water conversation

the boating bard

water conversation

I wash my dishes in a thimble full
And reuse most of my crockery
I wipe plates clean with kitchen roll
But I sanitize my cutlery

I invert my clothes to get more wear
Until they start to stink
I consider the use of the washing machine
Or a hand wash in the sink

I know of boaters who multitask
Do their laundry whilst they shower
Swish their smalls round with their feet
Saving water and pump power

 

water conversation

I can wet wipe wash for many days
But I won't tell you how many
I dry shampoo instead of wet
Don't flush when spending a penny

My teeth are cleaned in record time
I don't rinse off all the paste
Leave in conditioner's revolutionary
Saving also on water waste

I cook veg in the smallest amount
I braise and don't sous vide
I scramble eggs, don't boil or poach
And I've never bain-marie'd

I don't recycle the hot bottle water
when making myself a brew
That's just taking it a step too far
And will probably make me...
poorly

rare plant research on Montgomery Canal

rare plant research begins on the Montgomery Canal

A comprehensive research study by Glandŵr Cymru, the Canal & River Trust in Wales, and the Rare British Plants Nursery, examining two species of rare plants in the Montgomery Canal, is underway.

The research is focused on two types of pondweed, the long-stalked potamogeton praelongus and flat-stalked potamogeton friesii, which are a part of the Potamogetonaceae family – a group of aquatic plants comprised of over a hundred species worldwide. These plants improve water quality, provide shelter for aquatic organisms, and act as a primary food source for waterfowl and fish. The research will look at developing different ways to naturally cultivate the plants, benefiting species recovery initiatives that will have an impact nationally.

Potamogeton Praelongus in Montgomery Canal

Montgomery Canal

These plants are still rare and understudied. The research will help to understand the plants’ life cycles, reproductive mechanisms, and the ecological requirements to enable scientists to develop effective conservation strategies for them.

The Montgomery Canal offers an ideal human-built habitat for the species. The canal’s slow-moving waters are rich in nutrients and receive a lot of sunlight, creating conditions that closely mimic their natural habitats such as the slow backwater areas of rivers.

Glandŵr Cymru is currently restoring a 4.4-mile section of the canal between Llanymynech and Arddleen thanks to a successful Levelling Up Fund bid in partnership with Powys County Council, supported by the Montgomery Canal Partnership. One of the aims of the project is to protect the ecosystem and create conditions that will allow the plants to flourish once again.

Potamogeton Praelongus in tub

Montgomery Canal

Kathryn Woodroffe, project manager at Glandŵr Cymru, said: “The Montgomery Canal is one of the most important canals in the country for nature. The pondweeds in the canal stand out as remarkable specimens for their rarity and their elusive reputation that has allowed them to persist and maintain ecological significance despite the size of their small populations. Their rarity highlights the need for this dedicated research. By studying these plants, we can discover valuable insights into the delicate balance of aquatic ecosystems and pave the way for effective conservation measures.

“The canals are a precious resource and this is just one example of the vital role they play in the natural world – in this case with research outcomes that could stretch across the UK. We are committed to protecting these special places and welcome the support of all those who value their local canal.”

Andrew Shaw, Director of The Rare British Plants Nursery, said: “We are delighted to be working on this important project. These rare pondweeds are now growing well at our plant nursery and we are already learning a lot about their ecological requirements. Our studies will enable the canal restoration works to secure the long-term future of these rare aquatic plants.”

ldk print lisa grainger

featured roving canal trader

Lisa Grainger - LDK Print

what's in a name?

My name is Lisa, and my husband is Dave. We have two daughters - Kim and Caitlin Jayne. Coming up with a business name was easy - we chose the first initials of each of our names. Thus L (Lisa) D (Dave) and K (Kim). That was in 1995. When we had our boat built in 2004, we were trying to come up with a name which incorporated both our children's names. But Kim said we should name the boat Caitlin Jayne after her younger sister as her own name was already in our established  business name.  So that is what happened.

