THIS (WEEK) AT THE LOCKS.

Well hello peeps and first off all apologies for the lack of posts this year, I seem to have been very busy with one thing and another so lets see if I can make amends.

Last time I spoke to you was early June and we were experiencing some technical problems with one or two off the paddles at Hillmorton. This situation went on for quite a while and unfortunately it was towards the end of our season when all the issues were finally resolved. At one stage there appeared to be the entire CRT allocation of red and white tape wrapped around several of the locks. One of the paddles on lock 5 had been taped up at the volunteers instigation, in the closed position so we could still use the lock, for at least eighteen months. Apparently during the Braunston Historic boat show, several boaters buttonholed our leader Mr Parry and complained about the condition of the lock flight.

Coincidently on the first working day after the Braunston show 6 engineers turned up to check out the situation. They wound and measured the effort to raise and lower the paddles and in the end pronounced them fit. All the red and white tape disappeared. Three days later the paddle in lock 5, that's the one the vollys had taped up, fell of the gear thereby closing the lock. He Ho.

One of the beams on the lower gate of lock 7 broke in half but in fairness the rapid response team were there the next day and repaired it by splinting the beam. Good job.

However back to early June and our famous orchids put in their yearly appearance between locks two and three.

July saw the canal system suffering from a shortage of water and various suggestions were issued to promote the saving of this commodity. These included "Make sure paddles are closed", "Make sure you close all gates" and "Where possible share a lock". Ever keen to follow these mantras we at Hillmorton, even though our locks are narrow locks, we pack em in to get two in a lock.

August saw a visit from the steamer Adamant, always a pleasure to see this boat passing through.

Also in August we had a mystery to solve. Many of you will be aware of our HERB (sorry ERB) garden where we provide a Help Yourself selection of erbs for both boaters and walkers. Unfortunately somebody misunderstood the sign "ELP UR SELF" or read it too literally and took the complete plant of mint together with the pot. This was obviously replaced at our expense but then blow me if the new plant didn't disappear. Perhaps we need to change the sign for next year to read "ELP UR SELF TO A LITTLE BIT" .

The hole where the mint should be

However the main event in August was our Macmillan Coffee Morning. Once again all the VLK's and our friends had pulled out all the baking stops and covered the tables with a veritable smorgesboard of baking worthy of the Bake Off Tent itself. On the Friday of our coffee morning there were one or two anxious faces looking at the sky and turning the old prayer wheels to the weather gods. It didn't look good but we had managed to beg or borrow extra gazebras. But there was no need to worry for, despite the weather gods not seeing the wheels turning, our boating customers and towpath users did not let us down. We even had Rugby Ukelele band come along and entertain the cake eaters.

They must have been good as we achieved another record collection.

Although the weather was not the best at the end of the day our magnificent customers had raised a staggering £675, once again in memory of my dear friend Miss Wooing. We both thank you all.

Come September and we are still suffering with defective locks and we have had to shut one lock in each pair. This in turn causes some delay to our customers who, in the most part, take these delays in good heart. We have been promised the construction crew will be putting in an appearance sooner rather than later.

However not to be outdone Volly Vince and myself completed the renovation of one of our benches with help from Dave Bixter and the lads at Granthams Boat Services. They sourced the timber and cut it into the required sizes.

This bench is apparently known as the "Olympic" bench due to in the past a group of ex-waterway operatives would sit on the bench and give those passing through the locks a score. Perhaps we should reinstate this practice with our own STRICTLY paddles. Who would get a ten from Craig.

October saw the return of the maintenance gang and finally all our locks were repaired and put back into use. This involved repairing the cill and lining the bottom gates in lock 3. Fitting new walk ways to the bottom gates of lock 4. Manufacturing and fitting a new paddle to lock 5. Lets hope they last till (and through) the new season.

Also in October saw us welcome the 9000th boat to be assisted through the locks by the volunteers this season. This was a lovely couple on their way back home to Yorkshire. We could be on our way to retaining the title of the "Busiest Locks" on the system.

Our leading Volunteer Taryn presents the couple with their certificate.

Well that's a very brief roundup of what happened at Hillmorton this year. A fun filled year to add to our memories and we are all looking forward to an equally good year in 2020.

Volly Jane and myself being mugs for punishment are still doing a day at Watford, just to keep me out of the wife's hair really. So if you happen to be passing through Watford locks on a Thursday, pleae say hello and we are looking forward to another season at Hillmorton in 2020.

All it remains for me to say is we hope you have a Healthy, Peaceful and Happy Christmas and a Boatiful New Year.

From all the volly's at Hillmorton

Vollylockie. The man with the Golden Windlass.

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