The Moorhens of…er…Frume.

I don’t know where this photograph was taken. I don’t know why it was taken. I’m not even sure who took it, but I’m assuming it was Carol going through an experimental phase. If anybody recognises it and can add any information, then please get in touch with the Owd Lanky Cut Tourist Board.

Somewhere with a telegraph pole.

Whatever the case, it’s a damned sight more attractive than the motorway bridge was, which was where we ended up next.

Banksy must be trembling at the competition.

Yes, I know it’s blurred, but that’s for the best. Every canal has at least one ugly blight somewhere along it. Fortunately th’ Owd Lanky Cut’s is short lived.

Shortly after the concrete intrusion from the real world, the route into Salwick (when you’re heading south, at any rate) becomes a cathedral of trees and cuttings – a complete reversal of landscape from the above-mentioned bridge.

The oddly named Hand and Dagger pub.

Right in the middle of it (I don’t know what the area’s called – cartographers clearly don’t want to publicise it) you can find the Hand and Dagger, an extremely tempting watering hole.

Unfortunately there’s nowhere to berth. The canal for at least a mile in either direction is less than three inches deep by the towpath, and full of rocks. (I’m not sure what the CRT have spent my annual licence on, but clearly it wasn’t dredging.)

We got stuck several times with a large amount of mud-churning and swearing, before finally giving up and heading on to the much safer reaches of Salwick’s Nuclear Fuel Rod Processing Plant.

There’s a sign at Salwick – a large, ugly, warning sign – that reads: “If you hear the siren close all doors and windows and remain on your boat. Tune into the local radio station and await further instructions.”

Don’t Panic!

If it was being more honest it’d read: “Stick your head between your legs and kiss your arse goodnight.”

We berthed up outside the ‘Works’ and spent the night remembering that good old favourite of ours ‘When the Wind Blows’.

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The Herons of Gloom

Bisborrow – the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Mouse Boat, its continuing mission to explore the South Lanky Cut, to meet strange new weirdos, and to go boldly (without splitting infinitives) where only a few hundred thousand have gone before.

Carol attempting to get as far away from me as possible.

Sunday – more rain! And more herons, beckoning us ever onwards into the gloom. Despite the appearance of the storm clouds having overdosed on Viagra, we struggled on across the Brock Aqueduct, the Brock itself little more than a trickle far below. There’s been a lot of rain recently, but it seems to be evaporating before it hits the canal.

We spluttered on through a place called Swillbrook (an ominous name if ever there was one) where we encountered a movable reed bed in the middle of the cut, reminiscent of Swift’s Laputa.

Takeshi’s Floating Garden.

In places the banks were so choked with reeds that the cut itself was reduced to roughly six feet in width. It was all a bit hairy.

At Moon’s Bridge there’s a swing bridge (presumably the one in its name), which never closes these days because there’s nowhere left for it to go. Moon’s Bridge (despite appearances on Google Earth) is actually a charming spot, with a lovely old farmhouse, the aforementioned/after-photographed bridge, and a pudding bowl masquerading as a marina.

Our swinging days are over.

It’s also one of the few places on th’ owd Lanky Cut where there’s a quayside diesel pump, although, to be honest, this one looked as though it was out of commission. It had a certain Noddyesque charm about it.

The Diesel Pump. (It looks better in reality.)

And even though, chronologically speaking, we haven’t reached Monday dinnertime yet, I’m going to stop writing for now. Besides, I’ve just realised that we explored Moon’s Bridge before we went through Swillbrook and that I need several more coffees before continuing.

The Ducklings of Doom…

Me and Carol have been on an exciting adventure, all the way to Salwick, or somewhere, on the Mouse Boat, and back again, in less than four days. (There were an excessive amount of commas in that sentence, but what am I supposed to do about it? I’m worn out from all the travelling and can’t think straight.)

Carol takes a photograph!

This particular post, I’ve decided, will just deal with the first day bit of our epic journey. I need to go to bed at some point, because I’m knackered.

Anyhow, we embarked from the Garstang Turnpike on Saturday morning, heading south past Greenhalgh Castle, with a trade wind behind us and a heron in front. Several herons in fact. Possibly even a plethora of herons. It’s been a heron-filled sort of week.

At Barton Grange the canal ran out of water and we found ourselves grounded, because Carol had been steering and watching a fresh batch of ducklings that resembled gonks at the same time. So we got stuck for ages. People had been warning me all week that the cut was low at Barton Grange, but like a fool I’d forgotten about their warnings. It took us ages to work ourselves loose again, by which time we had a sizable audience. Barton Grange is like that. It’s so dull that customers are more than content to watch somebody slowly rocking their hull off the canal bed for several hours.

