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.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Still not made it to Fradley.

We had already untied and was about to set off when I noticed this beautiful Beauford kit car behind the fence not 4 feet from where we had moored. Many many years ago we also owned, and nearly built, a kit car. It was a Merlin 2+2 I say nearly because Ian's work commitments got in the way of him finishing it. Shame as we never got to take it for a spin. We sold her, unfinished, back in 2004.

Merlin 2+2 ( not ours ).  Photo taken at a Kit car show.
 There was drizzle in the air when we did get going and although we originally had planned to stay another night, the mooring  was a bit noisy and it didn't help when a boat came charging past us at 2am in the morning, waking us and sending the boat banging into the side.Our balloon fender was stripped clean of its rope and.we found it, thankfully, caught up with some debris at the stern. We got as far as Hawkshead Hall and stopped to watch team GB in the show jumping. Fantastic ending to the Equestrian3 day event as they came away with silver. We then pulled pins and tagged on the end of a boat going  through the narrow section.

 We made it as far as Wood End lock and found a very secluded mooring below. The TV is back on, the rain is coming down again and Ian and I are watching the women's gymnastics.

Wood End lock in the distance.

Monday, 30 July 2012

A few hiccups on our way to Rugeley

As Ian wanted to continue touching the blacking on the hull, there seemed little point in moving yesterday.  The Wide is an ideal place for dealing with both sides of the boat, with the width and depth of water making it ideal.. Having polished the port side, next job was to wind Freespirit. The wind had picked up again but Ian did the perfect turn and as he came level with the mooring, the wind pushed him neatly sideways and straight into the gap.Once ropes were tied, Ian got out the paint to touch up the hull and I tried the TV. Would you credit it. We were in the same place but pointing in a different direction and the picture kept breaking up! So after shoeing away these ducks, we moved the boat forward by 3 feet and got the picture back.

Doug and James also decided to stay for the day and as Doug wanted a paper he, James and Ian set of for the village. This gave me an opportunity to catch up on the Olympics and do a spot of fishing. Later that day we all  had another session of drinks and nibbles before dinner but this time on our boat. We exchanged recipes, as you do, and by 7pm we all went our separate ways to catch up on the Olympics..

This morning it was time to say farewell to the lads. We loved this weekend with them and we will miss the constant laughter and their great sense of humour. So after winding the boat again we made our way to Great Haywood junction and onward to Fradley.

Doug making sure we left!!!!!

The turn onto the T&M was a doddle. The breeze died down just as we got there so we had No Problem ( Yes Sue I mean you te he ) about turning right.

Great Haywood Junction
A boat had just come out of Haywood lock, which was a bonus, but as we approached Colwich lock a boat shot out in front of us and straight into the other bank.

No one at the helm. They were trying to free themselves at the bow.

After a considerable delay as we couldn't even get off the boat to help, they managed to free themselves and we were once again on our way. The lock was a nightmare. Its the first time in in months that we have had to queue. 4 boats in front and even more waiting below. Must have take best part of 45 mins! As you can imagine. We didn't make Fradley after all, stopping instead at Rugely.


So we set up the satellite dish and settled down to watch the cross country when we suddenly had a knock on the window. It was Paul and Jacquie on Nb Saphire. ( It is the correct spelling ). Its amazing that in 5 days we have met so many of old friends as well as fellow bloggers. After tea and biscuits they departed for Shugborough, while we went back to watching the Olympics.

A white signet amongst the greys.

Unique way of mooring!!!
What has happened to the veg pledge? The towpath is there somewhere, honest!

Should we have more like this?

Sunday, 29 July 2012

A 'Chance' meeting.

Had a bit of drama at Deptmore lock yesterday morning. I lone lady boater came up the lock, got off her boat and had closed the top gate when somehow she lost her footing and fell in. I arrived minutes later just as a couple who had witnessed her fall, managed to pull her out. She was visibly shook up and as she admitted to us, if there had been no one around she wouldn't have been able to get herself back onto the boat.. One of the things we bought years ago was a safety rope ladder which we hang from one of our seats at the back. At least we would have a chance of climbing out. Its something to think about. as this could happen to any one of us.

It is only the bag that looks battered. It has a handle that can be pulled to release the ladder.

