Daily Life

Summer Celebrations

Our neighbours got married a the weekend before last and James was the skipper of their wedding party’s trip out to the reception on Georgina. Some other boater neighbours and I decorated their boat so that they’d all see it as they passed. We strung up coloured bunting, made a willow arch, and painted two crossed oars with their initials as well as a life ring saying “Just Married”! It was a very happy occasion, with beautiful weather. We were invited to the evening reception, which as fantastic, with great food, atmosphere and music. Congratulations Nick and Beckee!

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April Dreamer bedecked in bunting and willow

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The happy couple

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From the other side

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The wedding cheese “cake”

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A festive evening

Then, on the bank holiday weekend, we went to Exeter to help my mum move in to her new house. A lot of work, shifting boxes, unpacking, and numerous trips to the tip later, the house is starting to look like a home. On the way back we stopped in for a few hours at Alvecote Historic Boat Festival, and although we couldn’t stay long it was great to catch up with people.

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New house

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It’s Been Too Long!

It’s been far too long since I last posted, sorry! Can only attribute it to my being very busy organising OuseFest and getting out of the habit, and we’ve been very busy (see below).

We did manage to get some boating in during July. We had a paid towing job for Willow, taking a neighbour’s Springer Maya to Earith to have work done, which meant a trip down the Old West River to Earith and back to Ely in a day. Unfortunately it was the wettest day of July! But we were “working boaters” for a day which was fun. Then we went to OuseFest at Denver event by boat, and we also hopped up to Downham Market along the Relief Channel for a few days. We stopped in Ely on the way there and back which is always nice, and our friend Kate did the trip out to Denver and back with us on her boat Odessa. Lovely to have her along!

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Towing Maya

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The severely overgrown Old West

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Willow and Odessa at Denver for OuseFest

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Out to Downham Market, with Kate’s dog Sam on lookout!

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A sunny afternoon in Ely

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Back home along the Great Ouse

Then, once back in Cambridge there was change afoot for both James and I career-wise.

First, me – I had a brilliant time working for the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership, and so when my internship came to and end I was really sad to be leaving. But I heard that another Heritage Lottery funded landscape partnership, Breaking New Ground in the Brecks was looking for someone, so I decided to apply! I am now working two days a week with them, doing community engagement, web content editing and office admin, based in Brandon Country Park. I’m having a wonderful time promoting the beautiful and underappreciated landscape of the Norfolk and Suffolk Brecks, which includes Thetford Forest and the surrounding ancient heathland.

It’s perfect because the part time position means I can continue to work on my PhD alongside. (And to assuage any worries from family and friends about postal addresses changing, I’m still going to be in my usual office three days a week working hard on the thesis, so able to pick up post as usual!)

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West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village

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Thetford Warren Lodge – typical dry landscape of the Brecks

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Peri-glacial “pingo” pond on Thompson Common

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My commute to work through Thetford Forest

James has also been busy, and on 7th August he passed the MCA qualification to gain his Boatmaster Tier 2 Level 1 licence, so he’s now qualified to take up to 110 passengers on the Cam and non tidal Ouse, plus all canals! He’s in his element, getting paid to go boating and as it’s high season for the trip boat he’s been very busy!

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James’s first solo skippering trip

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Escaping the Fair

Apologies for such a dearth of blogs, I’ve been really busy with my new job and we’ve not done much boating! But last weekend the Strawberry Fair came to town and we decided to head out to Waterbeach on Friday night. It was a beautiful evening.



And the moorings at Bottisham were delightfully overgrown, making a long grass jungle paradise for the cats!


On Sunday we returned to Cambridge, to but James headed back to Ely to stay over on Pippin and then help John move Pippin to March for blacking. A 10ft boat on such narrow ditches iand low bridges is a challenge but they arrived successfully in the evening.


Categories: Daily Life, Out and About | 1 Comment

OuseFest 2015

I started a very exciting part time job this week, for the next three months. I’ve joined the team at the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership to organise the OuseFest, a fortnight of events celebrating the Fen landscape and communities. I’m based at Cambridgeshire ACRE in Littleport for the admin side of things, but will be all over the Fens, helping with events and manning stalls.

OuseFest logo - 2 string strap

The event I’m most looking forwards to is the Denver Sluice Festival on  Tuesday July 28th, which I’ll have a big role in organising. It’s the first time that such a festival has been held at Denver, and there will be loads going on, from food stalls to art installations, angling and rowing tasters, theatre and tours of the Denver complex itself. I’m looking forwards to learning exactly what all those sluices do for the Fens and beyond, it should be very interesting!

Denver Sluice Phil Bancroft

Denver Sluice (c) Phil Bancroft

We plan to bring Willow to Denver and I’d love to get lots of boaters to join us there! There are loads of new and improved moorings at Denver so there will be plenty of space, and the Jenyn’s Arms will be open for beer (an essential component of any boaters’ get together). Do get in touch if you’d like to come!


