A Really Rubbish Cruise

‘pparently tis some sort of “Bank Holiday” weekend, some kind of Christian festival. These things, like days of the week, tend to blur when you’re on Canal Time.

The Cardinal and I scooted yestereve. Then only up to Syke’s Hollow winding hole and back again, to be facing the necessary direction for this morning. This morning we oofed as quietly as possible through Venetian Marina and up the lock to the rinky-dinkoid, highly-useful water point.

The sky was just waking up as we rang down for Full Steam Ahead.

Admiral Nelson turns to watch the sky wake up.

There had been a very mild frost in the neighbourhood overnight but it disappeared as soon as looked at. Ditto the smoke on the water.

Push the bow out, sashay casually along to the stern and hop on before it follows suit.

We woke a v.grumpy angler just before we reached the railway bridge, by setting off the “ooh you’ve caught a big one on each of your two untended rods while you were in your sleeping bag in your tent on the towpath” alarm. Beep… BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP. Is ‘v.grumpy angler’ tautology? Almost certainly. He did not respond to a cheery ‘Air-hair-lair’.

Venetian Marina is unusual, methinks, in that it is entirely open to the canal, towpath public, pontoons private, boundary somewhere inbetween and under water.

Private marina moorings to the left of me, public towpath moorings to the right, and you’re stuck in the middle with me.

That’s the lock, dead ahead. Cholmondeston Lock, 11′ 3″ change in canal level.

It was set agin me, so I had to empty it before I could open the gates and ask the Cardinal to shuffle in. The brickwork of the sides was “steaming” once drained.

When the canals were originally built boats were moved by horses and this is the view that the horse would have had as it manoeuvred the boat into the lock on tickover.

The ladders were on the very cold and very slimy side of warm and welcoming. My windlass in my holder, centreline in one hand, I held on to the ladder with all other hands, all feet, and both teeth. Climbing these things, while still as much fun as climbing a tree, is not the safest of activities. Get it wrong and you’re going to land in one of three places; on top of your boat, in the water, or half on your boat and half in the water, having nutted the tiller on your way down.

Lock half-refilled, the Cardinal is apt to scratch any itch on his stern on the lower gates. This is to be discouraged lest tiller or anything else at the stern become too attached to the lower gates and stop the stern rising with the water.

All rise. Court now in session.

For a brief spell the Cardinal behaves in angelic mode, settling nicely in the middle of the lock and looking as though butter wouldn’t melt in his bum cheeks.

Halfway up and in true Schrodinger style, also half-way down.

Then, when I am busy at the pointy end sneakily easing in another half a paddle and hoping that he won’t notice, he backs up like a raging bull…

Snort snort prepare for top-gate boop…

…ready to surge forward and head-butt the top gate. Every time, without fail, no matter how slowly I fill the lock or how diligently (or forcibly) I fiddle with the centre-line. Snort snort wallop. Fortunately, it’s not (usually) the Full Glaswegian, just a mild thumpy-bump snoot-bop (to use the full maritime technical term). It has become so much a part of the routine that it’s entering the level of “Tradition” now.


I can resist, I can curse and fight, but all that happens is that I wear out the soles of my boots as I slide along beside the lock. I’ve found a way to live with it, and that way is to expect it to happen. Other folks’ boats don’t do this; mostly other people’s boat just sit there and dribble gently as they wait. The Cardinal has more character than that.

The water point at the top of the lock just beyond the lock landing proved fantabulosa-ly vacant and full of the runny wet stuff. Tank now full, yee et le har &etc.

Water point above Cholmondeston Lock, Middlewich Branch, and a most useful tap it is too.

Sunshine broke through for a while, but I think that it was meant for Belgium or some such, and not for the shires of Albion. I enjoyed it anyway. Vitamin D R us.

Bridge-holes and countryside were then abounding.

