winter survival kit

winter survival kit

six life-saving items for under £20

When we bought our 58' cruiser-stern narrowboat, Lutra Lutra, I thought that life afloat would be like that in a tiny home surrounded by water. The last 12 months have proved just how wrong I was. We have faced challenges that I never anticipated...and survived!

It's not quite Ray Mears, but here's a few items that I couldn't live without:

1. Three Hot Water Bottles
I vaguely remembered these items from my childhood. Thankfully, they are still on sale in Home Bargains. We have 3 and the water is heated on the woodburner during the evening. If it's particularly cold, I move them around the bed to warm up all the corners before getting in, or make my husband get in first!

spotty hot water bottle

2. A flannel and a plastic water carrier
We have been frozen in twice this winter already and stranded by lock closures once. With a 400l water tank, we can usually last a week between fill-ups, but you don't want to risk running dry miles from a water-point. In addition, the CRT taps are poorly insulated, and so even when you turn up with your wheelbarrow and water carrier, you may be disappointed. So, at the start of sub-zero temperatures, we get out the flannel and save the shower for a weekly hair-washing treat! We also got a second kettle so that the hot water bottle water is recycled each night, saving 2l each time. After all, no-one wants their coffee to taste of rubber!

plastic water carrier

3. Clear plastic sheeting and double sided sticky tape
AKA secondary double glazing, this has eliminated the terrible condensation that was forming on our metal window frames. Not only was this staining the wooden sills but the water absorbs any heat you put into the boat. It's almost impossible to heat a damp boat, and there's nothing quite like waking up to ice on the insides of your windows to make you feel like retreating back to bed. Similarly, we have insulated the underside of our metal hatch with a yoga mat and super-strong spray adhesive and the side of our bed with the cheap two-way stretch fabric that they use on car interiors. #staywarm

plastic film and double sided sticky tape

4. Vet Gloves
Handy if you come across a cow in labour...or when you get poly round the prop on the BCN. So handy, I think they should be listed on the boat safety certificate! And under £20 from Amazon.

vet gloves

Steve Burt wearing vet gloves

5. An iron cookpot (Le Creuset, if you're posh)
We eat seasonally. The gas stove is 'wet heat' meaning that it releases water vapour as the gas burns, and that causes condensation. (Incidentally, candles are the same, but they make you feel cosy, so I make an exception for a couple of those.) Condensation is our arch-enemy, so we cook on the woodburner as much as possible if it's lit i.e. from November to March. We have met boaters who cook exclusively on theirs, but I've found that a frying temperature means the cabin is unbearably tropical, so I tend to start my stews in my retro pressure cooker and then leave them to finish off on the woodburner. We cook porridge every morning on one heat log lit from the embers using a recycled eggbox-woodshavings-and-candlewax firelighter (homemade on my woodburner and available in my eco-shop). All-day rice pudding is awesome, and you can't beat a foil-wrapped baked potato placed next to the coal cage.

morso fire

crock pot on log burning stove

6. Cashmere jumpers
There's no substitute for pure wool, cashmere, angora etc. If you're lucky then you can find them for £10 in a charity shop. Layer them. The woollen fibres are naturally self-cleaning and don't smell, so you don't need to wash them for weeks, which is especially important if you're frozen in.

Cashmere jumper

That brings me to my final item. The CanalsOnline Magasine list of services on each cut. Brilliant for finding launderettes (don't ever dry washing in the cabin in winter), takeaways (for those days when the woodburner goes out), and pubs and churches for when you need your heart warmed.

Roll on the spring!

why didn’t they build the aqueduct?

why didn't they build the aqueduct?

a tale of Jim, Amanda and Mayfly from when they were a few decades older... but no wiser!

“Next thing we’ve got to do is get through the link and back before they close the blooming thing for the winter. I mean they spend all that cash on it and you have to jump through hoops before they even let you use it,” Amanda said, a little nervously.
“It shouldn’t be that bad. We’ve been running long enough to know that the outboard is reliable enough. It’s certainly got the power to punch the tide,” Jim smiled. “There’s plenty of people around if the thing does let us down.”
“But she won’t will she,” Amanda replied a little more calmly. “Mayfly has never once done that has she.”


The link north utilised two tidal rivers and a brook that ran close to the isolated northern section. Whilst Mayfly was more than capable of navigating between the two sections of waterway, Jim and Amanda’s knowledge of tidal water was sketchy to say the least and both were just a little nervous of making the jump or their being late for the locks which they, despite their experience, were not allowed to operate themselves.

“Well, here goes,” Amanda said, swinging the little motor round to take Mayfly under the bridge that spanned the entrance to the arm that would take them to the tidal river. Almost immediately they were met with a lock with a more than unusual mechanism that looked like it had been made of scrap from a garden shed. Despite the appearance, and difference to the norm, the locks in the area seemed to function perfectly well, and the couple soon found they were not alone in their travel. There were four steel narrowboats with whom they were able to share the locks.


“You’re a bit small for the crossing,” the owner of one of the craft said.
“Mayfly’s been a good companion for a long time,” Amanda smiled. “She won’t disgrace herself. They used to use little boats like this for island hopping in the Hebrides, so she’ll cope with worse than an estuary. Not sure I’d like to go to sea in her but people did, maybe still do.”
“They’d use a bigger motor than that though,” the man said.
“We’ll see,” Amanda replied good naturedly as they filed out of the lock.

The section of canal was rather pretty despite its closeness to a main road, and the crews of the little flotilla of craft soon bonded. Both Jim and Amanda exchanged stories, telling about their early days as two frightened teenagers setting off on an open ended adventure which, Amanda suddenly found herself thinking, hadn’t stopped so far.

   rural canal

The last lock on the section was not yet usable as the tide wasn’t at the right level for the boats to get across the estuary in time to get to the new canal link that they were aiming for. Both Jim and Amanda spent some time checking through the equipment that had been supplied.

