Negotiation & shopping trolleys

A few weeks ago I sent off the final copy for the book of poems about the restoration of the Droitwich Canals which I have been working on for The Ring. More on that later!

There are several anecdotes which didn’t make it into the book so I have been sharing some of them in my blog. For this post, I am grateful to John Burman, Roger Squires and someone who wishes to remain anonymous …


“One of the landowners refused permission for us to go on the towpath, said it was his land. I went back to the original Act of Parliament which said that the width of the canal shall be 50 yards. I showed him this and he agreed it was right. I said banks erode, yes, but the keystone on the apex of a bridge isn’t going to shift. So we measured 25 yards from the keystone and it went well into his garden. We agreed that’s where the boundary should be. In the end we came to a compromise by erecting a heaver* fence so that he could get a lorry into his field and we could get down the towpath.”

John Burman

*A gate without hinges that can be heaved off its posts and laid aside to let vehicles etc go through.

Shopping Trolleys

“The amount of shopping trolleys we used to get out of the canal was ridiculous. We’d go trolley hunting and get twenty out of the canal on a Saturday morning. People would take their shopping home then dump them and kids would use them as go-carts round the town. What we’d do with all these muddy rusty trolleys is fish them out, put them in the van, take them to the supermarket which owned them and leave them outside their front door for them to recycle. It was time wasted as far as we were concerned. In the end, we came up with a plan. One of our members would wander round the town and visit all the street corners and car parks where these trolleys had been left. Before the next morning, all these shopping trolleys only had three wheels on them. Kids aren’t interested in a trolley with only three wheels on, so the town slowly started filling up with three-wheeled trolleys. 108 trolleys had a wheel removed and never went in the canal. Eventually the town council brought pressure to bear on the supermarket and before long they changed the system so you needed a pound coin to release them. So it worked!”

Finally, here’s the seal which was on the cover of the first guide book produced to encourage people to walk along the route of the Droitwich Canal. The book was produced by Roger Squires using a Roneo duplicator, operated by turning a handle. I’m sorry to say that I’m old enough to remember using one of those! I like the Latin motto which translates as FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE MANY.


Here’s a link to my previous post about The Ring.

More shows for #TheIdleWomen

After our successful 50-show summer tour, Kate Saffin and I have put together a short run of performances of Idle Women of the Wartime Waterways in and around Oxford at the end of this month. See below for dates. Here’s a review to whet your appetite:

“Both women are exceptional storytellers, their performances brimming over with personality”   London City Nights

OXFORD CANAL & THAMES October 21st-29th 2017  Tickets £10/£8

Sat 21  7.00pm  Shipton-on-Cherwell Village Hall, Kidlington OX5 1JP
Tue 24  8.00pm  St Margaret’s Institute, 30 Polstead Road OX2 6TN
Thu 26  7.30pm  Rock of Gibraltar, Station Road, Enslow OX5 3AY
Fri 27   7.30pm   Wolvercote Village Hall, 1 Wolvercote Green OX2 8AB
Sun 29  6.00pm  Unicorn Theatre, Medieval Abbey Buildings, Checker Walk, Abingdon OX14 3JB

Advance booking via, email, phone 01865 364095 or pay on the door. See also

IWWW Oxford tour 2017 flyer v4IWWW Oxford tour 2017 flyer back v4

Final push for The Idle Women

If you would like to see the show I have been touring with Kate Saffin since the end of April, there are just 3 more opportunities – two at The Rising Sun, Berkhamsted (Monday & Tuesday) and one at The Pirate Castle, Camden (Saturday) – the last time we will perform the show in London. This will also be the last chance to see historic narrow boat Tench which has been with us all the way. After the tour, owner Alex will whisk her away and get back to her own solo adventures!

We have had very appreciative audiences, rave reviews and have been featured in national press so we’re delighted, if a trifle tired as we have done quite a few lock miles over the past 15 weeks too! Do come and support us at one of our final shows if you can.

Here’s one of my ‘found’ poems from the show which is also in the book we have produced to accompany the tour:

A horse on the path

Early in the morning
a horse on the path

the ring of shoes on cobblestones
the swish of a bow, a shout

the whip of a line, the soft flap
as it drops on the cabin top

another whip, another shout
lock gate thud, rattle of paddle

through cabin doors nudged ajar
we stir to grey outlines
on a slack-black star-stippled sky

© Heather Wastie

using words found in The Amateur Boatwomen Canal Boating 1941-1945 by Eily Gayford

Saturday’s performance will be our 50th since we launched the tour in April and the journey has been incredible. See and our Facebook page for more.

Once the tour is over I will be taking a well earned break!

#idlewomen autumn tour news!

I’m delighted to announce that ABNB Boat Brokerage will be supporting Alarum Theatre’s Autumn tour of Idle Women of the Wartime Waterways!

September 16 Tour flyer.inddSeptember 16 Tour flyer.indd

Wednesday 7th Sept – 7.30pm • Garden of Camp House Inn, Grimley, WR2 6LX, 01905 640288 – In association with The Worcestershire Literary Festival & Fringe

Saturday 10th Sept – 7.30pm • The Windlass Cafe and Restaurant, Stourport, DY13 9EN, 01299 871742 – In association with Stourport Heritage Open Days, Stourport Canal Basin

Thursday 15th Sept – 7.30pm • The Folly Inn, Napton on the Hill, CV47 8NZ, 01926 815185

Friday 23rd Sept – 7.30pm • The Wildside Activity Centre, Wolverhampton, WV6 0HA, 01902 572240

Sunday 25th Sept – 1.30pm • Wolverhampton Boat Club, Codsall, Wolverhampton, WV8 1RS, 07977 101411

Friday 30th Sept – 7.30pm • Theatre in the Dock, Tooley’s Boatyard, Banbury, OX16 2PQ, 01295 272917

* Saturday 1st Oct – 2.30pm • Theatre in the Dock matinee, Tooley’s Boatyard, Banbury, OX16 2PQ, 01295 272 917
– Includes a wartime tea!

* Mon 28th & Tues 29th Nov – 7.30pm • The Rosemary Branch Theatre, Hoxton, N1 3DT, 020 7704 6665

* indicates a ticketed event (see for details) otherwise free entry with donations to support the artists


Photos from our Summer Tour:


Didn't they have a lovely time at The Bonded Warehouse 29 June 2016

Idle Women at the National Waterways Museum

On Saturday 13th February, I performed my piece Idle Women and Judies, commissioned by the Canal & River Trust, at the National Waterways Museum, Ellesmere Port. I included a song and 3 new poems in a 25-minute programme, repeated four times. As usual, I took a book so that people could write down feedback and those comments are reproduced in their entirety below. It’s difficult to get people to write down their thoughts, even when they have made complimentary remarks in person, but I was very pleased with what people did write, and even more pleased that photographer Terasa Newton took some shots of me in full flow. See below for these too.

Having already performed at the Gloucester and Stoke Bruerne Museums (see previous posts), it was good to collaborate with the Canal & River Trust again to share these women’s stories at Ellesmere Port. I’m grateful to them for supporting my work and to Terasa for sending her wonderful images without charge. Here’s a link to her website

Audience comments:

“Wonderful, captivating performance – brought canals to life.”  Liz & Idris

“Entertaining, informative, brilliant.”  Ray & Alicia Harvey

“Wonderful performance, a must see.”  Suzanne & Graham

“Wonderful performance full of knowledge and very entertaining.”   Janet Williams