About Us

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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.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Sorry to gloat but a very pleasent sunny 75 deg on out first day in Oz.

What a journey! Not one to do regularly I can tell you. First leg to Hong Kong took 11 hours which did go fairly quick as the films shown were decent and not any we had seen before. Then a 70 minute stop at Hong Kong to board another Cathay Pacific which took us for another 9 hours to Sydney. Trying to sleep was almost impossible not just because I couldn't get comfortable (we had the emergency exit seats) but the loos happened to be situated by us too and every time someone flushed it sounded like a train whooshing along a tunnel. 2 hours was all I had, Ian managing a tad longer so to say we were knackered on arrival was an understatement.

Going through immigration was a doddle. Those Epassports could be done at self service desks as one only had to look into the camera for face recognition. Even the bags arrived quickly so by 9pm we were outside and greeting my brother Andre and partner Sally. Then it was a 30 minute drive to their house, a quick coffee and straight to bed.

View from the balcony

Wow their place is just perfect. On a hill surrounded by trees, full of birds all singing their heads off. At 5am in the morning the air was filled with the bird calls but didn't mind one bit getting woken by their song especially those laughing Kookaburra's and couldn't wait to get out to get them photographed. After breakfast a trip to the shops to buy flip flops (they call them thongs over here!) and then after lunch we set off with their dog Ned a Cattle/GSD cross breed for a walk.

Bush Turkey

They call them Water Dragons

Yea... a Kookaburra

Indian Butcher bird


Sulphur crested Cockatoo.

Nest of the blue Bower bird.

Monday, 17 October 2016

On our way at last.

Good grief where did the time go. Arriving back in August with six weeks to go seemed like an age and now here we are at Heathrow waiting to take off!
It was all go with the family this weekend and those two days with them flew by. Loads of hugs and kisses from the grandchildren as the taxi turned up at 5.30pm on Sunday. Expected to leave Milton Keynes coach station at 6pm but the Sunday traffic jams delayed the coaches arrival. It was nearer to 6.35pm when we did get underway and the usual M25 hold ups made the arrival at Heathrow even later. Then trying to find the hotel hopper bus was a nightmare. Up and down in the lifts numerous times each time getting off at the wrong floor (no it wasn't ground floor that we needed but floor 1and the lift we took was to the car parks!) and when we did finally get to the bus stop, saw the hopper disappearing into the distance with another not turning up for another 40 minutes. Eventually arrived at the Travel Lodge hotel and into our room only to discover the air conditioning fan was sooooo loud and couldn't be switched off and the door to the bathroom wouldn't stay shut as the lock was broken. So after a complaint to the manager got moved to another room. Needless to say it was quite late before we went to bed and that alarm at 7am came all to soon.
Breakfast was good all you could eat for £7.95. Money not very well spent as far as I was concerned. Not being a good flyer that sickening stomach knot just wouldn't go away so trying to force a full English down wasn't something I wanted to do. Anyway the toast went down well followed by copious amounts of tea. The hopper bus took us back Terminal 3 and now we await the call to proceed to the gate. We land on Tuesday Sydney time 8pm, but it will be early Wednesday here in the UK.

From the hotel

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Not the best of starts to the Ozzie adventure

