this would pass an MOT, we assume it was pulled from the canal

Lots of opportunities to see Heron’s today, we must have seen half a dozen – or was it the same one?

Another Heron picture

One electric swing bridge, and the power to stop the traffic. Slightly delayed with a boat just finishing the swing bridge and their key stuck, they’s set the swing bridge going a couple of times trying to get it out. I walked up and said could I have a go, I turned the key and out it came!

The power of holding up the traffic

Finally moored up at 4.15, we’ve got a nice shady spot.

Our home for the night

The Tardebigge Trio

An unusual alarm call this morning, and swans pecking the weed on the boat’s waterline.  We lifted the curtains to blue skies and even at 9am, it was getting hot.

We worked our way through Stoke Locks knowing at least one boat was in front of us, so we had to empty and fill each lock.

Closing one of the many gate paddles of the day

Our friend Simon has caught the canal bug, and offered to take a day off work and ‘do Tardebigge’, I’m not sure he quite knew what he was signing up for. We reached the bottom of the Tardebigge flight at 11am, and met Simon who had parked at the top and cycled down – the great ascent began.

The bottom of the flight

After a couple of locks of steering tuition from Toby, Simon was helming all on his own, and in to some very tight locks.  There were a couple of nudges, but in the main, silence as Oliver glided in to the lock.

Simon helming through the locks

There was a working boat in one of the locks, with the CRT staff fixing the wobbly deck board. They pulled out of the lock when we were ready, and we showed out appreciation with ice poles (the first of four for each of us).

Good job you couldn’t see my face in this shot, you could fry eggs of my cheeks!

There is very little space between the locks, so we stopped inside one lock with a bench and ate our sandwiches, there were no boats in front or behind – it was very civilised.

In a routine of Simon helming, Toby opening/closing the top paddles and gates, and I went ahead and prepped the next lock

We did swap, and Toby helmed for a few locks, while Simon opened some paddles and gates.

Simon opening a top paddle

I was pleased that the flight meanders, and you rarely see more than one lock in front of you. I’m not sure I could have coped with 30 locks in front of me!

The reservoir at the top of the lock flight. Levels are low and there are water conservation notices at the locks

We finally moored up at 3:25, out came the camping chairs and we sat out in the shady towpath with another ice pole to recover.

Now here comes the silly bit. We then walked back down to the bottom of the flight to the pub (very nice pizzas), and had to walk the 2 miles back up to the boat.  Toby walked with Simon back to the car and we said our farewells – a BIG thank you to Simon for coming all of this way to help us through the locks, you’re welcome aboard any time.

The Tardebigge Trio – smiles all round after mooring up


Sunday in the sunshine

With the England match this afternoon, it was a busy morning on the canals. Trying to get Toby up and moving is quite a challenge, he’s still in bed and one boat goes past going our way – damn!  Finally ready to cast off at 8.30 and another boat comes in to view, which is also going our way.  Bad etiquette to pull out in front of them, so another boat passes going our way – double damn!!

Sunshine in the lock with the most beautiful flowers
If only every canal lock looked like this

Only six locks today, one pound was quite low and Toby was grounded, luckily emptying the lock pushed enough water through to pass

Toby approaching the lock

We moored up at 10.30, and it felt really odd to be finished so early (only two hours cruising). Toby decided to wash the roof and the canal side of the boat, every passing boat says the same ‘I bet you wish you’d bought a shorter boat’!

Toby washing the roof of the boat

An indulgent lunch of pancakes, bacon and maple syrup (it had to be done!), aerial up, TV tuned and Toby watched the footie, phew they won.

Toby made some ciabatta rolls for lunch tomorrow.

Toby kneading the dough

Thoughts turn to tomorrow and the Tardebigge flight and 36 locks, perfect timing with the hottest day of the year so far.

From Summerhill Farm Bridge No 38 to Astwood Bridge No 41, a distance of 1 mile, 2¾ flg and 6 locks.