Categories: Daily Life, Out and About, Travels | 3 Comments

Wash Day

We’ve always used the local laundrette for washing, so didn’t have a washing machine on board. But then a neighbour was selling a second hand small Good Ideas twin tub for a very reasonable price so I thought it would be useful to have, for washing things in between big washes at the laundrette, or for when we’re out and about on the waterways. It’s great because it only uses 200W and doesn’t heat the water itself. I use the shower head attachment to fill it with hot water from the Paloma, then once things are washed and rinsed the spinner is surprisingly effective at removing most of the water, so that they only need hanging up overnight, and don’t produce much condensation. I use it in the shower tray so that the water can be pumped overboard down the shower drain. Very impressed!

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Broccoli, Kale, Bacon and Blue Cheese soup

or how to use up what’s in your veg box!

After going away for much of Easter, I’d got behind with my veg and had a lot of greens to use up. So I made a vat of this soup, imagining it would last a week for my lunches. But James and I wolfed most of it down on Sunday night, so there wasn’t much left for lunches!


Olive Oil

2 medium onions

2 medium potatoes, peeled

Vegetable stock

Broccoli (about a cereal bowl full once destalked – I used the purple stuff)

Kale (about a small cereal bowl full once destalked)

A large chunk (about 100-200g) of blue cheese, in this case some Blacksticks blue

Smoked bacon (I used about 4 rashers, roughly chopped)


Chop the onions and cook them gently in olive oil until they are soft and translucent. Add the chopped, peeled potatoes and enough vegetable stock to cover them. Whilst they are cooking, chop the broccoli and kale to add later. Once the potatoes are soft, crumble up the blue cheese and add it, stirring until it’s all melted in (I used my potato masher to break the potatoes down a bit at this stage). Then, very last of all, add the chopped greens.  A bit more water/stock may be needed to get the right consistency. Quickly fry up the chopped bacon in a separate pan until its brown and a bit crispy. Once the bacon’s done, the greens will be too. You could fry and add the bacon at the beginning, with the onions, but I wanted to put it on top, kind of like a tasty garnish. I then blended the soup in the pan using my ancient trusty £5 stick blender, running off the medium sized inverter in the kitchen. but it would be fine unblended, just a bit less creamy. Serve with crusty bread and the bacon on top of the soup.

As I used purple broccoli it ended up a very strange colour, but I think with normal broccoli it would be a bit more green and less “green and lavender” coloured!

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An evening under the stars

I have been reprimanded for not blogging enough, (sorry!) so here’s what I did last night. Our neighbour Xina moved in to her boat last year, having bought it from our previous neighbours, Chris and Simone. The boat used to be called Light Enough to Travel. Now it’s named Bümba. With the summer months and longer evenings approaching, Xina kept a watchful eye on the weather forecast and when a sunny evening was promised on Wednesday night, rallied friends to join her, bringing her dining table out on to Midsummer Common for an al fresco feast. We provided chairs and an oil lamp from Willow. It was a little cold by the time dusk fell, and so we all wrapped up in blankets, including Louis the dog, but it was a magical evening, a little surreal to be having a dinner party round a table out on the Common, and we plan to repeat it throughout the summer!

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Blacking and basking

With spring on its way, I came back at lunchtime today to find that both James and the cats were outside making the most of the sunshine. James was touching up the blacking and the cats were enjoying the warm concrete.

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Spice of Life

A while back my dad gave me the spice rack which my grandad had made, along with the little bottles he’d etched with the names of the most used herbs and spices. All this time it had sat there with its bottles empty, but I decided recently to make proper use of it, decanting the correct herbs and spices into the bottles. I love the way each name reflects the nature of its contents, from the sage bush to the exotic looking label of the mace jar (I have yet to find any mace on the shelves of my local shops, but I will keep looking!)

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A Family Visit

We left Odessa at Ferry Meadows on Saturday, and had a lovely day out on Willow with my family: my mum, my mum’s cousin Sue (who is basically like another aunt to me), and my little sister Milly. We ate cake, drank tea from my Willow pattern china, then went out to the Plough for a little cruise and lunch out. Despite predicted rain we had glorious weather all day, so we were very lucky!

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During the day I contacted the Stanground Lock keeper to book our passage through for Sunday. Then in the late afternoon we dropped my family at the railway station, and paid a few pounds to leave the car there until Sunday night, so that once we’d dropped Odessa off at Salter’s Lode and taken the train from Downham we would have an easier trip home! We got to Peterborough about six, had dinner in Wetherspoons then headed over to Ferry Meadows via taxi, pleased to find that the boat was still there!

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