After many years of having a land-based shop, we began to contemplate trading from our 69ft narrowboat, Caitlin Jayne, and at the end of 2017 we put the plans in to action, changed the boat license to a business license, got the appropriate insurance and joined the RCTA.

Our first floating market was Great Haywood, which we thoroughly enjoyed, but it was definitely an eye opener, to say the least. We soon realised we needed some sort of canopy to protect us and our products against the rain. So, when we got back home, we got our heads together to see what the best way would be to have something secure, yet easy to take down and not permanent or anything that might deface the boat.

Being ex market traders, we still had the market stall bars and the canopy which we could use and we had a few more bars made up that fitted on the rail of the boat. So, with what we already had in storage and few additional bars, we had our canopy.

LDK print and embroidery

Lisa Grainger with embroidery machines

For the first couple of floating markets, we printed mugs, mouse mats, keyrings, clocks, coasters, placemats, cushions, T shirts and hoodies, but by the end of the 2018 season, we had expanded our products to include embroidered T shirts, hoodies, and polo shirts.

We have been doing embroidery since 2003 and were looking for a 2nd 15 needle embroidery machine that would match what I already had. The problem was, getting one that would fit on our boat,  as the one I already had was too big to fit through the doors of our boat.

I had approached Barudan but they only had a 9 needle machine that would fit through our doors, but we really needed a match to what we already owned.

Luck was on our side for once, because Barudan came back a few days later to say they would build us a 15-needle embroidery machine on their 9-needle frame and we would be the first people in the UK to have this machine.

When we do floating markets now we still print the above, but with the additional embroidery to T shirts, hoodies and teddies or, if customers bring their own items, we can print or embroider their clothing.

Other products include engraved products, 3D models, door plaques, bags, and a whole new range of things.

We have the best of both worlds because when we are not trading from our boat, we are back at base and producing other products that we cannot produce on our boat, like our full colour banners, and 3D printed products.

sitting dragon

chimney sweep embroidered hoodie

embroidered birth keepsake elephant

Basically, our services include:

  • Embroidery or printing to workwear, casual clothing, hospitality, catering, sportwear, hats, towels etc.
  • Digital and vinyl printed signs, banners, decals, vinyl graphics for vehicles, boats, etc.
  • Personalised gifts include, embroidered teddies, printed mugs, mouse mats, keyrings, cushions, place mats and coasters, clocks etc.
  • 3D printed models for children to role play, ornaments, or home decoration.
  • Laser engraving to acrylic led plaques, slate coasters and place mats, wood etc.
  • Road legal number plates – we are a registered number plate supplier.

LDK Print logo

LDK Print & Embroidery Ltd is a family run business. Established in 1995, we have, over the past few years expanded and flourished, now with a satisfied customer base from all over the country, that keeps returning year after year. We know our new customers will be more than satisfied with our services. 

07482 832082
info@ldkprint-embroidery.com
https://www.ldkprint-embroidery.com/
https://www.facebook.com/ldkprint

bedding wars

the boating bard

bedding wars

It's come around again
The time to change the bedding
We put it off for as long as we can
It's a job that we've been dreading

We all like a crisp clean bed
But now we've a crispier kind
With linen beyond its best before
In our dirt we are entwined

Our bed butts up to the window
It's fixed against the wall
It makes it difficult to change
And this is why we stall

 

bed in narrowboat

We're avoiding the acrobatics
of replacing the fitted sheet
They must shrink with every wash
because the corners barely reach

It's a military operation
As we go in for the kill
One lays on the bed like a starfish
The other tucking with a will

The activity is quite exhausting
due to the little amount of space
what with oxygen levels falling
and a mattress in your face

Next comes the duvet and cover
It's a dangerous undertaking
Like squashing a jack in a box
When it keeps on self inflating

We use the outside in method
Hands in and invert it over
Popping the press studs frantically
Looking for bedding closure

And when the deed is done
And we are all done in
We've forgot the pillow cases
Sod that we can't be bothered!

living on an electric narrowboat

living on an electric narrowboat

the all electric 'mister blue sky'

We get asked a lot, “Is it really all electric?”