Barton Grange – Boats, Ducklings and Monstrous Chickens!

Once free, from here on in the going was steady to medium, and by teatime we’d reached the always noisy Bilsborrow.

A Heron at Bilsborrow Contemplating Having a Swing.

For want of something better to do, we took a look at the church on the hill (well, somebody had to), then we went to the chippy for steak pud, chips and gravy (which were surprisingly good, even if I did have to sell a kidney to afford them).

As mentioned, Bilsborrow’s a noisy place – lots of screaming kids and people emptying Thetfords and stuff – so we upped mooring pins and pushed on, unfortunately just as the heavens opened. And there was nowhere to berth, because nobody seems to care about the canal south of Bilsborrow and everywhere was choked with reeds and broken banks. In places the canal itself narrowed to just over six feet in width because of the reed growth on either side.

A bad sign!

And it rained. And we couldn’t berth. And it rained some more. And we still couldn’t berth. And it started going dark. And the rain turned horizontal. And we still couldn’t berth. And we were surrounded by pylons. And there were loads of herons about.

Eventually we rammed through a six foot thicket of triffids into the bank, no longing caring about our safety or mooring regulations, and tied the boat up to a cow. Then we spent the rest of the night dripping in silence, unable to tune in the telly.

Thetfords and Selfies

It struck me that, other than long distance shots taken by Michelle from bridges and such, I haven’t actually got any photographs of me on the boat. Or rather in the boat. (A lot of people would probably consider this a good thing. The boat’s a damned sight better looking than I am.)

So today I took a selfie. It would have worked better if I’d had a selfie stick, because my arm’s not really long enough to avoid filling the frame with my head and very little background (which is also blurred). However, my camera’s a Canon SLR, and rather bulky and heavy, so a selfie stick would probably snap anyhow.

This was the best I could do. (Eat your heart out ladies.)

Canon lenses are almost impossible to crack, it would appear.

 

I’m not making excuses here, but it wouldn’t have looked so bad if I hadn’t just emptied both Thetfords and chucked out five bags of rubbish in searing temperatures thus being all sweaty and knackered and with my hair in a horrible mess plastered to my forehead.

Right, onwards. We’ve moved again. We’re now at Dimples Lane, or Lancaster Road, or Garstang Road, or whatever it’s called. We’re at the arse end of Garstang, whatever the case.

This place looks familiar.

 

And, as well as having a sweet smelling bog and empty bins, we’ve also got a new William Morris matching duvet and pillows. (Don’t ask.)

I need some artwork on the bedroom wall to match the duvet, now.

More fun and excitement next week, folks, when we ramp up the gears and retune the television.

New Skull and Old Faces

Last week I mentioned that I was at Skull Bridge, so called because there’s an ancient carving on the keystone (or rather two ancient carvings, one on either side of the bridge). Well, up until yesterday I was still there, watching kingfishers and weasels (you don’t see many weasels about, really…in fact this was only the second time I can remember ever seeing one…ever), when I noticed that there was another ‘skull’ carved into north face of the bridge. It looked like this:

Sue Pollard in Concert

 

The odd thing is, you just don’t see it until you see it, but once you do see it you can’t understand why you couldn’t see it before. This one appears to have carved sunbeams or something emanating from it. And teeth. It’s all a bit weird.

Anyhow, I’ve moved from Skull Bridge now. A selection of nephews and nieces and great nephews and great nieces and sisters and brother-in-laws and stuff turned up to see me, so we all went for a trip through the middle of Garstang and back up to Nateby.

The Mouse Boat Under Siege

 

I think they enjoyed themselves. At least I hope they did. They might just have been being polite. It got me out and about regardless.

So now I’m back at Nateby, with my stern five feet from the bank because there’s still no water in the cut. According to the BBC Weather that’s all about to change. Storms, hailstones and fifty mile an hour winds are forecast for Sunday. So I’ll probably end up with a sunken boat.

Generic Shot of Nateby to fill in Space

 

Skull Bridge and Dead Ducks

Somewhere, nowhere.

 

This is the latest instalment of the on-going log of the Wendy Elizabeth (a.k.a the Mouse Boat), recorded for CaRT purposes (because I don’t want them accusing me of breaking their overly-stringent rules).

Date:  Wednesday the eighteenth of July, 2018.