Leaving Bruce and Shelia to enjoy another day at Deptmore lock,( which personally I thought was crazy seeing as a huge marquee had been erected next to the canal ready for a  wedding reception to take place that day and, no doubt, the music and partying would go on well into the night )  we set of for Tixall Wide. Doug and James on Nb Chance had been in contact to say they had arrived at Tixall and would we join them for a BBQ.

James showing off his painting skills on the plank

Tea and coffee greeted us as we arrived.

 I don't know if its just us, but when we get together with boaters for a BBQ, we usually bring our own meat and then some sort of contribution with the salad stuff. So when we had the invite, I made my coleslaw and came with our chops and enough sausages to share. Well, if you have ever been entertained by James and Doug you are in for a treat. First the nibbles appeared, then the wine. After that James got the BBQ ready and Doug brought out a starter, Avocado and Mozzarella with basil leaves and tomatoes. Then Doug started on the cooking.  We were only expecting to eat our own meat, but oh no! Out came chicken drumsticks, kebabs and home made vegy burgers, as well as our chops which, in the end, we divided up between three of us as James is vegetarian,. and the sausages. Meanwhile,  the salad stuff arrived with the rolls for the burgers. It was all so delicious. By now we were feeling completely stuffed and, as the temperature dropped and the wind picked up, we all went for a warm in Chance. The wine continued to flow, as well as much hilarity and then, would you believe, Doug produced a lemon Torte with fresh raspberries, picked by Doug's own fair hand at Great Haywood farm shop, and cream. By now I was begging for mercy. Please no more food but I must say Doug is a fantastic cook as the Torte was easily as good as any desert you would get in a restaurant. You would think by now that that was the end of the food. When the coffee was made out came the chocolates!!! What I want to know guys is, why don't ypu put on any weight! Just by looking at all that food I gained 5lbs!  Thanks guys for one of the best evenings we have had for a long time.

Jade looking after the table of nibbles, while James clears away his painting masterpiece ( plank and pole!!!)

Freespirit & Chance moored together.

Lovely Rudd caught yesterday in the Wide

We were hoping, this morning, to wind the boat so Ian can touch up the black paint on the bow where I  'removed it' when hitting the bridge 'ole and, 'getting it wrong' when I entered some of the locks. Only trouble is its blowing a hooley and the sky is starting to look very ominous.And as for me. I'm glued to the TV watching our team GB. Its all so very disappointing up to now. Lets hope things improve as the weeks go by..

Friday, 27 July 2012

Meeting Sanity Again.

You get days when nothing goes wrong and everything goes right. Today was that day. We didn't leave Penkridge until 10.30am, much later then anticipated as we were waiting to say farewell to Carole and Alan. The curtains remained closed on their boat until well after 10am. Now I ask you, who sleeps in until that time in the morning!!! Finally there was signs of life and making the comment to them about 'its okay for some to sleep in late', they told us that a party in the house opposite had continued well into the night making it impossible to sleep. So we let them off and with our goodbyes said, finally got underway. I suppose the only slight problem was low water between Penkridge and Longton locks.

Within 2 1/2 hours we arrived at Deptmore lock and found Bruce and Shelia Nb Sanity Again already moored. So we did no more then pull up in front of them and walked over to say, hi. Nearly 3 hours later after a lot of laughter, some serious talk and tea and coffee we said our goodbyes. I bet they thought we would never go!!. I then went fishing but only caught 2 tiddlers so, as Ian suggested 'before dinner drinks', I gave up on catching anything decent, walked over to Sanity and asked Bruce and Shelia if they would like to join us. Sally, Eleanor's woofit, was with them but even though they had some reservations of leaving her alone on the boat for the first time, came and joined us for an hour. Its amazing how, although you may only have met a few times, the conversation never stopped. Its almost like meeting long lost friends. Now all we have to do is meet up with Doug and James on Nb Chance who we know are heading our way.

Posing buzzard

Yellow 0phius

Thursday, 26 July 2012

A large present dropped outside our boat

I found a note right by our back deck, stuck to a stick and pushed into the ground. Why was that you may ask? This was why!