YES! We have a fully electric driven (by 2x 8kw Lynch motors) narrowboat built by Braidbar Boats in 2018.

On the technical side we have: 6x 5kw @ 48v lithium batteries. 1.5kw of solar panels with an 8kw inverter. All the electronics are Victron brand.

This gives us more than enough power for propulsion and to run all the domestics such as the 240v fridge freezer, washer/dryer etc.

electric motors

Kohler marine generator

Obviously we rely on the British weather so for winter months, say Nov till March, if we get little or no solar, we have a 7kw diesel generator which we use to charge the batteries. 2.5 hours of generator use recharges the batteries to full and this will give us approximately 2 weeks of domestic use and a couple of short cruises. We still cruise in the winter but, like most CCers, at a slower pace.

Since early April this year we have cruised from the River Weaver to Kinver and not used the generator at all, so all our power has been FREE! Our plan is to get to Stourport then head back up north to the Leeds Liverpool canal for winter cruising.

As far as the motors are concerned, in 4.5 years we have not needed to do any maintenance on them. If either becomes faulty or breaks down it is simply a case of removing by a couple of bolts and an electronic plug and sending by parcel courier. Each motor measures approximately 12”x8”. We can still cruise with one motor.

solar panels raised

solar panels lowered

Another question or statement really is “Isn’t it quiet!” Listening to the birds and our surroundings while cruising is great, a real bonus, but sometimes the anglers get a shock when they don’t hear us approaching!

We love our life on the waterways and we feel we are doing a little bit to help the environment by living off grid, and more so by having an electric boat.

the three rivers race 2023

the three rivers race 2023

The internationally famous Three Rivers Race, organised by Horning Sailing Club, takes place on the Norfolk Broads, usually during the first week-end of June.

Background
The Three Rivers Race is one of the oldest remaining on the Broads sailing calendar. Running every year since 1961, it is also one of the largest inland yachting races in Europe, encompassing three rivers and two lakes or broads in rural Norfolk. Originally, the plan was to have boats crossing the estuary at Breydon Water with the three rivers being the Bure, Yare and Waveney. However, from a safety and tide aspect this proved impractical, so the northern Broadland Rivers of the Bure, Thurne and Ant were used instead, and remain the Three Rivers of the Race to this day.

The current challenge sees helms negotiate a course in the order of 45-50 miles, depending on conditions, rounding four buoys located at Ludham Bridge on the Ant, on South Walsham Broad or Fleet Dyke, on Hickling Broad at the top end of the River Thurne and downstream on the River Bure somewhere between Stokesby and Six Mile House heading towards Great Yarmouth, starting and finishing at Horning Sailing Club on the upper Bure.

The time limit for this is 24 hours from each boat's start time. There are also 4 mast lowerings required on the course to negotiate the pair of bridges at Potter Heigham and also the bridge at Acle both ways.

Despite all of these obstacles and sometimes complex rigs, the fastest boats such as Norfolk Punts and visiting Thames A Raters can complete the race in as little as 7 hours given favourable conditions. For those boats which cannot get back in time for a swift pint in the Swan, a cooked breakfast is provided at the finish in the clubhouse to revive weary sailors.

All the boats are tracked at Horning Sailing Club for safety purposes. A team of 10 fixed motor cruiser guardships plus a range of other safety vessels keep an eye out for any problems and report back to base via radio. The efficiency of this system was underlined in 2001 when, for the only time so far in the race's history, strong winds caused abandonment of the race. Having issued the command from base at 6pm, all crews and the vast majority of boats were either at their home moorings or back at Horning Sailing Club by 11pm, despite being up to 15 miles away by river, thanks to the safety network.

Progress around the course is tracked using computer software which allows the Race Controller to see in an instant on which stretch of water each competitor was last reported by a guardship.

