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In 1977 we hired our first narrowboat from Anglo Welsh at Market Harborough.From that moment our destiny was set. In 2006 we finally purchased our own brand new 57' narrowboat which we named 'Free Spirit'. Our aim is to travel the length and breadth of all the navigable rivers and canals of the UK. This will be our story as it unfolds.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Offside branches, moored boat and a widebeam, something was going to go wrong.

I always say a good thunderstorm clears the air and today was no exception. Not a massive storm at the Park, a flash and a couple of loud claps of thunder followed by a minute of torrential rain, but it helped drop the humidity and we had high hopes of a pleasant morning cruising.

Pulling pins by 9.30am it was a steady run to Peartree where we stopped for water. Surely, there is not a slower tap on the system as it took over an hour to top our tank up by just 60 percent. By the time we had finished other boaters were queuing and I expect they are all in for a long stay.


 One thing I have noticed this year on the GU is the number of wide beams. Most are a reasonable width but there are the few that are monsters. With the amount of offside vegetation and branches now narrowing the width of the canal, the inevitable was due to happen. Unfortunately that 'inevitable' happened to us. Rounding a bend we first saw the moored boat before realising another boat was also coming toward us, one with a monstrous bow and one of the broadest wide beam boats I think I have seen on this canal. I'm pretty sure it could only just fit through a bridge 'ole, it was that big. Anyway we had to move over pretty smart and right into overhanging branches of an offside tree. Ian put FS into reverse but not before the front part of FS had disappeared from view. And as luck would have it, and following close behind the wide beam, was another narrowboat. We could do nothing but sit tangled until both boats had passed. Even that wide beam didn't come away unscathed. It too had to go through part of those branches to get past that moored boat. Then because FS was by now in the mud, out came the pole and with me reversing away from the branches, the front was pushed off by Ian sufficiently for our bow to clear the tree. I feel that all wide beams have their place on our canals, after all the water is to be enjoyed by everyone, but I do feel a limit on the width of some of these should be implemented, either that or C&RT has to start clearing the vast amount of offside vegetation that is encroaching on the canals to allow these huge crafts to cruise in a safe manner.








 On our way again we made it as far as Fenny Stratford. Stopped on the 14-day mooring and may stay until after the weekend. Quite fancy going to Bletchley Park which is the site of the WW2 codebreakers. We have been before but didn't feel as if we took it all in.

And seen on route,






Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Could this be the future?

Sunset Monday night,


Most of us will have experienced some very uncomfortable nights with the humidity and heat. For us though, last night was a good one as the side hatch (now waterside) could be left open. Made all the difference with that slight breeze.


Blast... a text from Colin to say today's sports day was cancelled! This intense heat was more than the infants could endure so the headmaster has called it all off. Very disappointed not to see our grandson Oliver compete and with sports day now scheduled for July, looks like we are never likely too. But, instead of leaving Campbell Park, it was decided that we still head over to our son's house and surprise both grandkids when they return from school. A bus journey and walk was in store for us now and in this heat, not one either of us was looking forward to.

Before we left and coming toward us was what I can only describe as 'a floating bedstead'! Ian then realised it was not being powered by an engine, but by the two people sitting at the back peddling away like mad. Not only did it go past at speed (which in normal circumstances they would have been asked to slow down) but not a sound could be heard as they drew level and with hardly any water displacement FS never moved at all. Wow, could this, therefore, be the future of boating when fuel becomes scarce? Not only would you stay fit and healthy doing all that peddling but the environment, as well as air quality. would benefit as all. Something to think about eh!



After lunch, it was only a short walk to catch the bus. But what we hadn't realised was the bus route had changed due to a road closure. Asking the workman was a waste of time as they had no idea where we had to catch the bus from. Walking to the stop, a notice was pinned saying the next bus stop was nearly half a mile away. Blooming heck!!! Within 12 minutes it would arrive at that stop. Never had Ian and I walked so fast, up a hill and in the searing heat. Seconds to spare was all we had as coming around the roundabout was the bus. And do you know...even the bus driver didn't know of the change of route until today! Thats transport for you! Colin said he would drive us to FS later so thankfully haven't got that route march back.

