In 2008, we bought our first narrowboat. Lucky Duck was 48ft long, and we enjoyed four and a half years living afloat on it, learning about the world of the inland waterways, their history and the boats which were built for them. You can read the archive of our adventures here. Then, we got the historic narrow boat bug and so it was that in February 2013, we bought Willow, a 1935 ex-Severn and Canal Carrying Co. motor with a sound hull but a fit-out in need of completion. We’ve come a long way but there’s still a lot to do!
Amy & James (& ship’s cats Lyra and Thea)
19 miles, 1 lock
We’ve made it to London!
A mostly lock free day for the last stretch into London proper.
Our Cavalcade mooring isn’t ready yet so we tied up alongside Tench just outside the entrance to Paddington station. This is particularly appropriate as Tench is on tour with Kate Saffin and Heather Wastie’s Idle Women of the Wartime Waterways show. Willow as an ex Idle Women boat (used for a short time as part of a wartime scheme to train women to steer cargo carrying narrow boats) and features in one of Heather’s pieces. Find out more about the show and the tour here http://www.alarumtheatre.co.uk/
After tying up we went out for drinks and dinner with some boaters friends to celebrate Alison’s birthday, hence the late post!
6 miles, 7 locks
Just a short afternoon’s hop down to Uxbridge so that we are closer to Little Venice for tomorrow.
While stopped in Ricky for me to work, James has been busy polishing Willow’s cabin so that it looks nice for the Cavalcade and the wedding. Willow does look so much better after a good polish. It brings out a depth to the blue and we do try to look after the excellent paint job and signwriting. The white letters are beginning to fade though so I need to get my brushes out when we get to Bollington and go over Dave Moore’s lettering.
I kept admiring Willow when it was my turn to be on the bank lock working
The weather was very indecisive today but mostly we had sunshine for the pretty section along the Colne Valley
Now we’re tied up outside the Swan and Bottle in Uxbridge.
14 miles 30 locks
Our mooring in Berkhamstead last night
The sun shone for another day of non stop Grand Union locks. There really is very little let up to get time to grab a sandwich or a cuppa! But we had fantastic weather and many of the locks were in our favour although we didn’t share any of them.
Canalplan estimated we’d arrive here at 8pm and we made it by half six.
Under the M25!
We’ll be here for a few days now as I have to work Monday and Tuesday.
18 miles 28 locks
A fairly long day but a thoroughly enjoyable one in the sunshine.
We stopped in Leighton Buzzard for the obligatory Tesco/Aldi stop before continuing on.
Slapton Lock, where someone has planted herbs for boaters
We shared for most of the afternoon with a little boat belonging to a girl who was on her way to London with her friend. They’d had their mooring pins stolen in Leighton Buzzard so we gave them some of our spares.
Going up Maffers
Once over the Tring summit we thought about stopping but it was such a lovely evening we decided to continue on to Berkhamstead for fish and chips followed by a drink in the Rising Sun.
4 miles 2 locks
Just a short hop this evening to find a new mooring for the night after a few days stopped at Fenny so I could work.
We visited Bletchley Park and the National Museum of Computing om Wednesday afternoon, and Simon showed us the replica early computer he and other volunteers are working on.
EDSAC replica project
Then on Thursday our friends who live in Milton Keynes came by with their 7 month old baby, and it was lovely to catch up and meet their little one.
Our mooring in Fenny
Friday was another full day of work for me but at 5pm we saw Jaq on NB Valerie come through the lock. It was lovely to see her although very sad that her husband Les is no longer with us. He was a kindhearted and fun loving man who is missed by many in the boating world.
Tom and Jan from NB Waiouru were also tied up nearby and it was great to meet them too! After tea and some heavenly Angel bars made by Jaq we decided that we needed to get moving again if only round the corner to Soulbury where we are now tied up ready for a weekend of boating!
17 miles, 8 locks
This morning I had to work from 9am to 1pm (remotely so I just need the internet) and the signal in Stoke Bruerne was quite poor so we set off down the flight at 7:30am in order to be at the bottom by 9am. We were grateful for Andrew’s help with this and made it in time for me to start work.