“The GPS will hopefully tell us where we are, but we hardly need it because we’ll be following this lot. I guess we should connect to the motor on Bluetooth,” Amanda frowned slightly.
“That sounds very technical,” Jim smiled. “Anybody might believe we actually knew what we were doing.”
“If you don’t, I wouldn’t advise it,” Dan Rutherford, the owner of the boat that they’d shared most of the locks with said, having overheard the conversation. “We’ll keep an eye on you if you do choose to.”
“Thanks,” Jim smiled, feeling rather less than confident.

Two hours later it was time to go. The engine monitor of the outboard was displaying that all was well, and it was Amanda that flicked it into gear, opening the throttle to keep pace with the other craft. The determined growl of the little machine somehow inspired confidence as Mayfly picked up speed, and was more than able to punch current to keep up with the rest. Wash from the flat bottomed narrowboat hulls, was something of a nuisance, but they soon managed to find an area of calmer water to run in.

“How far are we up on the throttle?” Jim asked.
“We’ve got plenty spare if that’s what you’re worried about,” Amanda smiled, her confidence building by the minute as the little boat cut through the water leaving very little wake behind her.
“I guess it’s what she was built for, so it shouldn’t be a surprise,” she added.

   rural canal

Although the run wasn’t really that treacherous there were a few things they needed to keep in mind, the major two being not to miss the entrance to the link and also to go around the correct side of a marker. Having heard of the dire consequences of going the wrong way around it, both were on the alert. It was rather annoying that they’d have to make an overnight stop in what was once the docks, but was now occupied by a marina. The flotilla kept together and, bound by camaraderie, they decided to adjourn to a nearby pub for a meal together.

“You made it OK,” Dan smiled. “You must have been revving the ball bearings of that little thing though.”
“They’re ceramic,” Amanda smiled proudly. “She was re-engineered this year. We’re not sure quite what power she has, but it’s a fair whack more than it says on the tin.”
“It’s a nice little boat, looks good too,” Ruth Wilson, another owner added.
“She’s an old lady now,” Jim smiled. “We thought she was around fifty five or so, but she’s well into her seventies.”
“It must have been like Romeo and Juliet, when you first sailed off into the sunset,” Ruth smiled.
“Not exactly, I mean neither of us are dead yet, and we kind of aim to put that one off for as long as possible. We had to go, simple as that,” Amanda said.
“And we’re still running,” Jim laughed.
“I guess so,” Amanda replied. “There’s more than just an element of having to do this run.”

why can’t they leave things alone?

why can't they leave things alone?

I am a bit late writing this article: my phone has stopped working; apparently it needs ISO, whatever now,  and thus is no longer supported. To add insult to injury, the word processing software I use to write with now needs a new licence.

Technology is becoming more of a form of legalised piracy to extort money than to help. I don’t ever remember my trusty old Olympia typewriter needing much more than a new ribbon and a clean!!

Which brings us neatly on to the latest corporate act of vandalism from a leading gas supplier, the removal of the smaller gas bottles. Ok I know that these have always been the most expensive way of using gas but like many boats of Dawntreader's age, it is what the builders designed the gas locker around. To convert to the new larger 5 kilo propane is going to require some careful thinking and considerable expense to make a new locker, let alone have a corgi registered gas supplier come and make the necessary connections. To the point that I am now considering alternatives to gas and removing it all. After all, when I first started boating, it was paraffin lamps and wick stoves.

The first thing to do is list all things I use gas for, which is cooker, water heater and Propex heater. The next is why do I use it - the only real answer is because it's there !! and lastly what are my alternatives?

calor gas bottle boats

olympia typewriter

Firstly, the humble microwave can do a mug of coffee in under two minutes and a baked potato in 6 where as a Vaness Flavel oven takes about the same time it took to grow it. The hot water system for the shower can soon be replaced by the can of hot water method; I have a solar one I use sometimes in the cockpit, supplemented by what is basically a modern tea urn that provides enough hot water to wash up with.

So the answer seems to be 'go electric'. But this is not as easy as it sounds, as even with on shore power in the marina, supply is limited. Basically, we need to do an energy audit – how much power does a microwave, small water heater etc use and find a generator that can cope.

The plan is to use DT's old engine bay and have a lightweight built in diesel generator, complete with fireproof filters and pipe work and exhaust to outside world that can run the appliances. But not only for domestic duty – it would have to provide enough power for electric outboard charging and replace the old Suzuki - if you like a sort of hybrid power system. Thus removing the need for  yet another old dinosaur which is rapidly becoming obsolete. 5 litres of diesel is far cheaper than 5 kilos of gas and much more versatile.

Add into this a decent battery bank that can run a small invertor without causing a real headache and I think we are onto something. There are other alternatives, Kelly kettles are a must in life – I have had mine years, obviously you don’t use them inside the boat but on the towpath. Even half an old cardboard box can boil 3 litres of water in about 2 minutes – the surplus decanted into thermos flasks to use when required. A pan on top and you can have a bacon sandwich and hot water to wash up in. Spirit stoves or paraffin stoves are still available, as are baby Blake marine grade paraffin heaters, both of which are far more economical to run than gas.

What does worry me is that people will start to take risks with portable gas cartridge cookers and heaters of dubious quality and design. In the same way,  being an engineer, cheap Chinese diesel heaters scare the hell out of me. Then there are those who will run generators under canopies, or even burn candles. I have known all of these go wrong,  either gassing the occupant or burning boats down to the water line.

What I am certain of is I will not be carving up the boat trying to squeeze in a five-kilo bottle into lockers it simply won’t fit. Any more than I am upgrading my phone when I have a reasonably good laptop that does the same thing; and when that packs up it will be time for the typewriter!!