Summer Solstice on The Severn

A strange sound to wake up to on the narrowboat, with seagulls squawking in the docks ( and pooping on the roof). We’d planned to have at least the morning in Gloucester, so it was teas and coffees in bed which made for a pleasant change to the usual rush.

We walked to Gloucester Cathedral, and what a mighty cathedral it is, with so many panes of stained glass, and still so bright in colour. We lit candles for loved ones past and present.

The best pic we could get from the outside – other options included a DPD van, or random folk walking past. I thought I’d show some loyalty to my employer
Modern stained glass window in the catherdral

We also visited the Mariners Chapel by the docks, what a contrast it is to the Cathedral.

Mariners Chapel

We had lunch at the cafe on the docks called ‘On Toast’ we went for two savoury toasties, and what whoppers they were.  I do regret playing it safe, I should have gone for the Mars Bar toastie (next time!). We walked back to Oliver via the lock keeper, and asked him to set the lock as we were about to leave and it was still quite windy. Toby did a great job reversing off the pontoon, and then we were in the lock, a much faster descent, and then we were back out on the open waters.

Leaving Gloucester Lock, the dark line is the water line
Rowers on the River Servern

We decided to moor up on the visitor moorings at Lower Lode, we passed it on our way through on Tuesday and it was empty, well it was full on our return journey!  The lovely gentleman on the nb already moored on the pontoon said we could moor up next to him – phew!

Buddying up on the pontoon

From Gloucester Docks to Tewkesbury Lower Lode, A total distance of 11 miles, 6½ flg and 1 lock.

Severn go to Sharpness

We took 99 photos today, don’t worry, we’ve only chosen a few to share!  We had already decided to detour slightly off The Avon Ring and visit Gloucester, we then decided to carry on down the end of the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal and as far as we could go before hitting the sea.

Cast off at 8.45 and Toby came in to the lock beautifully, in front of quite an audience of other boaters.  Everyone was turning right on The Severn and to Worcester, we bucked the trend and turned left.

Leaving The River Avon and joining the River Severn

It wasn’t long before we hit the first lock, although the drop was only 4 feet, the lock was huge.  We did a good job at getting the ropes in behind the chains, and not looking like a pair of muppets.

Upper Lode Lock

We left the second lock at 9.30, and didn’t reach Gloucester until 1pm, it was strange just steering, and no slowing down for moored boats. Toby used the dremmel to remove a broken rivet on the front cratch and I listened to the radio (all about men having liposuction!). We called ahead as instructed at Gloucester Dock and with a rise of 16ft, it’s one of the deepest.  We slowly rose up the lock and saw the wonders of Gloucester Docks and the mills.

Leaving Gloucester lock in the docks

We then saw on the map lots of swing electrified swing bridges, I thought I was in for a busy afternoon hopping on and off – we were really surprised that they’re all manned with traffic lights.  Red – wait. Flashing Red – I’ve seen you and I’m opening the lock/bridge.  Green – go.  It’s the closest we’ll ever get to a formula 1 grand prix start as we’re idling up to the traffic lights, they turn green and you welly the throttle – all of 4-5mph!

One of the 22 swing bridges opened for us, it was like we were royalty with the traffic being stopped to let us past
This reminds me of the egg shells and the cress seeds we used to grow as kids

We needed to fill up with water, but all the water points had moored boats.  We reached the last water point and a new fat boat was moored – it only arrived from the docks this morning.  No-one was aboard, so we gently came alongside and moored up.  It took nearly an hour to fill the tank, so we had a good nosey in through the windows and in the lockers.

Filling up with water

After turning around, and some 30 miles travelled, we finally moored up at 6.30.  It’s not often on a canal, you have such a view – in this case the River Severn.

A quick dinner (salmon – never again on the boat, it honks) we walked along the estuary to the old lifeboat station.  You can still see the old locks and paddles from World War II.

The old lock, the white building in the background operated the paddles. I don’t fancy climbing down that ladder
The Severn Bridge is in the background, blimey we’ve both caught the sun


Up close with a wind turbine, I’m standing at the bottom of it. You’ll need to click to enlarge to see the full version to see me (and it’s not often I get to say that!)
Check out the size of that mooring ring

A long day, but I’m glad we made the decision to visit Sharpness.