Three Rivers Race 2023

three rivers race 2023

three rivers race 2023

The start of the race is the time for spectators to view the fleet in one concentrated mass, waiting to be started in groups of around 10 boats upstream of the start line at Horning Sailing Club. The first start is usually at 11am and it takes over an hour to get the whole fleet started.

Once the fleet has reached Thurne Mouth, yachts can usually be seen heading off in both directions, and this decision is probably the most critical one of the whole race, dependent as it is on wind, tide and boat performance. The Three Rivers Race really is a test of seamanship over a long period and covering a wide variety of areas from close-quarters boat handling at the start to light airs sailing overnight and control at the bridge zones. Crews have travelled to Horning from all over the World to take part in a variety of craft, including the impressive Thames A Raters, Norfolk Punts, Half-Deckers, Yeomans, Yare and Bure ODs (White Boats), Reedlings, Rebels, Wayfarers, Enterprises and other dinghies, traditional Broads River Cruisers and Production Cruisers. No single-handed craft are allowed.

Leaving from Horning, competitors make their way through the street at Horning, before sailing on the more open waters of the Bure once out of the trees. Then it becomes a matter of tactics - ensuring that the tides and winds work in their favour, choosing which order to sail the remainder of the route, which includes Fleet Dyke to South Walsham Broad, the River Ant to Ludham Bridge, under Acle Bridge to Stokesby (or further, dependent on wind conditions on the day) and under Potter Heigham Bridge to Hickling Broad.

As part of this course, it requires the raising and lowering of masts to get under the bridges - always a great spectator sport, with popular viewing points including Potter Heigham and Acle, where the crowds can enjoy the excitement.

Today safety is at the forefront of the race organisers' minds, and the Three Rivers Committee, headed up by Kevin Saunders, has been planning the 2023 race since last year.

three rivers race 2023

three rivers race 2023

three rivers race 2023

2023 Race

Hosted by Horning Sailing Club, in the heart of the Norfolk Broads, the race is a true spectacle not to be missed, as the myriad of boats set sail - where small dinghies such as the Norfolk Dinghy and Wayfarer can be seen sailing against the visiting Thames A Raters, with their tall masts standing at over 40 foot high!

This year a total of 103 boats took part, starting from Horning Sailing Club from 11.00 am on Saturday 3rd June. They set sail in groups of around 10 boats at a time, starting with the Yeoman fleet. These were followed by the Wayfarer dinghies, then traditional Broads boats including Yares & Bures, Waveney One Designs and mixed dinghies. More traditional Broads boats including Reedlings, Rebels and Broads One Designs followed, then halfdeckers and production cruisers. The faster dinghies, including Norfolk Punts and the Thames A Raters, started after a short gap.

With a fair wind behind them they all made their way down the River Bure before making their individual decision as to which route to take in order to visit all the ten marks, each of which is watched over by a “guardship” with a rescue boat alongside able to respond to any emergency or search for any missing or long-overdue competitor.

Other marks which had to be rounded were those at Ludham Bridge on the River Ant, near Stokesby on the River Bure, the Stracey Arms Windpump and in Hickling Broad above Potter Heigham bridges.

Some 50 river cruisers and hire cruisers make up the remainder of the fleet, from the highly competitive to those who just want the achievement of finishing the race. This is one of the things that makes the Three Rivers Race so special - it means something different to each entrant. It's fantastic that after over 60 years the race is still going strong and attracting competitors from all over the country (and even some from abroad) to take part.
This year, the race included both previous winners and a number of sailors participating for the first time.

The MNA Boat Club Guardship “ELSA II” and her accompanying rescue dory were crewed by Club members Clive & Lois Edwards, RNLI Lifeboat crew members Malcolm & Jill Wright and Steven (Rocky) Woolford. They were stationed in South Walsham Broad at the end of the Fleet Dyke alongside the Marine Tech fuelling jetty who’s owners were very supportive and allowed us to use their facilities throughout the whole 24 hours. Thank you Rod and Nina!