Tis easier to get a needle through the eye of a camel, or something.
…and out of the other side, usually on the same canal, in the same dimension of space-time (but not always)

It was all really rather splendid.

Thence we came upon Moorings Alley, near the Barbridge Junction.

Moorings alley. Enough said. Yeah.

This too was rather splendid. No oncoming traffic, no irate Know-Betters hanging out of their side-hatches to berate passing boats (not at that hour, anyway). The red boat above I think to be what used oft to be termed “as cute as a button” – it’s got more mis-matched lines, odd angles, peculiarly shaped windows and batters, thumps and scrapes than you could shake at a small County Court Judge, so much so that it needs a hug.

We cruised then to Calveley Service area some miles hence – the nearest rubbish disposal facility, since C&RT have a campaign of removing such facilities wherever they think that they can get away wiv it (Barbridge being one such removal).

Two ugly, horrid, ill-tempered, let’s-sleep-in-our-own-sh*t and thrash feathers everywhere swans were in residence on the service wharf. We hissed, flapped and blew raspberries at one another.

Calveley Service, now with added swan. Ugh. Vile critters.

Then I departed. Mind you, I did get the rubbish sorted (bins around the corner of that brickwork, to the back of the buildings) before swans and I came to fisticuffs.

The forecast for the next few days is – ta-dah – surprise surprise surprise – for winds of the “oh fer cryin’ out loud” variety again, so I oiked us up the winding hole at Bunbury for a swift turn-around while a., there was no traffic and b., the turning around was good.

Here we are, half-way through the spin.

Three-point turn in a narrowboat. Sometimes four if there’s a breeze.

Another of C&RT’s little foibles is to not maintain winding holes any more than they* prioritise maintaining anything else of the infrastructure unless it falls off and bops them on their latté-froth covered noses. Reeds abound and seem encouraged, and when mentioned are justified as “wildlife habitats”.

*The corporate they, that is, as opposed to the distinctly more “real-world” grunt workers.

I kid you not when I say that ducks have far more legal rights than do boaters.

Yes, wildlife habitats, much like the mould on the bathroom wall of a WWII prefab might be described as a microbial-wildlife habitat by the Council. They really are the absolute limit.

Anyway. Around we went, with nae bother (although the fuel boat has somewhat more difficulty here).

We are moored now in close proximity to another favourite sight of mine; Barnaby. I love this boat, it is a survivor, has bags of character and is doubtless loved by its owner and loathed by the Watery Wellness Trust Ltd.

Barnaby. Even the name’s cute.

It is a beastie deserving of love, and somebody loves it enough to keep moving it about from mooring to mooring.

How long shall we be here, I wonder? The wind forecast is depressing, so some days at least.

There’s an internet tree growing in the field on the offside of the canal. I think it’s there for the benefit of His Majesty’s Railways rather than the canal. I can’t imagine that internet access was a priority for working boats when the canal system was constructed. A simple app on their mobile phones would have been all that was needed, to steer the horse and control its speed.

Will the Watery Wellness Trust Ltd tell me that I haven’t been here (here again, that is)? They didn’t “see” me, so it didn’t happen, or some such juvenile logic? There’s so much that the WWT Ltd don’t see; they must truly live in a universe with a paucity of detail and interest.

On current toga-clad from-the-balcony-of-Number-Ten proclamations we are all set free, as free as (coughing) birds from the 12th inst. I have a couple of possible plans in mind, nearer the time I shall weigh them agin further proclamations and possible stoppages, and pootle off on whichever one seems best (best to me, that is). It will be v.nice indeed to espy fresh horizons.

Still, that is a matter for our tomorrows, and one may barely plan, these days, for tomorrow.

We shall see.

Or not.

Anyway, twas a v.pleasant cruise, v.pleasant indeed. Also quite enough exercise for one day.

Let’s see what comes past in the way of traffic – and how it comes past – on this fine celebratory “Easter” “Bank Holiday” long-weekend. Call me an old Hector if you will, but I suspect that “pass moored boats on tick-over” will be but a distant memory for many.