So FS has been winterised, beds stripped, fridge and cooker cleaned, gas turned off, electrics unplugged (now reliant on solar power alone to keep a trickle charge on the batteries) water tanks emptied, diesel tank topped up, and car taken back to the garage. But disaster strikes whilst there... garage door catches the strip light and tube lies smashed on floor. No time to clear it away as a friend is waiting to take us back to FS so nice job to come back to in 6 months! But...... that wasn't the end to our troubles.
National express coach was due to leave Nottingham at 6pm so calculation made that we could catch the 4.45pm bus from Langley Mill giving us plenty of time to catch the coach. Of course we forgot about Friday traffic and by 5pm we were still waiting for the Nottingham Bus. Panic was setting in so a phone call to our local taxi and within 15 minutes we were on our way. A big tip was forthcoming because, having explained our predicament, the driver went hell for leather (when the road conditions allowed for it) and got us the Broadmarsh bus station with 10 minutes to spare.
On route to Milton Keynes and we get a phone call. It's our daughter-in-law Iwona. "Sorry wont be able to collect you when you arrive as I've had an accident. Side swipped another car damaging the lights, bumper and wheel. Not a complete right off but cant be driven.  Aghhhhh... what else can go wrong................!!!!! Flight delayed/cancelled perhaps???? Wont know that until we arrive at Heathrow on Monday.
Anyway got another taxi from MK coach station and eventually arrived late Friday evening.
Staying put for the weekend. Christine, Kev and grandkiddies also coming today to say farewell so will be quite a family gathering. I might not be the only one nursing a hangover tomorrow. 

Friday, 7 October 2016

Countdown has begun.

Only 9 days left before we fly to Oz and the panic is beginning to set in. Packing is almost done but we still haven't ordered our dollars. We were waiting for the pound to strengthen and after last nights crash in Asia, now wished we had bought them weeks ago. That's the trouble when one keeps looking every day to see what value the pound is at. Kept saying to ourselves, "Surely it cant keep going down". Well we were wrong as no sooner did it rally when down it went again!!!!

All family visits are done bar one, just the spending of our last weekend with son Colin and daughter Christine before we really will feel our trip of a life time will be upon us. We did spend the last weekend with them for Oscars birthday but more of that later.

Our trip to Ian's sister was full of surprises as a visit to Heybridge and a walk along the Chelmer and Blackwater canal. was suggested. Not knowing anything about this waterway other than it was almost impossible to get there by narrowboat, unless that is, one was brave enough to go out via the Thames barrier, Queenborough, Shoeburyness, past the entrance to Crouch, avoid the sandbanks in the tidal Thames estuary and finally, on a high tide, go through the lock on the River Blackwater to enter the canal. But....It has been done, because chatting to an IWA bod (the canal is not a C&RT water but private run by IWA and Essex water) he told me that a narrow boat arrived yesterday with a pilot on board and holding a certificate of sea worthiness.  Most boats are craned in at Springfield further along the canal rather then make that voyage!

Brother in Law Chris, Ian and his sister Shelia.

Weed cutter

Looking at the estuary from the lock

The sand banks would make it an interesting passage into the lock

Having spent several days with them it was a stop at son Colins for Grandson Oscar 8th birthday party on route back to FS. Would so have loved a go in those go carts. Now that my weight has dropped I'm pretty sure my bottom would fit in the seat. Last time Ian went go carting for his 60th birthday, I cried off as I felt a shoe horn would have been needed to get me out!

Oliver, Iwona, Colin and Oscar

Oliver No 4 and Oscar No 82

The boys with the grand parents. Me with Oliver, Ian cuddling me and Iwona's mum Wladyslawa, with Oscar on the right the birthday boy.

Ian's brother Alan and Sister in Law Angela was next for a visit. Another nice surprise whilst we were there as a trip to Croome Court had been organised. A NT house but not knowing about the visit...we hadn't bothered to take our NT cards with us. No matter as Ian had the original email on the computer and with Alan printing it out as proof, got entry for free. Only took a few photos of the outside. The interior needs a huge amount spending on it to get it back to it's best so only the odd bit of furniture had been placed in  the rooms.

Alan and Ian....a pair of bookends!!

I expect my next post will be from Sydney some time in the week after next once the jet-lag has worn off. Speaking to my brother Andre (he's my twin) he mentioned the birds are beginning to nest especially the Kookaburras and parrots. Oh yesssss..... Camera WILL be at the ready!

And the wildlife seen at the Chelmer and Blackwater navigation.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Thought the journey would never end.

