Bit of a treat

No, not my homemade scones with jelly jam, made from foraged Northwich blackberries,

Afternoon tea boat style

but we got to cruise yesterday. I wouldn’t normally be writing about such a little outing, but in these strange times every bit of canal time is a gift to be shared. Though I’m not offering to share the scones, they’ve all gone now.
We woke to an unexpectedly bright fresh day, I’d been expecting rain.

From white to green

So after our hearty bowl of porridge, we decided to cruise back to Debdale to pick up another tank of diesel, oh boy am I glad were travelling on the water not on “dry” land, cause the towpath that I walked along in the snow on Monday is now an uninviting mess.


But thankfully CRT had done it’s duty and cleared the fallen tree that would have blocked our route

Saunts Bridge

The water is the colour of cold tea due to all the run off from the surrounding fields. It’s 6 miles and about three hour cruise to Debdale, and always nice to pass through Foxton. Would have been even nicer to step inside the pub for a pint, so we decided once we’d got the diesel we’d come back to Foxton for the night and join the happy punters for a take out in the fresh air.

Foxton Basin

Best laid plans though have a habit of going astray. Debdale had sold out of fuel but the fresh delivery was due to arrive later that day or tomorrow. With the sunshine fading , we retreated inside to wait patiently. And to bake more scones.
Today we have picked up 260l fuel which means that over the past 39 days since our last fill we have used just under 7l fuel per day which as we have only cruised 12 miles, has been used by the boiler for heating and hot water, and the generator for charging the batteries that provide our living power, cooking, lighting, internet, tv etc. I’ve done the maths, and that worked out at approx £5.50 per day. Obviously during the summer when we aren’t heating the boat it’s a lot less.

I’ll be quite glad to see the back of winter, but I’m not sure this guy agrees

Snow Sparkles

Life’s just a bit hard right now and I’m sure I’m not the only one to have lost my sparkle, until it started to snow that is. Last week the country was lashed by storm Christof. Thankfully Firecrest escaped the worst of it. On Sunday when we woke to the shepherd’s warning with a red sky in the morning, reflected on the frozen canal, another duvet day was called for.

Morning sunrise reflections

But by 9am it had started to snow and my inner child began to wake up.

Although I still wasn’t venturing outside, until eventually by early afternoon I couldn’t resist the feel of the feathers any longer, It was too cold to walk though so I didn’t explore further away from the boat.

Firecrest also had a down duvet

A good day to stay tucked up inside

And so we snuggled back down inside our nice warm boat to watch the world go by. According to our forecast there wasn’t any more snow due. On Monday however, when I removed the porthole bung, I was excited to see it had been wrong again.

I’ve been struggling with motivation recently, what’s the point of getting up out of a nice warm bed, but not today. Being the first onto fresh snow always makes me smile and it was already 8am so I knew the dog walkers would already be out and about.

So without stopping for breakfast I togged up and threw open the gate onto a magical winter wonderland

Of course in those 10 minutes it took me to get dressed I’d missed most of the golden overlay, but the snow was dry and powdery so perfect to walk on.

So I set off with all the others walking the Towpath

One thing that made the walk even more enjoyable is knowing that despite the high footfall it is poorly maintained and consequently so muddy that I will do anything to avoid walking this route. Not today. The muddy puddles were frozen solid and hidden from sight.

And I was able to walk beyond the houses and see the fields

I hadn’t anticipated the number of fallen trees but I guess the saturated ground and weight of the snow was just too much.

And worryingly one had fallen right across the canal. The canal that we will be cruising along in a few days in order to buy more fuel. I made a note of the bridge number so I could call CRT otherwise we will be very cold next week if we can’t get back to Debdale for diesel.

The rest of my walk was perfect, in fact I’d go so far to say it was definitely the best walk I’ve had this year, and probably the best walk I’ve had since October.

And after a snowy walk hot chocolate back on board, but I’m not sharing that.

2020, not all bad, part 2

24th June we were finally free to leave Liverpool. Yes we had mixed feelings leaving our sanctuary, but ironically as lockdown eased and people emerged, it didn’t feel as safe, as if the sense of relief at being allowed out had also released all common sense that the virus was still lurking and social distancing was still vitally important. Our little convoy set off up the Leeds and Liverpool canal gradually saying our farewells as we settled into our cruising routine. Our plan was to head onto the Bridgewater canal then head for Cheshire, the Shroppie and the Llangollen, before heading back East into Leicestershire to fulfil a booking made in the summer of 2019, to have the hull blacked at Debdale.
But where do you begin to express the joy of being back out on the cut, we hadn’t seen herons or ducks for 8 months and I’ll never tire of stone bridges or canal side cottages, and wild flowers as CRT pays good money to remind us yes we enjoy our canals.

Canal life at its best

Whilst we were still in the Northwest our outdoors lifestyle meant we were able to catch up with friends and family that we had missed during Lockdown

Family and friends enjoying an opportunity to be together

When we reached Wigan we turned right onto the Leigh Branch, the first of many firsts for us in. Although it’s essentially a transit arm linking the L&L to the Bridgewater, I can see us making detours down here to enjoy the peaceful open mooring after the mills and backwaters around Wigan.

Leigh Branch

And then onto the Bridgewater,

Worsley on the Bridgewater

July became the month of bridges, possibly the most spectacular, at least from an engineers point of view, was crossing the Barton Swing Aqueduct over the Manchester ship canal.