The overall winner was a Yare & Bure One Design “Dinghy Skipper” which completed the course in 8 hours 24 minutes followed by a Yeoman “Firefly” and a Wayfarer “Compleat Fiasco”.

three rivers race

three rivers race 2023

three rivers race ©Holly Hancock

As regards our contribution of “ELSA ll” as a Guardship we had a fairly frantic 18 hour period even before the race started because, on our way south down the River Ant from our mooring at Barton Turf, we suddenly started to experience a weird “surging” of our engine which we thought might be a fuel filter. However, when checked, it was in fact perfectly clear. We were then led to believe it might be weed round our prop and/or rudder resulting in us spending £200 on a diver, only to find that there was no significant amount of weed affecting us!

So at 22.00 hours on 2nd June, less than 12 hours before we were due to lay our mark at South Walsham we had an engineer, Rob Fearson, from Sutton Staithe Boatyard who very kindly turned out and finally diagnosed the problem which was a wholly unexpected lack of oil in the gearbox – the cause being a leak in the gearbox cooler allowing all the oil to mix with the cooling water and them pumped out through the exhaust!

Re-filling the gearbox enabled us at least to get to our mark at South Walsham, on time the following morning, and to get most of the way home on the morning after the race had finished without further trouble – needless to say a new gearbox cooler is now being installed!

Very fortunately we had some much appreciated support from Richard and Rachel Card in their handsome motor cruise “Ness Nomad” who escorted us down the Bure and Fleet Dyke to lay our mark on the Saturday morning and then remained anchored in South Walsham Broad throughout the day in order to ferry Jill and Nikki back to Horning before we commenced our “night watch” Having “Ness Nomad” and Richard and Rachel’s sailing dinghy available on
stand-by to relieve us if we had any further trouble during the race was a huge relief in addition to which they were great company and help with recording the bunches of competitors rounding the mark so a huge “thank you” to them is due.

(Editor's note: The header photo is from the 2022 Three Rivers Race)

fire safety tips from rcr

fire safety tips

River Canal Rescue is calling upon boaters to be aware of the fire risks on their vessels after finding more and more cases of poor electrical wiring, including under-sized wiring, overloaded circuits, and sub-standard connections and cable routing, which can rapidly turn into a loom meltdown or a fire.

Managing director, Stephanie Horton, says with BSS certification failing many boaters, RCR is having to report regularly on boats that are dangerous or at risk.

She comments: “By undertaking the following checks and actions, you can hopefully, reduce the likelihood of a fire occurring:

“If you are leaving your vessel for a period of time, it’s important to isolate the batteries and disconnect your shore power if you have it. If leaving your shore power connected, in order to charge your batteries, check the connections to the battery are secure, isolate them and set the charger to ‘trickle’ charge.

“Inspect your shore power cable for any loose connections or wires and ensure the cable is routed properly so if water levels change or the wind picks up, it’s not too tight, or equally loose so that it dangles in the water.

burnt out boat

“Never leave fires on or stoves unattended when you leave the boat. If you have no choice, then remove items near the fire, clear the area of anything that could get ‘hot’ and keep your time away from the boat to a minimum. Last year one boater nipped to the shops and a hot coal escaped from his stove; the boat was gone before he returned.  It’s worth noting insurers can refuse to cover these incidents.

“One of the biggest issues is circuit overload and the failure of undersized cables, causing a short circuit which can quickly develop and cause a fire. Always investigate spurious ‘trips’ or loss of power to the boat as this could be an indication a fault is developing. It’s easy to ignore these and simply reset circuit breakers or replace fuses, but these protection devices rarely ‘trip’ without cause.

“Where possible, ensure 12V cables are routed separately to 240V systems. If cables are hot this is a clear indication of an overload or undersized cable – do not ignore it.”

