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, 17 October 2018

You wouldn't believe how this lock beam was damaged!

No Pinky the Owl for us last night but ever the wonder with the disturbance made by a couple of quad bikes.  Lots of beeping and tearing around the meadow which I thought to be totally out of order by irresponsible youths until I noticed the sheep all running in one direction. Ah, it was a round up of the sheep and not a Collie dog in sight.


And another gorgeous Sunset
This morning at some silly o'clock Ian wakes with a feeling something is not quite right. A sixth sense maybe or the fact he nearly rolled out of bed, but he was correct. We were listing. Water levels had dropped overnight and even though the ropes were slack FS had settled on the mud. Both of us still bleary-eyed left the bed, dressing gowns on and out we go to see what can be done. The stern was floating but the bow wasn't. More rope slackening and a hefty push needed and we were free. We can only assume the two speeding boats (a cruiser and a Rose hire boat) passing us last night must have washed us nearer to the bank.

first light.
 Got underway around 9 am and the low water was even more apparent.


Not a drop running over the weir.


Pinkhill Lock

The dark area is normally covered by water.
 We found out why the levels were so low. Apparently, Farmoor Reservoir have a licence to remove 300 million...yes million litres of river water every day to keep the reservoir topped up. Yesterday with the levels dropping now the rain had stopped the sluices hadn't been adjusted to keep the water to an acceptable level and consequently, with the vast amount of water pumped to the Reservoir and the sluice gates open, the levels dropped. I asked the question about drought conditions and whether pumping would be allowed to continue and was surprised to hear they would only be made to stop if it caused a hazard to navigation. Without more rain, he thinks this might happen sooner rather than later.

A more gentle pace going downstream now the flow has almost stopped. We reached Eynsham lock and the lock keeper was waiting with open gates.


Cruised past the Dukes Cut branch, amazing to think two weeks ago we first entered the Thames from here travelling upstream.

Dukes cut to the left and Kings lock right.
Kings lock also had a lock keeper in attendance.  It stands to reason that it should be manned as a Thames licence must be purchased here. But we soon found out all was not well with this lock.

Kings lock being filled


 Most noticeable was the damage to the balance beam and gate. I was gobsmacked to find this was due, not to vandals, but a solitary bee called the Carpenter Bee. The lock keeper called it a black bee but looking on the web think the Carpenter Bee fits the bill. This beam was replaced 11 years ago and the bees (although solitary and will share the nests) turned up about 3 years ago. Even the windows on the lock house had to be changed to UPVC as the bees were munching their way through those too. A promise has been made by EA that the beam will be replaced in November but only with like for like (another wooden beam) so I (and the lock keeper) cant see this problem going away.


Amazing the damage caused and the innards of the beam have also been hollowed out.

The bees have also got into the area where the bolt joins the two structures causing the beam to drop.
Just thought I would mention the Thames red and green buoys. It can be confusing and nerve-racking on which side to pass if you haven't done your homework especially when they appear to be mid-channel and either side look to be deep enough. So the rule if going downstream:- Keep the red buoys to your right and the green to your left. Upstream is:- Red left and green right. Remember that and you won't go aground. (We have a laminated sign stuck in the engine room in full view so we won't ever forget)

We were going downstream so kept the red to our right (this photo looking back)

And here the green to our left (going downstream and again looking back)
Stopped before Godstow lock. It may have only been midday but this is a fabulous mooring and right by Godstow Priory. We stayed here last time we were on the Thames but then it was free. Now there is a sign



Oops, we didn't know we had to Pre-pay but if anyone turns up our payment will be forthcoming.



Godstow Priory
 And on the journey,

Different!
And seen in the rotting balance beam, another unknown moth.



Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Brain failure.

Oh, dear....who forgot to put the tiller on??? Ian blames me but it was definitely him!. I mean, I was below getting my coat and he was bankside removing the bow rope and casting off! I untied the stern rope, went to take the tiller and where was it?...ah....still hanging up in the engine room, that's where! By now the bow was across the river (which still had quite a flow on) so a quick dash below to grab it, push it on onto the swan neck and, after Ian had leapt onto the stern, I pushed the throttle forward and the tiller hard to the left thereby avoided the far bank by a smidgen. Then a laugh heard from behind as this was witnessed by a boat owner who we had moored near to last night. Oh well, at least it made his day!