If we all turned our backs on some of these corporations and their continuous need to change things to make us buy so called newer and better, they would soon learn to leave things alone.


a red letter day

a red letter day

in the story of the Waterways Chaplaincy


1st January 2023 was a day that marked the transition of the Waterways Chaplaincy from being a part of Workplace Matters to becoming an independent, ecumenical charity within the Church Army family.

We have left Work place Matters (WM) with fond memories and much appreciation of the way that, in 2019, WM ‘birthed’ WWC and continued to nurture the ministry. The effectiveness of their encouragement over the years has seen WWC grow into a unique nationwide charity being Jesus’ hands and feet amongst the waterways communities.

You might say that it is a sign of success that WWC is now ready to strike out independently and grow further, but now with the support of the Church Army.

The Waterways Chaplaincy’s ministry has a more natural affinity with Church Army. Wilson Carlile, who established the Church Army in 1882, believed that God’s love is for everyone. He was passionate about his faith and wanted to share the good news of Jesus with people who would never dream of stepping foot in a church.

That continues to be the Church Army’s mission today and is why the Waterways Chaplaincy fits so well into its family of ministries.

a window on the world!

St Laurence's Church, Hungerford

Having passed on that news, I must tell you about our new church doors. St.Lawrence’s church, Hungerford, which is right next door to the towpath of the Kennet and Avon canal, was built in 1816 on the site of previous churches. It has a stout wooden outer door and, until a couple of weeks ago, ugly red baize inner doors. They have now been replaced by handsome new glass doors, manufactured in Germany, each one attractively etched with a ceremonial Cross. This means that the entrance into the church is lighter and brighter and those inside are able to look out into the churchyard with, at the moment, its carpet of snowdrops. More importantly, those outside can see what is happening inside before they venture in – or not, if the viewer is too shy to do so – perhaps next time he or she will have a change of mind?

The doors are the first step in refurbishing the back end of the church to provide a commercial kitchen, disabled toilets, and small meeting rooms that can be heated individually without heating the whole church (which actually means heating the high

The doors and installation have been paid for by the Friends of the church following a lot of successful fund raising, and their donated £12,000 was match funded by Greenham Common Trust.

Our vicar’s wife, Alison Saunders, heads up the Kennet and Avon hub of the Waterways Chaplaincy and our vicar, Mike, is also a chaplain. The church is open all day and we would love to welcome you at any time!

a thorny rose

a thorny rose

To many of the uninitiated, the canals offer a bucolic, romantic way of life that could easily be part of “the darling buds of may”, but in truth there is a brutal edge to it and there are some topics in the canal world that are almost guaranteed to cause verbal (and occasionally physical) fisticuffs, and today reader we’re going to don our tin hat and enter the trenches of roses and castles.

The most often asked question is “Where did they come from?” A question in itself that is rather wrong, as the implication is that the style we see today has been the same since the Duke of Bridgewater said “Hey I think I’ve got a great idea”.

There is a lot of popularity behind the idea, largely thanks to Rolt’s writing, that the Romany folk came to the water very early on and brought their art with them, but there is scant evidence of them joining the canals at all and in practice the painting theory doesn’t work simply by dint of the fact that there is artistic evidence of rose and castle type paintwork on boats that predates the development of the painted ‘vardo’ that everyone thinks of.

The earliest imagery we have dates to 1820, and a painting by an unknown artist. It is only just visible, but it appears the picture panel on the cabin side bears flowers. The next one is 1838 and also has a floral picture panel.

1820 painting of 'Hope' (Flowers Afloat)

1838 watercolour (Flowers Afloat)

The first written description of artwork that can be confidently identified as roses and castles appears in 1858 and gives us the biggest lead:

“The boatman lavishes all his taste; his rude, uncultivated love for the fine arts, upon the external and internal ornaments of his floating home. His chosen colours are red, yellow and blue... the two sides of the cabin...present a couple of landscapes, in which there is a lake, a castle, a sailing boat, and a range of mountains, painted after the style of the great teaboard style of art... the brilliancy of a new two gallon watercan, shipped from a bank-side painters yard.. displayed no fewer than 6 dazzling and fanciful composition landscapes, several gaudy wreaths of flowers, and the name of its proud proprietor...running round the centre upon a background of blinding yellow.”

The crucial information here is the description of it being painted in the manner of a teaboard.

An object that households rich and poor alike had: a teaboard is just a tray intended for carrying the teapot and its accessories, and for the best part of 100 years tea trays were predominantly jappaned.

Developing just prior to the canals, jappaning is western imitation of Asian lacquer-work that started out on eye-wateringly expensive furniture and moved onto smaller household items as it became a craft suitable for young ladies of quality to indulge in. These young ladies also indulged in gilding (putting gold and silver leaf on things) and filigree (twisting wire into intricate shapes), and decoupage (sticking paper decorations to things and lacquering them into submission.)

As with all forms of fashion what the rich had, the poor wanted a piece of; by the time the canals were firmly established in the 1820s there were around 40 companies in the West Midlands mass producing japanned objects on tinplate and papier-mâché, a figure that kept rising right up until the mid 1870’s (when enamelling became trendy instead). The imagery that was most popular with jappaning was poetic landscapes and botanicals, with roses being particularly popular.

Tea tray (photo from Antiques Atlas)

Table (photo detail from Ebay)

Mary Delany is arguably a woman to blame for the craze of flower decoupage, creating a series of remarkably detailed “paper mosaiks” of flowers from tissue paper from 1772 to 1783.

Imitators down the years, especially when mass production became key, were not as skilled. The same imagery was rammed down the consumer's throat on every surface; the advent of ‘transferware’ china allowed patterns to be printed ad infinitum and brought the boom in the ‘Willow patterns’ on pottery that the boats themselves were key in spreading round the country.