Blooming 'eck how long did it take to arrive back to Langley on Friday? We left the hotel at 7.45am, got to Calais and onto the ferry around 10ish, arrived at Dover 90 minutes later and after a horrendous journey of hold ups and the driver having to take his breaks, finally got back to Eastwood around 6ish. A taxi was due to collect us from Ikea and take us back home....but after 30 minutes waiting with no sign, Ian, without any real hope of the phone being answered because of the lateness of the hour, tried the Nova travel number. We got a result!!! There was still a person in the offices who assured us a taxi would be with us as soon as possible. Another 10 minutes wait and after 9 hours of sitting in a coach with only the occasional stop at the services to stretch our legs and use the facilities, we thankfully arrived back to FS.

Even the ferries had a queue

So clear we could see the white cliffs before we had left Calais harbour

That kettle went on pretty quick and with no food in the place other than in the freezer, we made do with toasting the frozen bread slices and pigging out on peanut butter toasties.

So now the countdown to Oz starts. Another few family visits to do first though so, with only a little over two weeks to go, it's all hands on deck to get everything done.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Us Brits cause a bit of bother.

Oh dear. Seems the eight of us got into a spot of bother last night. Carole, Mick, Dennis, Margaret, Heather, Dave and us visited Ron's bar for the second time last night, and were welcomed back by the owner. One of her bar staff took the drink order and unfortunately got it a bit wrong. All in good fun we joked about this but the chap doing the drinks was not very happy and complained bitterly to his boss. She in turn told him no uncertain terms that the customer was always right and if he didn't like it to leave. Now this was all relayed to us when we enquired as to why he was storming out of the pub and of course we were mortified and full of apologies. The owner was marvellous telling us that his attitude was not one she wished from an employer and was very glad she found out now. So all ended well and a good report will be posted by us on trip adviser.

So back to today, walked along the prom and admired the marina before taking a short ferry crossing to the other harbour.

One of the harbour locks
Free ferry across the harbour
 On reaching the other side, Port Napoleon, we were lucky enough to see a fishing vessel locking up. Notice the lock keepers lack of safety gear. They appeared so blasé' about everything , even when we watched the workers on the railways in Ostend we noticed the men without hard hats. They appeared totally unconcerned about their safety and I don't suppose they will even have heard the term Health and Safety voiced.

Huge lock housing a fairly large fishing vessel.

Yes that's the lock keeper

"This bunker of the type R (Regelbau) 633 was a component of the German coastal defence Atlantikwall. The main armanant composed of a 5cm M19 mortar, installed underneath a heavy armoured steel copula, with a fire range of 750 meters. The task of these type of bunkers were to protect the beaches and 'Stutzpunkten" (the harbour of Oostende). The R 633 is the only surviving example of this type in Vlaanderen. The bunker is easily accessible and unit signs can be found on the walls and inside the mortat copula. The original armoured doors of the main entrance and emergency exit are preserved and the steel mortar copula is still equipped with its cover."...Translated from the information panel.

And inside

Looking up at one of the air vents possibly
Not far from the Mortierbunker was these large wooden structures attached by chain to a massive reduction gear box. When a boat needs to dry dock, the wooden structure gets lowered by the winch, the boat then manoeuvrers over the cradle and once the gears are engaged, the chain pulls the whole thing, boat an all, out of the water.
Is it called a slip???

No longer in use because of the damage

winch gear.
Another of the casualties of war was WW1 battle ship 'Vindictive' She was sunk as a blockship at Ostend during the Second Ostend Raid on 10 May 1918.This part of her super structure was the only thing on display near the breakwater..

After a very pleasant few hours we caught the ferry back and had a wander to another of the harbour locks. Yesterday a huge ship was being locked up which we saw as the tram trundled past. Shame I didn't get a picture The vessel was huge and would have completely filled this photo.

One of the many fish stalls along the prom.
I wanted to dip my toes and with the tide coming in so not to far to walk, got my wish. This is both of us enjoying a toe dipping session in the warm North Sea.

That's me pretending to dive. (sad I know)

No it wasn't pecking Ian's leg although it does look like it.
And seen along the promanade,

Oyster catcher

This surprised me as I thought dragonflies only emerged from fresh water.


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