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.

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Unwelcomed boat guests.

Sunday 12th August

We are now back on board FS. Sunday afternoon and with only three boats in the Great Northern Basin (one being ECP&DA workboat Pentland), we decided to bring FS out and back onto our mooring.

The Beast, as a temporary measure, was parked in the 'Triangle' and the walk from the Great Northern Basin to the 'Triangle' meant passing by the Great Northern Pub, along the road past the basin, over the road bridge, onto the towpath and then to the 'Triangle'. The moving of stuff from the Beast to FS, therefore, would have meant a route march each time. So the most logical thing to do was bring FS alongside the Beast. This was achieved with very little effort as FS behaved impeccably even amongst the vast amount of weed that had sprung up during the hot weather. She fired up at first turn of the key and the only slight hitch was operator error when I failed to notice the tree by the swing bridge with its low branch just waiting to detach the aerial from FS's roof. A quick reverse saved the day and with Ian's agility, jumped on board to take it down.

So the big cleanup started. Not just the Beast but FS too. I must have evicted over 6 huge spiders, two of which was in the bathroom, one in the galley and the rest from the living room. Not dared yet to see what the well deck is housing. Might send Ian in first to suss it out.

Had a bit of drama in the morning. A Swan had wandered onto the road and Ian was dispatched to deal with it. A mated pair (see my April post) was above the lock in full attack mode and the lone Swan understandably wanted to get away. Ian managed to get it below the lock.

But....and here is another twist in the tale, another pair of Swans with cygnets were waiting!. I intervened with the pair above lock shooing them away to give the lone Swan time to get hidden in the 'Triangle'

 Phoning a rescue centre in Brindsley 2 mile away, I was somewhat peeved when told no one would come out to remove the Swan. In fact, the chap told me I should do it, most inappropriate as in no way am I trained in Swan capture! He even told me not to bother the RSPCA. I was relating this tale to a chap moored at Langley Mill boatyard who said he would phone for me as he has had some dealings with the charity before. I do hope for a successful outcome.

Our cruising will resume after the weekend. First, we will be involved with a half marathon from Langley to Trent Lock. And if you think we are actually running....no no no. We have been asked to man the water station at Gallows Inn offering drinks to those more energetic than we will ever be. More of that later. And second it's birthday parties we must attend, Grandson and Son-in-Law.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Nearly home.

Saturday 11th August

This place somewhere in Elan Valley mountains must be one, if not the most, peaceful places we have ever stopped. No traffic noise, no wind, just the babbling of a brook and the occasional call of the sheep. The sky last night was almost on par with Australia, so many stars and in the 20 minutes Ian and I were gazing up, three shooting stars were seen. Magical and a fitting end to our 2 months away.

Last night sunset
Brook right next to the Beast

View this morning

With only one more day before getting back to Langley Mill, it was back on the road toward Leicester. Decided to stop off tomorrow to see our good friend Pat and found a pub at Broughton Astley where we could have a meal and stay for the night. My final photos, therefore, are of the sheep on the A44 and the pub stop. There was no hurrying these ewes!

What a time to stop for a wee!

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

An underground experience

Friday 10th August
Plenty of rain fell overnight which stayed with us well into mid-morning. The site we were on was only about 100 yds or so from the Dolaucothi mines and to make sure we got onto the first tour of the day at 10am, Ian offered to brave the rain to book the tickets at the office. 

Last night and a BBQ, this morning and rain.
 By the time he returned the rain had all but stopped but having been told we had to get kitted up in hard hats and headlamps at least 15 minutes before the tour started, it was grab my coat and camera and follow him back.

Our guide was brilliant. Explained in great detail how between 70AD and 80 AD the Romans began the first extensive mining for gold at Dolaucothi, creating large open-cast workings and digging several tunnels. The mines were left unworked for over 1600 years after the Romans left and it was the Victorians and then the Edwardians that began mining again. Since then many other companies worked the mines throughout the 19th century and early 20th century until the mines finally closed in 1939 and in 1941 donated to the NT.
No artificial lighting in the mines so our headlamps were needed as were those hard hats. Very low ceilings and many a bang was heard as the taller of the group made contact with the rocks above.  

The mining trucks are actually called Drams. Bottom R and the entrance to the mine

Explaining about tallow candles. One per miner and when that ran out the miner returned to the top. To stop working sooner many a miner would nibble the bottom of the candle until that is, the bosses got wise to it and spread the rumour that arsenic had been added.

Veins of quartz rocks with the possibility of gold. Bottom R one of the many adits (passages)

A unique feature to these gold mines is the silver organism and small mushroom type fungi that grow on the walls and wooden posts. Only one other mine in the world can also claim these silver phenomena and that is in South Africa.
 Once the tour ended a question was asked if anyone had difficulty in ascending small and very tight spaces. If so a backup guide would take them out the way we had come. Everyone in the group said they were prepared for the squeeze and so he showed us to a small tunnel with rocky steps leading up. A beam across the entrance meant that about 4 ft diameter was all one had to crawl through. We were the last to ascend. In front of us, a lady and her husband started the climb up. We followed and nearly halfway up the tricky rock section the lady lost her nerve completely desperately wanted to come down.

The husband of the lady who panicked

Ian on his way up. Not long after I took this photo and we had to back up.
The backup guide was still at the bottom and said she would take her the other way. But this meant both Ian and myself had to climb back down those rocks. Good job we had had some caving experience in New Zealand. We had to feel for any foothold, not easy without much light and unable to turn around. The backup guide then ascended to coax the lady down. Left alone Ian and I went for an explore.