The boats themselves would have had it in their cupboards, it was everywhere. Tea could well be brought out in a blue and white tea-set covered in castle scenes and served on a tray like a florists catalogue.

Mary Delaney rose (British Museum)

Willow pattern (Palm Florida Weekly)

People often overlook the fact that it wasn’t until quite late in the Victorian era that the boaters slipped down the financial ladder, and also that women were on the boats with their menfolk quite early on - in 1819 John Hassell noted there were “generally one or two females generally attending each boat” and in 1824 the Chester Courant noted that the boatman’s “wife is on board” as general knowledge.

Boatmen could be on a continuous cycle of trips for weeks, if not months, on end, so it wouldn’t be unreasonable for the couple to want to stay together where practicable, and the economic aspect wouldn’t be unwelcome - better to pay your own crew than a stranger after all – so it’s quite probable that art came to the water via the rather boring medium of fashion trickling down the social ladder and first coming into the cabins attached to the household goods of the boatman’s family.

How did we make the leap from fancy lacquer tea tray to painted table cupboards? The real answer is we may never know. Everything was painted and there were painters everywhere, and indeed the same man might be employed painting trinket boxes in the morning and slapping the owners name on the cabin side at dinner.

There is the odd legend of Arthur Atkins, a toll clerk for the Oxford Canal Co who claimed in the Coventry Standard in 1914, the occasion being his retirement, that he had painted the first boater's watercan and that in around 1858 he’d been at Braunston and sold Charles Dickens a boatman’s kettle (a fancy wooden trivet, plain on one side, painted on the other), the great author promptly gifting said piece to the Captain of a boat and wrote an article about it all to the great advantage of Atkins.


newspaper clipping

The story has more holes then a June bride. For a start we can see that painted cans easily predate 1858 and there is simply no record of anything like that happening with Dickens at all. There’s no trace of this article he supposedly wrote and in general his canal contact was fairly limited. It’s also highly convenient that date of the incident matches with the journey I quoted originally, the journey that was published in Charles Dickens’ magazine ‘Household Words’.

It is almost certain that young Arthur Atkins was present when the author of that journey, John Hollingshead, passed through, so it is plausible that it could have been a case of mistaken identity, but our source says the can was “newly shipped from a bankside painter” long before the boat they were travelling on arrived at Braunston.

1828 engraving (Flowers Afloat)

Intriguingly however, a search through the census shows that Atkins father, also called Arthur, was a painter. At Akins' birth at Bedworth in July 1840 his father is recorded as a baker, but 6 months later in the census he’s a painter. In 1851 he shows up at Braunston as a canal clerk, but this doesn’t suit all that well because in 1861 he’s gone to Birmingham and he’s a painter again. 1871 records him as a “Writer and painter”, which suggests signwriter, 1881 “decorative painter” and 1891 hes still wielding a brush in Birmingham as a “Painter and decorator”.

Given the fluid job descriptions, there’s a distinct possibility that the Arthur Atkins, boatbuilder’s foreman, declared bankrupt in 1869 is this same mysterious painter. Could it be his paintwork his son claimed as his own?

The Coventry Standard notes how Atkins jr was a “regular correspondent” with their writer Spectator, and although many of these have weathered the years quite badly, those that are legible give off a distinct air of someone over egging the pudding. It’s quite plausible that Atkins embellished or completely made up his stories, knowing that there was no way for anyone to verify the details.

The crucial thing to bear in mind when delving into the paintwork is that the vast majority of surviving examples post-date the first world war. The war decimated the male population and left the country with a dire shortage ofyoung men from all the trades, from farriers to painters. A pet research project of mine so far suggests that 65% or more of boatyard painters were lost, and that’s not including the individuals, boatmen or otherwise, who could be classed as ‘hobby painters’.

A cursory glance through museum pieces shows the abrupt change from diverse bouquets and landscapes to the ubiquitous roses and castles, which is most likely a direct result of there being far fewer painters and therefore far fewer styles, attending the same number of clients who now had a far smaller budget as the canals being the slow descent into financial loss.

Watercan detail

Watercan detail  (Flowers Afloat)

Watercan detail  (Flowers Afloat)

By the 1930s, the aesthetic preference of the public had changed from the sleek art nouveau to the geometric art deco and more professional painters slipped away. The Grand Union Canal Carrying Co leapt onto the scene in 1930s and demonstrated that by their modern paint scheme – simple two tone blue, plain lettering and even replacing the elegant “mouse ears” on the back cabin with dull rectangles. Grand Unions attitude to paint may even have been a contributing factor in that they could never get enough crew to work their massive fleet, as the boatmen themselveswere not fans of the change and more than ever started to take up their brushes to embellish their boats themselves.

This brings us almost to the modern age. When the trade failed and the pleasure boats started to appear, objects covered in canal painting became trendy souvenirs and both boatmen and painters alike readily filled the market. New painters began to emerge, grabbing on to every opportunity to learn from those masters from “the old days” and patiently working their way along the long slow path to becoming masters in their own right.

Today, the canals are once again flush with painters at every corner and, much like it was in the beginning, there are masters and glorified finger painters, and every level of skill in-between.

Beauty is of course in the eye of the beholder, and at the end of the day I can only repeat the wisdom of the infamous Ron Hough himself: “The only person that has to like your painting is the person who’s buying it!”

droning on

droning on

canals from the air

Amongst the array of cameras we’ve amassed over our time as Narrowboat vloggers, I suppose it’s the drone that provides a completely different perspective of the countryside.

If, like us, you’ve ever wondered just what is the other side of that hedge you’ve moored up against, by taking the drone to the air, suddenly it all becomes clear!

