Our next adventure

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)

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Journey North: Cambridge – Bollington (via London and the BCN)

553 miles, 449 locks

After a wet morning boating through Macclesfield we finally made it home! 

Here’s Willow on our new mooring at Bollington Wharf. 

Please do stop by for all your boating requirements (coal, diesel, gas, oils, pump out, elsan, water plus boat maintenance and repair, steelwork, emergency call outs) or just to say hi! 

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Journey North 33: Etruria – Bosley

16 miles, 13 locks

We set off in convoy from Etruria with some of the Bollington fleet: Jason on Bargus and Brian on Alton.

Then it was through Harecastle tunnel and onto the Macclesfield Canal at Red Bull junction.

Crossing the Trent and Mersey canal (Bargus went underneath)

I cycled off to give Jason a hand through the first few locks then back to Willow. On the Macclesfield Canal proper now we loved the views from our beautiful new home waterway.

Passing Brian on Alton as he was servicing a boat

Then we got to the flight at Bosley and were glad of a hand from Ann-Marie and Jason! It’s a spectacular flight with views of Bosley Cloud.

We tied up at the top at about 9:45pm and went for a drink with the Bollington lot. 

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Journey North 32: Stone РEtruria 

8 miles, 10 locks

An afternoon’s boating to get to the Etruria canal festival in Stoke-on-Trent. 

Setting off with traditional flowers on the cabin top.

We had booked in to the festival since it was on just as we were passing through so it seemed a shame not to join in! Plus most of the Bollington fleet was there too (Bargus and Alton). We are tied up just below the staircase locks. Friday evening was the traditional boaters fish and chips followed by a visit to the Holy Inadequate pub down the road.

Today we spent doing a bit of fender making and visiting the museum, which was running the steam engine for the weekend. The engine was used to crush flint and bone for the Potteries.

Willow is third boat along

Steam engine

Crushing pans

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Journey North 31: Great Haywood – Stone

10 miles 8 locks

I had to work this morning but at 12pm we set off along the Trent and Mersey canal. It was extremely busy, with queues at all the locks but the lovely weather and the beautiful canal made up for it.

Now we are tied up in Stone opposite our friend’s yard above Lime Kiln lock ready to get to Etruria tomorrow. 

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Journey North 30: Penkridge – Great Haywood

10 miles, 5 locks

Another evening cruise, through a few locks and the beautiful Tixall Wide.

Tixall lock

A Willow pattern china pig in the window of the lock cottage at Tixall


Tixall Wide


We tied up on the Trent and Mersey just north of Great Haywood junction.

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Journey North 29: Gailey РPenkridge 

2 miles, 6 locks

A short hop after work to Penkridge to get a bit further as we are now heading to Etruria for the festival next weekend.

We had dinner at Flames in Penkridge, a really good curry place. 

Gailey roundhouse

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Journey North 28: Titford – Gailey

19 miles, 27 locks

Catching up on the blogs after the BCN Challenge! 

On Bank holiday Monday we set off down the Crow backwards as with the locks being such a tight fit we didn’t think we’d fit the other way around. We had help from the crew of Team Tawny Owl, with whom we’d also had a lovely breakfast and dinner the night before (thanks Sue!) Annoyingly we managed to unship the rudder going down but James and Andrew managed to get it back in pretty quickly.

Backwards down the Crow

Andrew had kindly offered to stay and help us down the Wolverhampton 21 as well which was appreciated especially as it was quite damp.

Broad Street basin


Down the 21. Photo Andrew Haysom

At the bottom we said goodbye to Andrew who was off to catch a train from Wolverhampton and set off North up the Staffs and Worcester. We tied up at Gailey.

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BCN Challenge 2017

Cambrian Wharf – Titford Pump House 

47 miles, 74 locks, 23hrs, 25 minutes

This past weekend saw us competing in the BCN 24 marathon challenge. This brilliant event is organised by the Birmingham Canal Navigations Society and the idea is to explore as much of the BCN as possible in 24 hours of boating. We competed with friends in hired boats Yeoford and Collingwood in 2011 and 2012 but have never done it on our own boat so this was very exciting!

We had two crew members: 

Andrew, who doesn’t have his own boat but loves historic narrow boats and has lots of experience with the Narrow Boat Trust and others (James met him when they were both helping Jason with Bargus’s docking). 