Emptied, filled and re-located, chin-chin for the mo, folks.


Ian H., and Cardinal W., Rogue Elements Afloat.


  1. Have you considered the Peak Forest? I hear good things re scenery.

    Although, the sheer number of locks is a bit daunting to think about for a solo boater. Perhaps you could invite brother.


  2. An action stations post! Good to see. I made the observation only this weekend to Mr. P that a rather down-at-heel boat moored at the local marina looked like the maritime equivalent of a homeless man’s shopping trolley, but I was hasty as I’d not yet clocked Barnaby. I can just hear the swans choking from here!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My perception of swans has changed completely since I have been living, as t’were, in close(r) proximity to them. They look so serene and pixture-skew (sic) on park ponds, but the reality – as with most things, sadly, sighs… – is very different.

      The variety of boats on the canals is fantastic. Some are so shiny and desperately twee that they make my teeth ache on sight! My preference is for a middle ground solution – not showroom and waxed to death but some middle ground of neat but lived on. À chacun son goût as we pretentious types say. 😉


    1. Absolutely so; if only I would knuckle under and learn and adopt the required behaviours then I’d hardly notice my gaolers at all. Sadly I am the budgerigar that swears like a trooper and carefully sh*ts everywhere except on the newspapers provided. Happy to be so! If only there were more so. I was tutored in the Ways of Contumacy at my father’s knee. If there is one concept that I simply cannot wrap my floppy little blancmange-esque thinking-gland around (and there are many such), it is the concept of “authority”. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      1. If only you could clone yourself and soread out the contumacy among the general population. The spineless rush to comply with Boris and his minders’ virus hokey cokey performance is more than depressing. NHS being sold off, cronies being paid off, ‘green’ plans to render the average person immobile, do they notice? No…too busy adjusting their masks and feeling virtuous. Well, thanks to their view of virtue the rest of us have to do without cakes and ale…


  3. What up to the Isle of Skye in that old tub? Just be careful you don’t get it broadside acrossed the Suet Canal… all terribly Clootie pudding… with a dram a damn fine pud I may say!


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, The Skyle of Aye – I’d live there in a trice if t’weren’t for Knickerless Sturgeon (and the £million or so required to purchase a roof over my head). Been there on hodilay many times. One does wonder about that politico-maritime confabulation that was The Suez; Blocked.

      It rather did wonders for the prices of the products mafunactured in a certain large oriental country that I shan’t name but wit is called ‘China’. It was a deliciously well-timed yank on the West’s collar and lead, wasn’t it? A swift Party Order to the Captain along with the promise of wealth in the Next World, if not this… Cynical old Hector, naughty Hector!


  4. Good afternoon your eminence.
    As for Cholmondeston lock I fear your tongue was in the wrong position & you were standing on the wrong leg for her to allow you up peacefully.
    I think I’ve said this before but here i go again. When you moor up at a new location take a screenshot of your boat and good old satnav will put below said image of your boat time, date & exact location of your boat which WWT Ltd cannot dispute.
    Happy boating!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Anne, as you say, no-one should need to but with C&RT Corporate we’re in close proximity to Her Majesty’s The Devil Incarnate so I’ll take all of the ammo that I can get. My formal complaint drags on – and on and on and on and on. As with all indivivduals there’s only one lesson (among so very many needed) that I am able to actually teach C&RT Corporate; and that is that I won’t blink first, give up or walk away. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Howdydo sir. I do something on those lines with my cruising log – but – addled be my brain – you’ve just reminded me that the camera I use has a geo-location facility and wotnot. I turned it off years ago because the batteries lasted longer without, but Ii shall now bung it straight back on again. 🙂 What it is to have a memory. No, seriously, what is it to have a memory? What was I talking about? Who are you? Who am I? Where am I? 😉

      Liked by 2 people

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