Oxford Canal - aerial shot

I want to point out straight away, that we steer clear of houses, and I’ve passed my CAA exams to ensure we comply with all the flying regulations in the UK. The drone, itself is also registered with the authorities so, if by some quirk, it lands in a field, it can easily be identified.

Naturally, on the waterways, the beauty of the landscapes become so much clearer from the air. Even industry areas, like Birmingham look completely different from the air.

The latest “attraction” that I flew the drone around was Warwick Castle. What an impressive structure! It fills you with awe when you look at Caesar's Tower, which was originally built between 1330-1360. I took the drone up the side of this impressive tower, all 40 metres of it and then flew over the River Avon looking back at the south side of the castle where you can also see St Mary's Church in the distance.

aerial shot Warwick Castle

You have to plan your flight in advance so you don’t waste too much time. The drone I have is a Mavic Mini 2 which has a maximum flying time of about 30 minutes, so you want to use all of that time constructively. We had already visited Warwick in 2021 not long after we’d bought the boat to get some work done at Knowle Hall Wharf (where she was originally built by Stephen Goldsborough back in 2000) so I had a pretty good idea of the type of shots I was looking for and an idea of the location from which to launch the drone.

Because of the relatively light weight of the Mini 2, legally, I can fly over most locations, although as a precaution I obviously don’t fly over crowds and there are several maps which highlight the “No Fly Zones.” The most obvious of those are airports – no matter the size.

You also can’t fly over prisons...! And when we were on the Thames this year, flying anywhere near Windsor Castle was a no-no. Shame because it’s a lovely castle with tons of history. But I respect the law and I wouldn’t want to be locked up in one of the cells there!!!

Like most things, the more time you spend flying your drone, the more skilled you become. I’ve learnt so much from drone operators who post videos on YouTube which have been a great help.

Hatton Flight, aerial shot

If you want to start flying, and with the January sales potentially providing some “deals” what should you look for?

First, of course, is budget.

There are some really cheap drones on sale at a popular online shopping website around £50. But these are cheaply made, with substandard camera quality and will leave you frustrated!

Forget the myth that you have to spend £0,000’s on one. That might have been true a few years ago, but you may be surprised that the most popular drones are no where near that price bracket, in fact there’s one that is considerably cheaper than it’s more famous rivals.​

Second thing to consider is which country you live in, because where you live will determine the laws by which you need to comply with.

Assuming you’re in the UK, to legally fly a drone, no matter how heavy it is, you need to take an online theory test to get your Flyer ID, costing just £9 and you must register for an Operator ID (over 18 year olds). Your registration with the CAA is renewable annually.

alrewas aerial shot

If your drone weighs more that 250g there are limitations about where and how far away from people and buildings you can fly. The Mini 2 weighs 249g so falls below the major restrictions. However, in practice, you should aim to stay clear of large groups of people and, no matter the size, must retain VLOS – Visual Line of Sight – you must be able to see where your drone is.

There are some changes to the classification of the heavier drones from January 2023 and I would advise you to check these online at the CAA’s website for more information.

Other considerations, as I’ve mentioned above, are battery life and also the quality of the lens.

Most drones these days shoot at 4k resolution giving you an excellent quality of picture, remembering of course that you can shoot still images with a drone, not just moving images.

Of course, I would recommend Mavic, not just because they are the market leader, but they offer a after care package that will replace your drone should you unfortunately end up crashing it or it disappearing below the water!

However, there is a sub £100 drone that is definitely worth looking at judging by the number of positive reviews it received this year. It’s the Quinux K8 which boasts full 4k resolution and a long battery life. It also looks well built and more solid that its other budget counterparts.

Whichever drone you decide to get, make sure you get in lots of practice. Find an open space, a field or something similar (try to avoid too many trees) and get a feel for the controls. Fly low at first so you can see how it reacts before attempting higher flights. It can be fun but remember your responsibilities.

Recently we posted on YouTube a compilation of drone footage from last year. You can watch it here :

Jan and I wish you a Happy Christmas and Peaceful New Year.

cooking on the cut – winter 22

cooking on the cut

with Lisa Munday


Winter has well and truly arrived with short days and cold crisp frosty mornings, as we enter into this extremely cold spell the clear skies have given us some beautiful sunrises and sunsets, not to mention that amazing full moon.

This year has flown by, I have now shared four Seasons with Canalsonline magazine and am looking forward to lots of exciting things happening in 2023.

With so many heart- warming recipes at this time of year we have all enjoyed slow cooking those casseroles and throwing together hearty soups and one pot meals.

Now though we are thinking towards our Christmas feast and treats. Let’s not wait until the big day for those lovely homemade stuffings, bread sauces and the somewhat underrated red cabbage and Brussels sprouts. We have already cracked into our nuts and chocolate stash, not to mention the Port and Brandy, oh and the Baileys, which of course are purely for culinary use!

I’ve done quite a bit of “pruning” when walking Rosie through the woods and have a very natural look in the boat this year, homemade wreaths and swags using trailing ivy, fir, juniper and rhododendron, I have also collected lots of pinecones throughout the year which double up as great firelighters!

christmas decoration

So, the list of favourite seasonal ingredients is endless. The Christmas spices of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, star anise and ginger are essential for me, as are the use of chestnuts, walnuts and almonds with the fruits of cranberry, pomegranate, oranges and pears.

Parsnips, leeks, celeriac, red cabbage and of course sprouts are my favourite vegetables. For cheese it has got to be stilton and brie. Then those Christmas herbs of Sage and Bay are the perfect partner to Christmas meats, sausage and stuffing. It’s worth keeping some fresh herbs in as they make such a difference to any dish as opposed to using dried.

Store cupboard goodies are luxury mincemeat (if you don’t make your own) or make a basic mincemeat into luxury by adding extra chopped nuts, orange zest and brandy. A jar of goose fat is also a must for those luxury roasties.