 BY the time the lady eventually made it back down we had been at the bottom for nearly 10 minutes. As soon as she was safely on terra Fermi, I took the lead and climbed to the top. I must say for anyone claustrophobic this would have been terrifying. Narrow with very high ledges to step onto as well as keeping your head down was bad enough and with one nearly touching the walls either side,  I can fully sympathise with that lady.

Took these photos while we were waiting. Shows how narrow the exit was.
After the mines, it was time to start the journey home. Going via the Elan valley we came across Caban Coch reservoir. Calling in at the visitor centre discovered that there the 5 dams and 4 reservoirs were built to provide clean water to Birmingham in the 19th century.  So low were these reservoirs that I wondered about water rationing here. But helping out two fishermen at one of the dams who had forgotten to bring any water (filled his kettle for him so he could have a cup of tea) they told us that the levels had dropped by 40% and that these reservoirs were also necessary to keep the rivers flowing for the fish, especially the Brown Trout.

Caban Coch dam and reservoir

Top left what looks like a viaduct is Carag Ddu Dam. The completely submerged dam which plays a vital role in maintaining a constant supply of water to Birmingham. Garreg Ddu holds water back on the upstream side so that water can always be extracted at the Foel Tower.(exert from Elan valley past and present)

Claerwan Dam

Craig coch Dam

Having driven to most of them we took the mountain road and found a wonderful place to stop. Time was by now nearly 7pm and dinner was still to be prepared. But what a stop with only the sheep as our neighbours and the occasional car driving by. Skies are clear at the moment and as this is classed as a dark sky reserve, hoping for an abundance of stars.

And in flying in skies above

Monday, 13 August 2018

Just can't beat steam.

Thursday 9th August.

There are times on the canals when one gets moored up on a long stretch of bank, the only boat there and along comes another boat and pulls back right onto your button. Not necessary in my opinion, when there is plenty of space. So imagine our surprise when a lady and her son in their motorhome turns up and reverses back to almost touching the Beasts bumper. Behind us was another motorhome which had left a decent enough space between us and them. In front of the lady's motorhome, a long stretch without another vehicle in sight. Why then did she feel the need to be so close? Ian very politely asked her to move forward. She seemed surprised at our request.

This morning and we were away before either of those other motorhomes. Good job we asked her to move last night otherwise she would have had to vacate her bed to allow us to get out!

Arrived at the Brecon Mountain railway station by 9.30am a tad early as the ticket office wasn't open. But the station and workshops were and as early birds, we got to see the loco moved from the shed, couple up with the carriages and have the hopper filled with coal.

Work sheds.

 Boarding the Locomotive for the 10.30am departure, we found seats at the back with easy access to the outside viewing platform. Listening to the sound of the loco as she thunders along,  the clackety-clack of the wheels on track and the puffing of the smoke billowing from her chimney almost seems like the train is alive and breathing. Our journey took us from Pant to Dol-y-Gaer. A 25 minute stop at Pontsticill for coffee and cake while the loco took on water before returning to Pant.

Taking on water

Passing Taf Fechan Reservoir  I hadn't realised how bad the water situation was in Wales. Ireland is also experiencing drought conditions but nowhere as bad as this.

 Found another NT place to visit for tomorrow. The gold mines at Dolaucothi, Carmarthenshire. A camp site is almost on the doorstep so we decided to pay £18 for electric and water. No toilets or showers here but at least we can have a decent shower in the Beast knowing that water is to hand.

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Caves, Dinosauras and Shire horses, Strange combination

Wednesday 8th August

I didn't mention the difficulty we had in getting parked last night. First, the entrance was very narrow, just enough to squeeze the Beast through and the carpark had a number of walled bays. It was the low walls that were the trouble. For us to fit we had to overhang those walls and they were just too high for the backend to fit over. We did manage to find a spot that we could back into which wasn't ideal. It only needed a car to park close to our sides and opposite for us to be hemmed in. So as soon as the place emptied around 8.30pm, Ian did several three-point turns and parked as you see in the photo.

With the prospect of dog walkers appearing early am, we departed before 9. Our destination was the showcaves and dinosaur park at Dan-yr-Ogof. We were much too early when we arrived, the place didn't open until 10pm. Never mind, at least we had the pick of the parking bays.

The entrance

Can you imagine the surprise as people walk by and see this sticking out from the trees?
The dinosaurs were made to look as lifelike as they did throughout the Mesozoic Era which began 245 million years ago and lasted for 180 million years. During the Jurassic period, birdlike dinosaurs first appeared and it was during the Cretacious period (146-65 million years ago) that the dinosaurs were completely wiped out and the age of mammals began.

Three caves to see and all can be walked through without a guide. It gave us plenty of time to have a real good look with some near enough to be touched. The most fragile though were tucked away behind metal grills and glass.

Dan-yr-Ogof Cave

Cathedral Cave
Top L and bottom L The original entrance to the Cathedral Cave.

Bone Cave 
 is so called because of the 42 human skeletons that have been found there, dating back to the Bronze Age some 3000 years ago. The oldest bones discovered are those of a Red Deer dating from 5000 B.C.

One more waterfall to view before we left the caves and dinosaurs and walked down toward the Shire horse and small animal farm.

Is this the ugliest pig in Britain?

Shire Horses, Alpacas and Rhea's amongst the megalithic standing stones. Bottom R, male Rhea sitting on eggs. 40 days he has to wait before they hatch.
During the visit to the cafe, Ian pounced on another leaflet. This time it was for the Brecon Mountain Railway leaving from Pant near Merthyr Tydfil to Torpantau high in the Brecon Beacons. Ian got straight onto the web and booked tickets for 10.30am.

And seen on the walkway at the farm,

Any idea to which butterfly or moth species it belongs to?

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