Lee, who owns ex GUCCCo Barnet as well as his modern boat Kennington and lives in London (we met when he very kindly let us moor Willow on the Broadway Market moorings he runs the night before our wedding)

On Thursday night we made it to Cambrian Wharf and I was working on Friday. James cycled back to Lyon boatyard to make sure we had two cabin shafts ready for the BCN (one of them snapped trying to remove the bladeful we got at Kings Norton Junction.) Andrew and Lee arrived at 5-6pm and we went for a planning dinner at Ed’s Diner. 

As in previous Challenges we picked Gas Street as our starting point mainly for convenience, and so as the Campanile bells rang 8am we set off down the Farmers Bridge flight. With 4 experienced  crew we were quick and got on with the 46 locks that make up Farmers Bridge, Aston, Perry Bar and Rushall before lunch! 

Post office tower

Salford Junction

Top Lock Perry Bar

However at the top of Rushall the engine just stopped… as we we’re heading straight for the only moored boat we’d seen for ages. Amazingly it managed to splutter back into life for long enough to reverse and so avoid hitting it before dying again. James quickly diagnosed fuel supply issues and a clogged filter and thankfully we carry a spare fuel filter so he switched it and we were good to go again. This used up 45 mins of the obligatory 6hrs “rest”. However this meant we no longer had a spare so Andrew cycled off to motor factor in Walsall which James had rung and bought two new ones! 

Our next stop was up the Cannock extension to gain the extra points. Then we had planned to turn down the Walsall canal at Birchills but emailed reports of no water in the flight and kids throwing stones made us change our minds and do the whole of the “Curly” Wyrley and Essington. We stopped in to Holly Bank Basin at midnight to get more bonus points which involved shafting Willow backwards as it was quite shallow.

Cannon extension – Grove Colliery basin

Holly Bank basin

Then on round to the junction with the Main Line at Wolverhampton and the deeper water and fewer awkward bends. But just before we got to Factory Locks (and at about 2am) the cooling system gave up (a hose came off) and dumped a lot of water into the bilges! We lost another 45 mins of “rest time” here as we has to relay bottles of water and fill the system back up again! 

Wolverhampton at night

This done we carried on to Factory Locks where we met the first boat we’d seen in a while – nb Enceladus. Seeing another boat going on through the night inspired us to keep at it (later on they said they’d felt the same!) So instead of heading directly for the finish line we “nipped” down Ryders Green locks and back up. This took a fair while as we found lock 5 was a bit iffy and wouldn’t open properly and bottom pound was very low. But we made it to Ocker Hill for the points and back up the flight behind Atlas and Malus the CRT heritage pair. 

Dawn on the New Main Line

By this time it was a lovely morning and the sun shone as we ascended Spon Lane and under the M5 motorway’s huge pillars. 

Then it was up the Crow to Titford  where the Challenge finished this year. These are known to be tight but we knew it was possible for Willow’s 72ft hull to get there as we have a picture that her previous owner sent us of our boat in the top lock by the pump house which gave us hope! 

Willow up the Crow (photo S Harrison)

Lock 4 was extremely tight (length wise that is) but we got the gate closed with a bit of wiggling past the stern. And then we were up the flight and finished! We used the remainder of our “rest time” to actually rest!

Tight fit up the Crow

It was definitely a Challenge especially with the engine trouble but great fun. We definitely wouldn’t have managed it without Andrew and Lee who were both fantastic crew, with seemingly unlimited energy and good spirit. 

The after party was great fun, swapping tales of the delights of the BCN and catching up with friends from the other crews. A big thanks goes to the BCNS for organising another great challenge. 

All the rubbish that got wrapped round our propeller blades on the challenge

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Journey North 27: Hockley Heath – Birmingham (Cambrian Wharf)

16 miles 

The hottest day of the year so far and it definitely felt like it!

The North Stratford Canal was beautiful but extremely slow going. 

At the Worcester and Birmingham stop lock we caught a bladeful of canvas sacking that took some getting off – our first Birmingham bladeful of many I expect! 

We tied up at Cambrian Wharf at about 4pm and then went into Birmingham for burritos and ice cream. 

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Journey North 25: Saltisford РKingswood Junction 

7 miles, 21 locks

It was such a lovely evening that we decided to set off and do the Hatton flight.

We shared with nb Endeavour and made it in 3 hours.

Now tied at Kingswood Junction ready to go through to Birmingham tomorrow! 

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