Roast Gammon

A cooked gammon joint goes a long way. For me it has to be slowly boiled in cider and finished with a glaze using two tbsp Demerara sugar with ½ tsp mustard powder, studded with about half a dozen cloves.

roast gammon

roast gammon with honey roasted veg

  • First soak the gammon in water overnight in the fridge. When cooking in a large saucepan it’s useful to sit it on a trivet using a small plate or tin, this stops the bottom from overcooking.
  • The next morning after soaking drain and place in the pan, pour the cider over to cover and slowly bring to the boil and simmer for about half an hour.
  • I then transfer to a low oven or cook over the stove top for a further two hours on low heat.
  • Remove from the pan and allow to cool slightly before slicing off the thick part of the rind. Save the cooking juices to use as stock for soup.
  • Score the fat in diamonds and place a clove in each diamond. Mix the mustard and sugar together and smear over the scored fat.
  • Stand on a baking tray and spoon a little of the cooking liquid over the lean meat area.
  • Finish by roasting in a hot oven for 15 to 20 minutes.


This a great dish to serve with a cooked gammon. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil and gently fry a small onion or a couple of shallots finely chopped with 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped. Drain a tin of butterbeans and mash with a potato masher or whiz in a blender. Stir into the onion pan and heat through, stirring in 4 tblsp crème fraiche and season with salt and fresh ground pepper. Add a little cooking liquid from the meat if the consistency is too thick.


I Always boil potatoes, carrots and parsnips before roasting. Ensure the steam has totally dried off when draining before roasting to avoid soggy veg. Squash, leeks and onions can go straight into the pan. For roast potatoes, after par boiling, make sure the edges are roughed up by giving them a good a shake in the colander. If honey roasting, melt equal quantities of oil, butter and honey in a pan and always make sure the roasting tray is hot before the veggies go in. Don’t forget to check after about 10 mins and turn to evenly brown the edges. Sprinkle malden salt flakes and fresh ground pepper to finish.

roast potatoes

roasted tomatoes

Stuffing and bread sauce mixes are so cheap to buy, but not a patch on home made. It’s worth taking the time to make your own, they will keep in the fridge for a few days or freeze well.

MAKE YOUR SOUP SPECIAL by adding cheese croutons.

bowl of soup

creamy soup with croutons

  • Mushroom or Leek soups are perfect with stilton croutons. Just make stilton cheese on toast and cut into small pieces to add to the top of your soup bowl.
  • If you have some tomatoes looking a little past it, roast them by drizzling with olive oil and placing a few garlic cloves, herbs and pepper over them, add a little balsamic if you have it, then blitz to a puree to use in soup or sauces. Cheddar croutons are great with a tomato soup.
  • Finely shred some spring onion or chilli and fry to top your soups or add a dash of cream or flavoured oil.
  • Grate any cheese over such as parmesan or cheddar.
  • Toast a few flaked almonds or crumble a few tortilla crisps over.
  • Butternut squash soup goes well with toasted sage leaves or crispy shallots and bacon bits or a dash of coconut milk if it’s a spicy soup.


  • Cut about three to four slices of bread into small cubes. Gently toast on the stove top, in the oven or dry fry in a pan and set to one side. I use sourdough or any crusty bread for better texture.
  • Meanwhile, finely chop 1 carrot, 1 stick of celery, 2 cloves of garlic and a small onion (I use my mini chopper it saves so much time) and gently fry in oil and butter. Add freshly ground black pepper, chopped sage and thyme if you have it or a mixture of dried herbs.
  • Keep moving round the pan to avoid catching. Then add half a pint of stock and stir well.
  • Turn off the heat and top with the dried bread cubes and finely chopped walnuts and a few sage leaves fried in a little butter. Cover the pan and leave for ten minutes.
  • Then remove the lid and fork through to mix well. Dot with a few pieces of butter to finish.
  • If not using straight away this will reheat or crisp up in the oven.

I make a larger than necessary pan full of this stuffing and use it as a crunchy topping over baked cauliflower cheese, casseroles or toss through cooked sprouts with bacon lardons.

homemade stuffing before cooking

homemade stuffing

CHRISTMAS RED CABBAGE Is the perfect partner to red and white meats or just with brown lentils as a casserole. Here’s my version. I don’t use all the cabbage, saving some for a winter salad with the addition of white cabbage, raisins, orange juice and sweet honey dressing.

  • Finely chop 1 to 2 red onions depending on size and fry in about 75g butter in a pan or casserole dish .
  • Add 1 red cabbage finely sliced, 1 finely chopped apple, 1 tbsp chopped dried fruit such as prunes or raisins, 3 tsp soft brown sugar, juice of 1 small orange, 3 tbsp red wine, 1/4 pint stock, 4 cloves, 1 star anise, 1 cinnamon stick, salt and pepper.
  • Thoroughly mix all the ingredients to coat the cabbage well, cover and simmer for about an hour until the cabbage is tender and cooked. Can be cooked on the stove top or in the oven and will keep well for five days or freeze.

red cabbage

red cabbage after cooking

With fried sliced potato, leek and shallot. Stir in a little mint sauce to serve.

This is an alternative way to cook your sprouts and particularly good with cold leftover meats. Slice them in half lengthways from the top, make sure they are dry if you have washed them otherwise they won’t go crispy. Roast in the oven tossed in oil. Meanwhile, gently fry two garlic cloves with finely chopped onion or shallot, add a squeeze of lemon juice and a generous drizzle of honey or maple syrup. Once the sprouts are cooked and crispy on the edges combine with the other ingredients and sprinkle over some chilli flakes, chopped spring onion and toasted nuts such as almonds or cashews.