Stephanie concludes: “If you are concerned over the certification you have received, you can report it directly to the BSS.”

john evans

feature author of the season - summer 23

john evans

John Evans has always been fascinated by industrial archaeology and messed up his GCEs by spending too much time watching the disappearance of steam locomotives at his native Northampton. Right from an early age he was equally fascinated by canals and took his very first colour photo at Stoke Bruerne on the Grand Union in 1965.

He spent much of his career working in the motor industry, latterly as General Manager of Corporate Communications for Mercedes-Benz UK. Throughout his career he has always written for magazines about aviation, railways and classic cars.

Since retiring, he has made most of his 2,000 colour slides taken in the 1960s and 1970s available on photo sharing sites, and from seeing these, Amberley Publishing asked him to write a book about steam railways.

The Great Central Railway - book by John Evans

railways in transition by John Evans

railways of the east midlands by John Evans

Northampton Buses by John Evans

He has now written ten books for Amberley on railways, buses - and latterly the Rochdale Canal. This is located only a mile from his home in West Yorkshire and he has walked and sailed it regularly.

A real bonus when writing the Rochdale Canal book was meeting Nigel Lord, who lives just a few hundred yards away, but was able to help with much of the story of the canal in its revival days. Nigel was a key part of the reconstruction team.

John has an MA in English, is a regular canal and river sailor (renting, admittedly) and is married with two equally boating-minded adult children.

The Rochdale Canal - a review

the rochdale canal book by John Evans


"Twenty years have passed since the Rochdale Canal reopened following a restoration scheme that faced almost impossible hurdles. One of three commercial waterways across the Pennines, the canal links the industrial North West and North East, flowing through mill towns, beneath dramatic bridges and traverses spectacular hilly scenery. Its 91 locks present a strenuous challenge for boaters, while it has become popular with walkers, cyclists, houseboat residents and casual sailors. The revival of the canal has helped to bring new life to the towns and villages along its route. This book takes a journey on boats and on foot along its 32-mile length, telling its story in colour through historians, canal users, lock keepers and all those who today utilise the canal in ways its originators never conceived."

I had heard of the Rochdale Canal, of course, but I didn't know much about it other than it rose out of Manchester. The Manchester section, I believed, was a place to get through as quickly as possible, as it was subject to vandalism and unsociable behaviour. Beyond this, all I knew was that the canal passed over the Pennines, so would have some beautiful sections; that there were an awful lot of locks; and that there was a great shortage of water. Not then a canal which would appear on my list of places to explore.

This little book by John Evans, however, has completely changed my mind. OK, there are still a tremendous number of locks, and the canal does occasionally run low on water, especially near the summit. But I have been caught up in John's enthusiasm and fondness for the canal, and I now firmly believe it is a canal well worth tackling - and before I get much older!

tuel lane lock, rochdale canal

Sutcliffe's Mill at Sowerby Bridge

boater moors at Luddendenfootn

The book is fascinating. When I first picked it up, I was grateful that there were only 34 pages of text, while the next 60 pages or so were photographs. But the text engrossed me straight away, and by the time I had read it, I immediately went on to read the captions for every stunning photograph.

Of necessity, the book goes into a great deal of history relating to the Rochdale Canal: it has opened, had its heyday, been closed and re-opened after an almost inconceivable amount of foresight, determination and effort. The book also includes a complete guide to the canal from end to end, enlivened by comments and stories from boaters, bar tenders, walkers and cyclists. And all the time the author's love for and interest in the canal surroundings - whether industrial or picturesque - has us wanting to see everything for ourselves.

Brearley Upper Lock

Stubbing Wharf, Rochdale Canal

the great wall of Tod, Todmorden

There are several moments through the book when I have been surprised, sometimes shocked, once horrified, and a couple of times when I have had to laugh out loud. What more can you ask from a book on a canal?