Weather: Stupidly hot but, at the same time, miserably grey. Typical British summertime, really.

Location: Somewhere on the lesser travelled, currently reed-choked reaches of th’ Owd Lanky Cut.

Skull Bridge – it’s a little bit spooky.

 

We’ve moved to the skull bridge (so called because it’s got this weird, ancient carving on the keystone that, to unsuspecting narrowboaters passing beneath it, kind of freaks them out). I had intended to moor at the Kenlis Arms, because it’s always useful being berthed near a pub, but Mark Hez had got there before me and nicked the best spot.

Don’t tell me th’ Owd Lanky Cut isn’t full of exciting things to do!

 

I saw two dead ducks and one dead jackdaw near Dimples Lane. I was told by a passing lepidopterist that there’s some fatal duck disease going around. (I know that lepidopterists and experts in duck diseases aren’t generally related, but in this instance they were.) On a lighter note I saw plenty of fat, undead ducks as well (by which I mean ducks that weren’t dead, not zombie ducks) along with a kingfisher, a heron that, every time I tried to photograph it, scrambled behind a bush, and a lot of rabbits.

I’ve been adding some leftover prints to my kitchen-cum-dinette.

 

The water in the cut is still very low. So low, in fact, that most of the fish are now wearing oxygen tanks. At the Calder Aqueduct (blink and you’ll miss it) I managed to wedge the stern on the bottom of the canal, a good five feet from the bank; too far to jump, too distant to use the bargepole. It was all a bit hairy for a while. I managed to get off again in the end. Can’t remember how. I just did.

The Calder Aqueduct – it isn’t very impressive.

 

This isn’t the most picturesque stretch of the Owd Lanky by any chalk. Trains thunder past all night, every night. Not romantic, steam-powered trains with Lord Belborough manning the boiler. These are noisy, unpleasant, haunted sounding Richard Branson trains that make the ground tremble and make the squirrels fall out of the trees.

Goodnight Campers!

 

 

 

Up the Creek…

So there I was listening to Enya (as you do), moored up at Nateby, with a five gallon mug frothing at the brim with cream soda, in the sort of sunshine that makes inexperienced gnats explode and sheep cover themselves in mint sauce, for a couple of weeks, not thinking much about anything really, such as slackening the ropes or watching the water levels drop.

And without noticing the sun replaced his hat with a knotted handkerchief and the water bubbled and steamed and the levels gradually sank. And, eventually, I thought, “By gum, I must have moored this boat well for once, because it isn’t rocking at all.”

Greenhalgh Castle this morning.

Yesterday morning I came to shove off (because we’re continuous cruisers and that’s the sort of thing you’re supposed to do once every fortnight) and discovered that I, or rather the boat, was well and truly grounded, its fat, barnacled bottom sunken firmly in the silt beneath approximately sixteen-and-a-half tons of weight.

I churned up mud in full reverse. I spat out reeds and deep sea creatures on full throttle. But I couldn’t budge her an inch.

Until two kindly, holiday-making gentlemen from a hire boat turned up to give me a hand. It still took an hour-and-a-half before I’d finally gained enough distance from the bank to stagger forwards, but I managed it. So cheers to those gents (one of whom was Australian – neither of whom, unfortunately, I got to know by name) for getting me out of a desperate scrape there.

I wonder if they managed to get their own hire boat off the bank again after I’d gone.

Moored in Garstang for my dinner.

I slithered and slimed through the mud to Garstang, where I moored up several feet from the towpath to be on the safe side. That’s where I had dinner (pot noodle and buttered barms). Then off again, though gasping fish and deep-fried ducks, reversing perfectly into Moss Lane Thetford Station for an unscheduled tank-up and sluice-out, before navigating the shallows of the Wyre Aqueduct and reaching the Garstang Turnpike, where I finally gave up the ghost and collapsed beneath a tree, listening to the metalwork sizzle and ping and a bit more Enya.

Somewhere near the Garstang Turnpike.

I was planning to work my way down to the Ashton Basin this week, day by day, bit by bit, but I was informed by a passing cabin cruiser that the canal near Barton Grange was less than two foot deep. Weeds in the top up reservoir, you see, preventing the water reserves from getting through. They’ve closed the Glasson branch, you know. Too much water loss due to the locks.

Water pipes crossing the cut…don’t ask me.

Given that the Mouse Boat’s draught (below the waterline) is roughly two-and-a-half to three feet, I decided to stay put until summer’s over…which (based on history) will probably be in a few days’ time.