For sweet pastry use 150g plain flour with 75g unsalted butter rubbed in until like breadcrumbs, add 50g sieved icing sugar, 1 egg yolk and zest from ½ orange. Bring together with 1 tbsp cold water and shape into a ball, flatten into a disc and chill for half an hour. Roll out and line the tart tins with discs of pasty, prick with a fork and add the mincemeat filling. I add brandy, orange zest from the other half of the orange and a few extra chopped nuts such as walnuts. Place the pastry lids on and brush the edges using egg to seal, pierce a little hole in the tops to let out the steam. Cook at 180 fan or gas 6 for about 10 to 15 mins. Dust with sieved icing sugar when cool and enjoy with a glass of sherry!

Merry Christmas to everyone and a Happy and safe boating New Year!

boat horses

tales of the old cut

boat horses

As some people know, I am the owner of 2 ponies. One is a micro heavy horse, the other is an animated sock puppet, and they are currently causing me untold sleepless nights because one of them is very poorly.

I’m very fortunate that we have a good vet and modern medicines, and in the long, dark hours of the night sitting up with the patient, I’ve been thinking how it might of gone if we were back in the “golden age” of the canals.

Remembering of course that a newspaper wont publish a story unless it has a little bite to it, a very quick search of the newspapers using the keyword ‘boathorse’ brings up a plethora of court cases that show the darker side of horse boating, with headlines full of “brutal boatman” causing untold cruelty to animals, but pushing past the genuine cruelty you start to see some of the real veterinary story.

CRT boat horse harness

Horses are naturally rear-wheel drive, that is to say that their propulsion comes mostly from their back legs pushing them forward. Boating is collar work: a broad leather collar his goes around his neck and rests on his shoulders, from the collar two traces run down his side to the straight bar - the swingletree - that is coupled to the towline. To start off, he will lean his weight into the collar until the load comes on the traces, and then he’ll use the strength in his back legs to push himself forward into the collar to keep going.

With this in mind, it will be of no surprise to learn that one of the two most common problems a boathorse could suffer from was issues with his shoulders. An ill-fitting collar could rub the skin raw and quickly become an open sore through continued work, and the wrong size of collar could also put pressure against the shoulder joints and injure them.

treatmments for lameness in shoulders in horses

When the horse was company owned, the boatman would simply swap the animal at the first chance he could. The treatment for those horses would generally be rest and having their collar changed. Where the horse was the only one a boatman had access to, it became more difficult.

That’s not to say a boatman would ignore the problem until the horse fell down, but he couldn’t lay the boats up as long as there was motive power. First of all he’d look at the collar. Sometimes he could ease the problem by pulling the stuffing out of the collar where the injury was, removing the pressure while the horse was working. If it wasn’t an open wound and he was feeling flush, he might just buy a bottle of rubbing lotion to take the pain way; the active ingredient in these was usually opium so it may well have worked.

Foot issues were the other common problem. Aside from the obvious problems of treading on stones or cinders, a horse’s hoof grows continuously and if it’s allowed to grow too long or is trimmed badly, it can force the horse to walk in an unnatural fashion, making him lame. By the same token, a horse who was shod (not all of them were, some boatmen swore that keeping their horses ‘barefoot’ was much better for the horse) could find the shoe come loose, come off completely or even just have it badly fitted, all of which would leave a horse limping on one or more feet.

These problems were the realm of the farrier. These men should not be confused with blacksmiths; a blacksmith is a smith who works with iron – for example gates or tools - but he may never work with horses, while the farrier is the equivalent of an equine podiatrist, and will know enough blacksmithing to make and fit horseshoes.

Farriers were often considered as good, or better, then vets and farriery books were often full of veterinary advice. By the same token, a vet would be given full tuition in basic farriery (and still is.)

modern Farriery manual

In the 1930’s farriers became a little thin on the ground. A huge amount of the apprentices had been killed in the war, and the rise of the motor car made farriery seem an unstable career option. Getting a farrier full stop started to become difficult, let alone getting a good one, and reports increased of badly shod boathorses being worked while lame. A judge in London reduced the fine of a boatman found working a lame horse because the boatman had been seen to make a marked effort to find a decent farrier and was still working the horse out of necessity rather than active cruelty.

Canal stables, with their vast turnover of occupants from all over the country, could be rife with contagious illnesses, some of which were zoonotic and could spread to the humans as well. Ringworm is an unpleasant example, often known as rain scald, and its treatment was variously sulphur, iodine, turpentine or sometimes a mix of all three.

All working horses were at risk of stomach problems, from eating too fast or not getting enough to balance against their work, and boathorses also had a higher risk of eating things they shouldn’t. A mouthful snatched from the hedgerows of the towpaths and or grazing at the lockside as the boats came through; it was all too easy for a hungry, or greedy, horse to grab a mouthful of a toxic plant.

Colic was the general result. Colic is something of a catch-all description that basically means the horse has stomach ache, and caused by everything from drinking cold water to constipation, as well as being a bonus problem for serious complaints like liver disease. Every horse-keeper would have had his own recipe for a cure. One man’s immediate go-to was a salt-water enema for one end and a dose of liquid paraffin down the other, while another’s was a draught made of 3 parts whiskey, one part laudanum. Both men remarked that these were the same treatments they gave to their children, although the former noted that his wife wouldn’t suffer the same ministrations!

the present of time

the present of time

“what can I give him, poor as I am. If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb. If I were a wiseman, I would play my part, Yet what I can I give him, I give my heart”.

One reason for buying our narrowboat was to slow down time. Leave the mad rush of living in the South East and enjoy the tranquillity of the canals. We had a plan of where to go and what we would do, all at a slow pace you understand, but I did not expect it to be quite so protracted. Covid, family concerns and then finally the weather all hampered our progress and in the process I learnt that on a narrowboat you cannot do the dictating!