Clegg Hall Mill

the Rochdale Canal at Ancoats

Longlees Lock, Rochdale Canal

john evans

John Evans lives a mile away from the Rochdale Canal. He loves Britain's industrial heritage, and enjoys the urban sections of the canal as much as the more picturesque parts. His book is a must read for any boaters who are tempted to face the challenges of the Rochdale Canal - or for boaters who can be tempted.  John has published many books, prior to this one. They are mainly about the history of our railways, but would always be worth a read by those boaters who are fond of steam.

John's books are available to buy through Amberley Books or through Amazon

the voyage of friendship 14 – now

the voyage of friendship

part 14 - now

I survived cancer and my brush with serious illness helped me realise what’s really important to me. I went on to live very happily and healthily aboard a narrow boat as a continuous cruiser.

Reading the story now, I also realise how lucky I was to complete the Voyage of Friendship in the winter of 2014 / 2015, managing to avoid stoppages and floods, having good people helping me all the way and having loads of fun, too.

Sally,  June 2023

narrowboat therapy

 

the voyage of friendship 12 – girly nights and the home straight

the voyage of friendship

part 12 - girly nights and the home straight

Hello again family and friends.

Although pleased with my new found confidence, having been to the theatre alone, I was nevertheless anxious when awoken at 2am that night by a voice calling "Rosie and Jim, Rosie and Jim”; I sensed it could mean trouble. Young male voices shouted "wakey, wakey" as my boat windows were thumped. Bunty immediately woke up too and started barking and growling. I was very surprised, especially when the youngsters ran away.

For mothers day I was treated to a fabulous meal with Jenny, Struan, Edith and Thomas, followed by a nice walk along the canal with the children's bikes. Then, arriving late on Sunday evening was my next guest Tracey.

jolly women on back of therapy

woman on narrowboat nursing jack russell pup

In the morning, Tracey helped me take Therapy further on to fill up at the water point, which was just past a turning place. We cruised on hopefully upstream but didn’t find another place to turn before reaching a lock we couldn't go through. By now it was raining steadily and we had no choice but to reverse all the way back past the water point to the previous turning circle.

Poor Tracey's experience aboard was not the best, but she was great at keeping my spirits up. Back in the town centre, we were joined by another friend, Jess and all had supper together. As they left, Tracey spotted that Jersey Boys was the next show at the theatre across the road and she said it was a good one. Next day I bought 3 tickets for the first night to treat my friends Sheena and Shona to a surprise night out.

My Scottish pals, who live quite remotely, arrived next day and enjoyed the urban delights of Woking, including the musical. Then they helped me back through the locks out of the Basing and back onto the river Wey. The boat became a den of laughter and jollity as I caught up with the news from the highland glen where I used to live.

Nights were like a girly sleepover as we watched scary movies and played scrabble. I missed them when they left.

mooring on the Thames

Jack Russell pup on long rope

Ally is a friend with a very busy life as a GP and she visibly relaxed on board Therapy. We left the river Wey and cruised once again out into the river Thames with its electrically operated locks. Chantal joined us again as we cruised through Staines and Ewan was able to meet us for a day on Sunday before the mad, intense period of lambing takes over our lives at home. Lauren also met up with us in Maidenhead for an evening of scrabble.

Much of the Thames is lined with either people's gardens or private land protected by "No Mooring" signs, and more than once we've had to stop the boat at a posh garden for poor Bunty to do a wee. The houses we see from the river are huge and some very ostentatious, as my guidebook suggests, "some illustrate a greater awareness of the value of wealth than of good taste".

I said goodbye to Ally at Marlow then cruised on to look for somewhere to stay the night. All I could see were "no mooring" signs and "strictly no mooring" signs and "moored boats will be clamped" signs, (ok, I jest) but there was a copse of trees on the opposite bank and I crossed to check the sign; I was delighted to read "mooring £5 a night". I tied us up to the trees and jumped off to give the puppy a run. I'm quite tired after a busy week and happy to have a night to myself in this pretty spot.

I'm on the " home straight" now and looking forward to seeing the West Berkshire friends who are meeting me on these last few days.

Best wishes to all,
Sally
X x x