A dismal dank day but a very pleasant one nevertheless. Hardly any boat movement only a couple of cruisers met before Shifford lock and one below Northmoor. Only one lock on self-service, Shifford, with Rushy and Northmoor manned.



Rushy lock with the gate open ready for us.
The approach to Shifford lock has a huge weir to the right. Even with the fast flow, this wasn't really a problem but Ian did make an observation on the safety lines stretched across the weir. Only the one laying across the water and the only thing this line would do would be to maybe snag the propellor stopping the engine and putting you in even more danger.



We made it to Northmoor with minutes to spare before the lock keeper went off for lunch. In fact, the self-service board was up but he still did the lock. A cruiser turned up below lock as we departed but the lock keeper made it very plain that the Captain had to do this himself, much to his annoyance. "I am now at lunch," he said.



Weir below Northmoor lock. No wonder the flow had increased. It wasn't like that when we came up 8 days ago.
 Ian was going to take me out for a meal at Bablock Hythe.  11 miles and 3 locks from leaving this mornings mooring and it took us just over three hours to get there. Although the river had gone down a tad, the flow was still considerable so again we raced downstream. Tried to moor at the Ferryman but the bank was not in the best condition and even after Ian had managed to secure the bow to a post, I wasn't brave enough to leap across to do the stern rope. Ian managed to bring the back in enough for a plank to go across but before doing that decided to see what time the pub opened. Well, you wouldn't credit it, the closed on Tuesday sign was up and what day was this??? A blooming Tuesday. Looks like I'm going to have to get something out of the freezer instead. Because of the unsuitability of the mooring and for only another 30 minutes cruise we could be at Pinkhill. No brainer for me then. Pinkhill it was and maybe another sighting of Pinky the Owl.




And seen on route,






Monday, 15 October 2018

Three inches? More like a foot!

After all that bad weather over the past three days, let's hope this sunset heralds the start of something better.


There was certainly more of a flow on the Thames this morning and the water levels looked to have risen by about 3" which will make for a speedy journey downstream. I just hope that any boats travelling upstream will obey the rule of giving way to downstream traffic.

The levels yesterday

This morning and the level is up
Blast...9.20am and a knock on the side of the boat. It's only the farmer wanting a £5 payment for mooring last night. Mind you it could have been worse. He did say that as the weather had been so bad he wasn't prepared to ask for payment over the weekend. So I suppose we got off lightly and, to be fair, this is the first time we have had to pay for a mooring since arriving on the Thames.

Setting off in the drizzle St Johns lock was empty which didn't bode well for the rest of the locks today. Most were on self-service except Grafton where Jon was there to greet us. It was as we entered the lock I realised how high the water levels were. Forget the 3" mentioned earlier, Jon reckons it was up by a foot. The levels are controlled by the lock keepers opening or closing sluices depending on conditions and he did say that we may well get even more of a rise before it plateau's out. Also, there can be a substantial difference to river levels between locks. It all depends on how little or how much water is let down to control the levels.

Not quite overflowing the lock.

Water completely covering the steps.

Jon giving Ian an app to check the river levels.
Made over 4 knots (4.6mph) going with the flow and we dare not go above 1000rpm. We didn't meet anyone which I was most relieved about as stopping may have been difficult. Quite exhilarating though until trying to negotiate the bends and bridges. The force of water tried to push FS toward the overhanging branches and at Radcot bridge we only just missed the wall.



Needing water we stopped at Radcot lock. Crikey this is a difficult water point. On the opposite side to the landing stage and only short, Ian had great difficulty in stopping FS and consequently hit the wall hard. Thankfully no breakages! The large bush at the end didn't help matters and only one set of steps, which was not level with the stern of our boat, to get off.

Radcot lock water point.

See what I mean about the bush?

Radcot Lock

The drizzle stayed with us all the way to Rushy lock. Feellin wet and cold the mooring we had on the way to Lechlade was free so we decided enough was enough. The river may well rise a tad more but with no more rain forecasted, Ian thought it best to keep the ropes slack for when the water levels drop.


Seen as windfalls near to St Johns lock I'm hoping that someone can identify this strange fruit. I thought it to be a lemon at first but it appears to be much to big.




And seen on route







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