Our plan to get nb Naomhog to the River Wey for the winter, instead of taking a week took a month. I am not complaining – we moored for ten days outside the Anchor pub at Pyrford and another ten days at Dapdune Wharf, both great places to stay. The relentless rainfall during the month of November saw the river flood and the lock gates padlocked. There were a few windows of opportunity to move but they didn’t coincide with other plans we already had in place. November took on a strange hue as daily we would look at the weather conditions on the Wey. We learnt adaptability and to live in the moment. To do otherwise would have led to frustration and irritability. It reminded me that whatever our circumstances we have a choice as to our attitude towards them. We learned to value our time, partly because we unexpectedly had so much of it and we didn't want to waste it! In truth, we took a chance leaving it so late to get on to the River Wey, but it had made economic sense to wait until the beginning of November. A week earlier, the sun was shining, the rainfall was minimal and the River Wey would have been a breeze to travel along.

My mum, a Scot, was always economic and brought me up to be frugal and to shop cannily. Our childhood diet was rich in fruit and veg, leading me towards vegetarian cooking. Wearing extra layers of clothing, using hot water bottles and woolly hats for warmth, rather than central heating, reminds me of growing up in a cold draughty vicarage where we got dressed under the bedclothes! We may not want to return to that but it has become all too easy over the years to be profligate with our utilities. (Boating has really taught me the value of water!)

The choice between heating and eating is sadly on the increase, with the prospect of unpaid bills leading to anxiety and fear, especially for those with families to support. The fast approaching Christmas festivities, with continuous TV advertising telling us what we need to buy to have the perfect Christmas, compounds this problem. How to afford all the gizmos and gadgets that are on offer, wrapped in festive paper, that will eventually end up in landfill sites. There is a subtle pressure that encourages us to spend money to be happy. I may sound bah humbug, which I don’t really want to do. Rather, I would like us to be able to celebrate the Christmas season without it costing the earth and eroding our mental health.

Instead of worrying about how to afford to buy material presents, why not give the present of time? Time is our most precious gift because none of us know how much of it we have. To give our time to others is therefore a great gift. Taking time to listen to a friend in need; chopping up wood for someone’s stove; offering to do boat or clothes repairs; sharing a meal; walking a dog; lending a book. So many ways to show love in a non materialistic way. We all have different gifts to give.

The original message of Christmas is all about love - by sending his only son into our broken world, God showed his immense love for us all. In the relatively short span of years that Jesus walked this earth, he gave freely of his time modelling to us a selfless way to live, putting the needs of others before ourselves.

Whatever belief system we may have, this message is as vital today as it was over 2000 years ago - to love one another, to be kind, to bring hope into lives that may be hopeless and to share what we have with one another.

A present of time need not be too costly and you never know how much lasting joy it may give.

iwa waterways for today 3

iwa waterways for today

benefits to local communities

IWA’s Waterways for Today report highlights the benefits of the waterways to the LOCAL COMMUNITY

Having looked at both the economic and environmental benefits of the waterways, we are now looking at the benefits for the LOCAL COMMUNITY as outlined in the IWA’s recently launched report – Waterways for Today, which highlights 12 Major Benefits of Britain’s Inland Waterways network.

The benefits for the local communities are wide ranging. They create active travel corridors that connect communities and provide free, inclusive and level routes for walking, jogging, cycling and more.

Connecting Communities

Due to their industrial past, the waterways often run through towns and cities, providing traffic-free passage for residents to get out into the countryside and vice-versa. Those in more rural areas can use the towpaths for easy access into towns and villages. Within cities, the waterways should be considered as sustainable transport networks, contributing towards zero carbon, economic recovery and changing behaviour patterns.

Benefits of Inland Waterways to communities

The regeneration of inland waterways can spur local communities into taking ownership of “their” river or canal, seeing it as a community asset that needs to be protected and improved. It provides a sense of place and civic pride. This is particularly true since the Covid pandemic, where many people discovered their local waterways for the first time and began to realise what a positive environment it can be.

Education and Inspiration for Young People

The inland waterways offer real hands-on education opportunities particularly in science, technology and maths subjects but also humanities and the arts. Outdoor classrooms and visits to local waterways provide a unique opportunity for school-aged children to see the built and natural heritage of their waterway – at near zero cost to the education budget. The waterways can bring history to life for young people.

learning in outdoor classroom

Creating Jobs, Training and Apprenticeships

It's not just school-aged children that benefit from visiting the inland waterways, the learning can be inter-generational and they can provide opportunities for employment, training and apprenticeships. These include jobs in tourism and leisure or the hospitality sector. Restoration projects also offer training and work experience opportunities. Often run by volunteers, restoration sites must comply with all construction, environmental, heritage, health and safety legislation and processes. They have proved valuable for people looking to retrain before seeking employment in the construction industry, civil engineering and other fields including boat design.

benefits of waterways to local communities - apprenticeships

Some statistics in the report include:

  • Of the 76 places now designated as cities in England, Scotland and Wales, 41 are on a navigable waterway. Restoring up to 500 more miles would add another seven cities, connecting them to their neighbouring communities
  • Improving towpaths attracts high numbers of visitors to an area. Canalside paths in Birmingham saw a 128% increase in use by cyclists between 2012 and 2016
    Research by the Blagrave Trust found that almost all outdoor learning interventions have a positive effect
  • Understanding and appreciating what has gone before is essential for creating a more sustainable planet
  • A study carried out 10 years after the Millennium-funded restoration of the Huddersfield Narrow and Rochdale canals found that around 500 jobs had been created

To read the full IWA Waterways for Today report or to read the case studies related to the Environmental benefits of the waterways please visit our WEBSITE

Join us next time to look at the benefits that the waterways provide for IMPROVING PEOPLE’S LIVES.