The Early Bird Catches The Worm

We agreed last night to set off at 8.15, as a number of the boats were heading to Tewkesbury, and we wanted to get on the moorings before the lock – rather than those after the lock which would have required a fair bit of reversing.

It was with some effort, that Toby was ready for 8.15!  Only three locks today, but some five hours cruising time.  The lower Avon views are far reaching, and yet more fishermen to wave to!

Travelling through one of the many bridges
No need to worry about oncoming boats here

We’ve been really lucky with the wildlife on display, I’m not so sure about our photography skills, but we’ll keep trying!

Cormorant on the top of a dead tree, had we got the whole tree, it would have been a fab photo
Another Heron!

Under the last bridge and there were free moorings before the lock, just enough for us and the boat we were travelling with.  A tricky place to moor though, as there is a step up and it was quite windy.  I’ve still not found my mojo since falling in, and struggle with any small jumps.  It did feel a bit like groundhog day, with the boat in front getting caught by the wind and the lady unable to hold the boat in – Toby ran over and came to their rescue.

Tewkesbury Abbey

Lunch on board (we’ll be dining on the leftovers from the weekend for days!) and then a walk into town and Tewkesbury Abbey, where we lit candles for loved ones past and present.

Check out the size of this tree in the Abbey’s grounds

We returned to  Oliver and Toby set up the aerial ready for the England football match tonight – much to the annoyance of the boat in front who can’t get any reception!  So an earlier blog entry than usual – nothing can interrupt the footy!

Making an Entrance

Today was supposed to be an easy pootle in to Stratford basin, it just didn’t quite work out that way. We left before 9am, wanting to make an early-ish start so we arrived at Stratford Basin late morning in the hope that those that were leaving had left, and those that were arriving were still to arrive.

How many ducks on the tyre?

Through the first lock, and I was steering.  I wasn’t concentrating and went too close to a hawthorn bush which resulted in two scratch lines all the way along the starboard side (knock to confidence part 1).  We stopped below the next lock and Toby went to Halfords to purchase some polish and oil for the oil change later on the holiday.

Olivers Lock heading in to Stratford

We made it in to the basin and Toby was doing a fine job in reversing on to the pontoon.  I was at the bow swapping the centre line to the other side, I don’t know what happened, but I slipped.  I tried to hold on – at this point hanging down the side of the boat with my legs in the water.  Toby came to help, but I just couldn’t get up, so there was only one thing for it, and in I went!  I held on to the fender rope while Toby reversed the boat in to the pontoon, a lovely couple on the boat next door (Taktimu) came out to help, the lady keeping the boat away from the pontoon and me, and the gentleman helping Toby to man haul me out of the water and on to the pontoon – all in front of quite a number of  Chinese tourists, and a few other folk takings pics (knock to confidence part 2). Toby was awesome, coping with mooring the boat, and me falling in – I married a good’un!

A rather soggy look after falling in – luckily only the walkie talkie was in my pocket and lost to the Bancroft Basin

We walked in to Stratford and had icecream for lunch, ferrero rocher sundae for me, and a chocoholic waffle for Toby – yum.

We came back and spent some time trying to polish out the scratches with some success.  Fish and Chips for tea – what else do you do on a Friday night?!

Our mooring in Bancroft Basin

Duck Bombed

We heard noise on the roof in the morning, and assumed it was branches from the trees overhead falling in the aftermath of Storm Hector.  We opened up the back hatch to find the back of the boat covered in duck shit – blimey does that stuff stick when it dries!  We removed what we could, and cast off about 9.30

It was a chilly morning, as seems to be the case most days so far.  It soon warms up with Toby starting off in jeans, then lightweight trousers and then shorts…all in one day!