When I walked to Willen Lake early (before it got too hot) I took both cameras and macro lens. So lots of photos taken, a few here, but more on my Jameisons wildlife photos









Juvenile Green Woodpecker.







Sunday, 18 June 2017

Unwanted visitor

Who on earth was knocking on the side of the boat at a silly time in the morning. Thats what I asked myself at 6.30am! Nothing for it but get up and inviting itself in, was a swan! With it being so very hot and humid last night and because the side hatch was water side, we didn't expect any intruders but seems I was wrong.




No point in going back to bed so may as well get going and down the one and only lock for today.  Ian filled the lock, I motored in and FS was about to descend when a wide beam turned up blocking the exit from the lock. He was unable to get onto the landing as a boat was using the water point, nothing for it but to sit in the lock entrance. Then as Ian opened the gates he reversed to allow me out. All well and good but I had to avoid the moored boat on the water point and the chap on the wide beam didnt realise I wasnt fully out and started back toward the lock  We only avoided a collision because I put the power on and we missed each other by an inch. A bit of good natured banter followed and we were on our way.



 This is one very popular place as can be seen by the amount of boats moored.



Looking back toward the Iron Aqueduct.
 After a stop at Wolverton for a Tesco shop we arrived at the park. Here the arrangement was made to meet the family. Both boys wanted to fish and I was most relieved when fish were caught. They could so easily have got bored silly and started messing about.


First Oscar caught a fish


Then it was Olivers turn

And back to Oscar.
The heat and humidity seems to have got worse as the day progressed and with the side hatch towpath side, it will have to stay shut. So no inquisitive swans to deal with but also a very uncomfortable night in store.

Not expecting to blog in the next day or so as we may push across and stay on the 14 day mooring. Olivers sports day is on Wednesday and he begged us to be there. Only to happy to oblige for our grandson.

And seen at the park,










Saturday, 17 June 2017

Strange what can be seen on the cut.

It's been a long journey today, 19 miles and 7 locks, epic for us who usually call it quits after 4 hours travelling. So for 10 hours we been on the go although we did have a 30-minute break for lunch in between the locks. Wish we had stayed 'cos in this heat we would have been far better mooring under a tree at lunchtime and saying 'enough is enough'.

Anyway, we set off around 7 am and I must say we saw some very strange sights. A wide beam full of ukulele players serenading all within earshot, a very very small tug like boat (size of a small garden shed) and a shipping container welded onto a hull. Only managed to take a photo of the container and could kick myself that I missed photographing the other two.



Today was also the day I dreaded. The Blisworth tunnel had to be driven through. Many will have read my post some years ago about the scary experience I had whilst going through alone. If you want to have another look click here  and also the search for the side shaft and finally side shaft found  I'm not one to believe in the supernatural but this still is totally unexplained. There is a website about the hauntings so yet another link for you to look at. Anyway, how it happened I don't know but somehow I still had hold of the tiller as we entered the tunnel so it was left to me to motor through. As it happened two boats had also entered from the Stoke Bruerne portal and almost at the half way point I met the first one going hell for leather. I was almost at a standstill with heart in mouth expecting to be hit pretty hard but this chap knew what he was doing (I expect this is a regular journey for him) and kept hard against his side of the wall. In fact, I was mightily impressed because trying to see past the headlight shining in your eyes is almost impossible. I know we struggle to see through other boaters lights when we draw level.




 Lovely to be back in the sunlight again after the gloom of the tunnel and before long we arrived at the top of Stoke Bruerne flight. These were the only 7 locks to do today. Very busy on the flight what with it being a Saturday and the usual gongoozlers were just waiting at the lock side to see me make a hash of things.


Willow curtain right across the bridge on the exit of the lock

Makes it difficult to get in as well.

This was one of three breasted pairs we met on the flight.
 That journey to Gosgrove from the bottom of the flight takes forever and to find a space on arrival was a relief.  Part in the shade from an offside tree, it made staying inside the boat bearable. Tomorrow we make for Milton Keynes to see son Colin, daughter-in-law Iwona and the two grandkids, Oscar and Oliver.


And because we got away early we saw,





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