The Adventure Starts

This is the story of Kilsby, in the form of a blog. We won't update it everyday it but rather over time covering periods of activity. We know this project is a team effort and as we progress, we know the team will change, expand and contract at different times. We will try and make sure that everybody is acknowledged though we might not be able to always do this in this blog. Every contribution from a volunteer is appreciated, regardless of the size or impact, so we will create a seperate part of the website to do this. It's Team Kilsby!



Chapter One: Kilsby Sets off
Many will remember Thursday 28 October 2019 because it was bitingly cold. But for the wonderful 110 year old narrowboat Kilsby and her team of trusted volunteers, it will be remembered as the day they started the slow process of beginning her restoration. There are likely to be adventures along the way, if the first 2 weeks are anything to go by!

Day One: 28th November
Kilsby was moved from her longstanding mooring a few yards up the Canal to the Isis lock.

There, with much ingenuity using the lock, a massive tarpaulin [can we say how many yards or feet?] was placed under the hull and around all of the boat.

Then painstakingly, with 200 judiciously placed eyelets along one edge and in the middle, she was laced up and made watertight. Think of a narrowboat wearing a corset. Every inch was covered. This meant that water could not get in anywhere, in theory. It took all day, but she was safe

Day Two: 29th November

Big news: The BBC [strictly speaking BBC South Today] have heard about us and want interviews. They came down bright, bright and early and interviewed Helen (who kindly gave us Kilsby). They shot some footage. We made it to the TV screen, as well as on the radio and in the local press.

Her first trip in years, Kilsby was slowly towed by her successor Kilsby 2 (Helen’s new boat) up the canal, past Jericho and Wolvercote to King’s Bridge, which is just beyond the A34 where the canal goes under the A44.

There, we had been allowed by the Canal & River Trust (to whom we offer our thanks) to let Kilsby rest, with the intention that over the weekend we hold a workshop to empty and even possibly remove the cabin, two large skips being on hand.

The only problem was that the canal by the mooring was silted up and the team could only just manage to get the bow close to the land. The stern stuck out by about 4 feet. So a rethink was required.

Day Three: 30th November
Bitingly cold and the decision was made to not try and clear the boat but to take her as quickly as possible all the way to Banbury. We could not clear the boat. It was not safe. And the freezing temperature compounded the matter. Nor could Kilsby be left at that site, lying in such an awkward position.


Research told us we could take her to Thrupp where there was a space to moor. Credit to Steph Pirrie for her ingenuity.

Day Four: 1st December
The next leg. Again towed by Kilsby 2, the slow journey to Thrupp started and all seemed to go well. Going through the locks was a challenge as the the boats could only go in one hull at a time and with the locks being so narrow, manoeuvrability was a test.  Matters were not improved by the somewhat creaking and heavy nature of the lock mechanics themselves. It was slow. And it made the team realise that more hands were needed.

Finally, almost in sight of Thrupp, at Rownham Lock – the first big adventure. The lock gates were imperfect which meant that even Kilsby 2 struggled to get into the lock. Poor Kilsby, with her somewhat ample midriff, really really struggled to get into the lock.

We’re still not sure how she achieved it, but get through she did. The tarpaulin suffered but seemed to hold true despite some small tears.

So Kilsby 2 left her aged predecessor and headed back to Oxford.

Days Five to Nine: Days of Rest and a Big Problem

So then some days of rest for Kilsby, but not the team.

On Wednesday 4 December, she was visited by volunteer Steve Watt to connect up the solar panel to the battery. All seemed steady.

The next day Matt Armitage, the director of Tooley’s boatyard, brought some temporary ballast in the form of heavy batteries and stored them on the boat.

Nightmare! The next morning a person in a VW was spotted helping themselves [himself?] to both the batteries and the chain needed to skinny-fy  Kilsby’s waist. The police were informed and witnesses came forward. Poor Matt had to rethink how to approach the remainder of the journey. Most importantly also he needed a crew to help bring his narrowboat The Dancing Duck down from Banbury to tow Kilsby from Thrupp.

Day 10: 6 December
Matt set off from Banbury in The Dancing Duck and made it to Lower Heyford, where she was left for the night.

Day 11: 7 December
Steph Pirrie who has been the amazing mastermind behind the whole project, with her trusty crew of Helen, Steve Watts and Simon captained by Jane Rouse, picked up The Dancing Duck at the crack of dawn and set off for Thrupp. The Cherwell was kind and Jane and team got to Thrupp safely, and… found a mooring. Brilliant.

And so…. the scene is set for Chapter Two. From Thrupp to Banbury

The enthusiasm for the project and the kindness to donate towards it or participate in helping (or both) has been amazing.

Post script to Chapter One

I have not mentioned that whilst the main focus has been Kilsby and those who have been working directly on her, others have been no less active. Of course whilst in transit, those on board have done an amazing thing. But so also have those who spent time planning and coordinating the whole project, to say nothing of those who have acted as the most efficient, generous and effective crew taxi service available. Many thanks to you all.


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