Toby sweeping the roof (an almost daily chore), ready for washing the roof

A quick stop at Anglo Welsh and a pump out, I’m always slightly embarrassed at having someone else dealing with our waste, but it never seems to bother the marina staff.  Then over the two aqueducts, the first one is fairly short, the second one is called Edstone Aqueduct and is 475ft long and 28ft high.  It was surprisingly windy as it’s quite exposed,

On the Edstone aquaduct – hold on to your hat!

It wasn’t long before we were approaching the 11 locks of the Wilmcote flight.  It was almost lunchtime and we had to make the decision either to stop and risk the boat behind catching us up and having to set the locks, or to crack on.  We decided to crack on and had a piece of mum’s chocolate cake to keep us going.

Through the narrow locks of the Wilmcote Flight

It worked in our favour, with most of the locks set for us, we passed through the last lock and moored up just after 2pm.

CRT staff bow hauling a barge, this was the end destination, they’d moved it some three miles

Toby pipes up that he wants to wash the boat.  I reluctantly agree to clean the inside, and Toby washes the outside – he managed the roof and the towpath side, to many compliments by the numerous passers by. Toby’s reward – a big glass of pimms, chicken curry followed by bananas and custard.

Toby near the end of cleaning the boat

Role Reversal

A later than usual cast off as we wanted to ask in the canal shop if we could moor outside on handover day, as we can park the van really close.  It didn’t open until 10.15, so I had a slow mosey up the towpath,  and purchased two homemade cake slices (apple sponge and bakewell tart) to show good will before asking.  The owner was lovely, and happy to help.

We cast off just before 11am , to more glorious sunshine.

Stratford canal bridges with the gap in the middle for the horse ropes

We took on the usual roles of Toby steering, and I was on lock duty, I felt like a bouncing tigger with these single locks, blimey they were hard work and took some force to open some of the paddles.

Toby lining up for the next lock

After 4 locks (we did 17 in total today), we swapped, this gave me plenty of practice at dropping Toby off (front or back – pot luck!), and picking him up.  I just got the hang of it and then the towpath changed sides – well that confused me!

Toby waiting for me to exit the lock
An action shot of me steering

The Stratford locks are narrow and we had to lift the fenders, we did get stuck in one lock as we couldn’t get the gate fully open.  After a bit of prodding and poking with the hook, and Toby opening and closing the gate, we made it through, although I did feel like a champagne cork out of a bottle.

Toby pulling on the lock gate, he’ll have popeye muscles by the end of this holiday


Steering under one of the narrow bridges – full of concentration

We decided to moor up after the last lock, Toby didn’t like the look of the first mooring, so we motored on and Toby tried five times to come alongside but it was too shallow.  Lucky for him, there were some lovely visitor moorings just around the corner.

Our out in the sticks mooring for the night

Just The Two Of Us

It was somewhat sad waking up and mum not being on board, we’re still reminded of her presence with her towel and hat ( not forgetting our daily ration of chocolate cake too!)

mum’s leftovers

A later than usual cast off at 9am,  it was quite chilly and very quiet with only a handful of boats on the move all day.  It was a lock free day and in the countryside, it felt like we had the canal to ourselves.

A view that’s not changed much in the last 100 of so years
Shrewley Tunnel and Toby in the dark (he’s always saying he’s in the dark!)

Our first water stop, and then the sharp left turn on to The Stratford Canal.  Toby is trying to get me to steer a bit more on the awkward bits, so I had the pleasure,  and would you believe, no boats for ages, and then two boats coming out of the same junction!  We moored up at 11.30am…….yes, you read that correctly!

Toby repairing the kitchen window and the glued lock that fell off

We walked the mile or so to Baddesley Clinton, a National trust property,  it’s got a number of hidden rooms for Catholic Priests who were hunted in the 1590’s.  We liked the moat around the house and the kitchen garden.

Baddesley Clinton

We’re well in to our ship’s routine, and it feels like we’ve been on Oliver for longer than four days.  Thoughts turn to ‘is the lock set’ or ‘where are we  going to moor’ and of course ‘when is it tea and cake time!  Narrowboating is  good for the soul.