Butty Alperton coming out of the bottom lock
Melaleuca and our friends on nb Keeping Up came past while we were tied up and we set off to catch them up once I’d finished work for the day.
The run through Milton Keynes was lovely in the spring sunshine.
The Iron Trunk aqueduct over the Great Ouse
Clearing the blade
This evening we’re tied up at Fenny Stratford and tomorrow after I’ve finished work we’re going to meet Simon at Bletchley Park where he volunteers and get a behind the scenes tour!
8 miles, 17 locks
We spent a very busy Easter weekend at the wharf in Bollington, helping out with day boat handovers and fuel sales then headed back by train on Sunday night.
This morning we had various boat jobs to do before setting off so left the marina at 12. Then we were finally on to the canals! The flight of 17 locks up to the Grand Union was made easier by reducing Willow’s draught (water ballast emptied) but mainly because our friends Simon and Ann from NB Melaleuca arrived from where they were moored at the top to give us a hand. And it was very welcome as several pounds were dry!
We stopped at the top for a cup of tea on Melaleuca and then we continued in convoy through the 3000 yard (roughly 2 mile) Blisworth Tunnel to Stoke Bruerne. We did it in 25 minutes!
Now we’ve just got back from an evening with the Melaleucas and with our friend Andrew who just happened to be tying up in the village with his family on a hire boat holiday!
The light at the end of the tunnel!
Oh yes and in case anyone’s wondering why we’ve turned left instead of right, we have a stop off in London at the beginning of May to get married! And go to the Little Venice Cavalcade.
12 miles, 13 locks
A fairly relaxed day as we only needed to get to Northampton Marina. We’re leaving Willow there for a couple of days in the safe hands of our friends who run the marina. We are needed up in Bollington at the yard for the busy Easter weekend.
The run into Northampton was quiet – very few boats out and about and we didn’t get to share any locks again today.
Leaving the mooring at Ditchford
At Doddington, we were hailed by someone on the bank saying “Is that a Severner?” which was nice and in fact only the second time anyone has said that! (The first time was at Brinklow).
We also stopped at the new White Mills Marina for fuel. The diesel pump is right at the back of the marina, and the entrance is tricky in a full length boat, but it is manageable. Our usual Nene fuel supplier, Alan on fuel boat Bletchley, was having work done on the boat so wasn’t around to supply us.
Last guillotine lock at Weston Favell
We got to Northampton at about 3:30 and got settled in with our electric connection plugged in etc. Now we’re eating out at the local curry house, celebrating our last Nene trip!
21 miles, 13 locks
After yesterday’s sunshine today felt a bit bleak. It was cold and windy but we made good progress, fuelled by tea and toasted sandwiches.
At Islip the paddles were being worked on so we had an enforced half hour stop while waiting to be let through.
We saw only three other moving boats and didn’t share a single lock, but we do find we’re more efficient that way.
Empty moorings at Rushden and Diamonds
Lots more Red Kites today too. I did try to photograph them but this was the best one!
Tonight we’ve stopped at the Friends of the River Nene moorings just outside Wellingborough (we never stop in the town itself as it’s too noisy)
26 miles, 11 locks.
The lock keeper at Stanground arrived at 8:50 so we were through the lock by 9am.
Then on up the Nene! We saw our friend John who works for the EA at Northampton Marina when we were stopped on the embankment for water and again at Orton lock, which was a nice surprise especially when he reversed the lock for us!
It was a chilly but beautiful day for boating and we saw loads of Red Kites circling in the thermals above us as we travelled through the Nene valley.
Our planned stopping point was Oundle (the cut above Ashton Lock) for the fish and chip shop which we’d been recommended. Somehow what with dashing up and down the Nene on deliveries or our own trips out we’ve never stopped. But we were glad we did as the fish and chips were excellent and the town a delight to wander around in the evening sunlight.
Now we’re back on the peaceful mooring at Ashton and there are bats flitting around in the moonlight.
Sorry about the lack of pictures but the poor signal here won’t let me upload to WordPress. It seems to have been able to upload to Instagram so there are a few up there: https://www.instagram.com/nbwillow/