Crossing the Barton Swing Aqueduct

We didn’t linger around Manchester but continued towards Stockton Heath, and Preston Brook, which is where we discovered Eric’s lineage, Willie actually worked as a canal porter on the wharfs at Preston Brook.

Family history

We would have liked longer on the Bridgewater, but unlike the majority of the canals, it’s in private ownership and only permits one weeks free passage per month, so we continued south on the Trent and Mersey, heading for the Shroppie. But who could resist a minor detour onto the Anderton boat lift for a few days on the River Weaver. Not us. Each time we use these awesome feats of victorian engineering we think how lucky we are to be able to enjoy them, fearing of course that one day the funding for their maintenance will run out, or health and safety will dictate their closures.

Anderton Boat Lift

What we hadn’t anticipated that after just 5 weeks of cruising, it wasn’t the old structures that failed, but Firecrest who suffered a catostophic breakdown. The long and the short of of it was a manufacturing fault in our generator that required a complicated repair. This was the low point of our year, so I won’t dwell on the why’s and wherefores, but the “not all bad bit” was that we broke down very close to Northwich Quay Marina, and Heather the manager, went out of her way to make sure we were safe during a frustrating repair that took nearly 7 weeks

Northwich Quay Marina, Our safe haven for August

It was now mid September and we knew in order to avoid being on the wrong side of the planned canal maintenance closures, we had to reach Foxton by 1st November, plus we had booked a weeks family holiday in October. That was 144 miles and 88 locks, doable in a fortnight of full days and fair weather, but we don’t enjoy cruising at speed, even if it is only 4 miles an hour. So we abandoned our plans for the Shroppie and set off aiming to do 4 hours a day, vowing to come back and revisit the places we had missed. Heartbreak Hill, with 31 locks in 12 miles certainly got the muscles aching, but we had good weather and enough oncoming boats to make it an enjoyable challenge,

Lock 58, Heartbreak Hill on T&M

And we even got to see the skeleton in the Harecastle tunnel

The Harecastle skeleton

We met up with Jo at Great Haywood

Misty morning great Haywood junction

Turned right at Fradley

Fradley Junction

Avoided the storms around Braunston

Cruising south towards Braunston

Socially distanced the locks at Watford

Watford locks

Didn’t quite get all the family together in the Lakes due to travel restrictions.

Flocking to the Lakes to see family

But we made it into Leicestershire in time for second lockdown in Market Harborough. The highlight being moored opposite the kingfishers favourite perch

Market Harborough’s finest kingfisher

And finally got the blacking done at Debdale

Now that’s good looking bottom

What a year 2020 was. The highs were definitely the friendships made during hard times, the lows were loosing 2 friends. But it wasn’t all bad.

2020, not all bad part 1

Unlike most, we started 2020 already locked down. CRT was running maintenance on the first few sections of the L&L canal, so we knew when we took our winter mooring in Liverpool’s Salthouse Dock, we were staying put until end of March….

There’s always light in Liverpool

12 months later I am still raving about what an amazing mooring that was, right in the heart of the historic waterfront overlooked by the Royal Albert Dock and three Graces.

Iconic historic Liverpool

Liverpool is a vibrant city, packed full of life, culture, history, the Beatles, music. And we set about to make the most of it. But despite the fun we were having attending concerts, dining out around the world, spending time with my cousin’s who live here, most evenings I would take a 5 minute stroll and take in the sunset over the Mersey.

My evening stroll

We were so lucky that lockdown 1 started in the spring, we were blessed with a sunny April so despite missing out on some perfect cruising weather, we basked in the sunshine. And the half a dozen boats formed our own little bubble, keeping each other company across the pontoons. We all kept well. I re-joined the nursing register and volunteered to work, but despite struggling through mountains of illogical paperwork thankfully wasn’t called upon.

Our safe sanctuary last spring

We filled our days on walking tours, picnics and botany, Angie and became adept at spotting which park had the nicest flower beds

Life on the dock

In fact when the locks were unlocked in June, we were almost sad to say goodbye to our home. There were so many special things about our stay in Liverpool that it is impossible to condense into a short post. If you want the full trip down memory lane June 20 archive pages

Our first 2020 night on the canal 24th June


For us lockdown in Liverpool meant friendships formed.

Welcome 2021

January is a time to look around and take stock, a bit of reminiscing doesn’t do any harm, but our adventurous spirit is itching to move on. Alas for now we are following CRT guidlines to once again, “limit our navigation to access essential facilities and services only”
It’s a bit of a dichotomy for us. We are happy with our own company, we don’t yearn to be part of a large group, in fact the thought of noisy gatherings and parties intimidate and exhausts us. We are self sufficient and invigorated by our boat life. Yet what makes boat life so enjoyable is the interaction we have with the people around us. We never tire of the same old questions, Is it cold in winter, – only outside the boat, can you stand up inside-yes, etc, but equally so we are interested in the Towpath trawlers. It can be as little as a cheery wave hello, to taking the time to hear the highs and lows. People are what make a community, people are precious and people are the reason we will strive to do what is asked of us to help bring this pandemic under control.
I’ve said before I find these restrictions hard, I cope by shutting myself away, but I awoke on Friday morning, the 1st day of 2021, feeling upbeat and positive. There might not be many photos over the next few weeks, cold grey mud doesn’t inspire me, so why would I capture it on camera. So I’ll use this time to look back at the 10s of thousands of photos I have already taken since we moved aboard and perhaps share a few of my favourites.
I just hope Eric doesn’t expect every day in 2021 to start with a boaters breakfast.

That looks good