As we have ' and Dogs' written on our cabin side I was mortified thinking someone might think it was our dog that had produced this mound. Out came the shovel, scooped up the offending pile and placed it far into the hedge. It wasn't until much later this morning when Malcolm from Nb Manju came along and told me that he had placed the note for us to see  in case we stepped in it. Thank you Malcolm.  Now, if I could just get hold of the dogs owner.............
I have also met another fellow blogger. First, though, a boat came up Penkridge lock with the name Debdale I knew the name and suddenly realised that Adam and Adrian used to be co owner's on this boat before buying  Nb Briar Rose. If by any chance you read this blog Adam, Debdale still looks in very good condition..
Then looking across to the facilities block was another boat name I recognised. Nb Piston Broke. I had a very brief chance to say hi to Lynne and Paul as they left the facilities. Much later I again met up with them when they came from the direction of the pub. ( I assumed they had been to the pub, but there again they may have come from the village.) Good to meet you at last.
Today our friends Carole and Alan arrived on Nb Marmaduke. After sitting down for a long natter and coffee we all departed for the Boat Inn here in Penkridge. The meal was typical pub grub, very good value and plenty of it. The beer wasnt to bad either and we had a lovely afternoon, sitting in the pub grounds sunning ourselves and regaling each other with boating tales.
Ian and I are now sitting outside enjoying the last of the sunshine. ( well I have been fishing  for the last hour until I thought I aught to write my blog before the drink got the better of me. After all I have been on the beer and red wine since 1.30pm. Hic Hic.)

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Rage at Gailey top lock

After traveling the Birmingham canals and only seeing 3 boats on the move in 4 days, it came as quite a shock to have a procession of boats passing our mooring and all heading toward Gailey lock! The first boat came past us before 6.30am and from that moment onwards we had one boat after another. We got up and washed the roof and sides and each time we thought, okay now is the time to go, another came along. Looking toward the facilities there appeared to be boats waiting for the lock as well as trying to water up. You couldn't tell who wanted to use the lock or who needed the facilities. Consequently all hell let loose at one point when boats waiting for the lock were passed by boats arriving. If you know Gailey then you realise that there is very limited room, and with boats going toward the lock and boats coming out of the lock it was utter chaos. There was shouting and swearing and boats trying to reverse and hitting other boats. Complete madness!!!. I returned to our boat and thought better of getting involved. Then along came Duke and Duchess, two hotel boats. Somehow they managed to get onto the facilities and that is where they stayed! It caused more mayhem. They have two huge water tanks to fill so you can imagine the amount of time it took.  Not only that but having breasted up, reduced the width even more. By 11.30am and with the hotel boats still on the water point we decided that if we didn't join the queue we would never get away. Ian walked on ahead and with one boat waiting to come up, another waiting to go down, the hotel boats still filling, I managed to squeeze the boat into the side and await my turn.

It wasn't until after midday that we finally made it through the top lock. Another boat had turned up just as the hotel boats were ready to leave. He managed to get in front. Lucky him because otherwise he would have had a very long wait.

Brick Kiln Lock. Telecommunication tower dominates the skyline.
Our pathetic little flag in support of team GB.

Well rugged horses crossing the bridge at Otherton Lock.
 Ian seemed very concerned that, in this heat, these two horses should have rugs on. I did point out that they were lightweight breathable summer rugs designed to keep the flies from irritating there skin.

Appears to be sinking. ( Hatherton Marina )

Traveling just 3 miles, we pulled over to the facilities at Penkridge to finally fill with water and empty the loo. We wanted to stay in Penkridge and await our good friends Carole and Allan on Nb Marmaduke.who were only a few miles behind us. Ian looked below lock and found all the moorings taken, and the only available space above lock was just before the lock landing. We managed to reverse into that spot before another boat turned up to take it.

Penkridge Lock

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Unprepared hirers.

I reckon the boater we talked to last night was just scare mongering as we had a lovely peaceful night without any incident at all. Even the youths on the bridge just kept going and didn't even give us a second glance. It wasn't until around 7am this morning that the peace was shattered by two Aqua Hire boats out of Mercia Marina, careering past us at full throttle. Our boat tilted alarmingly  and it was a wonder none of my kitchen stuff  ended up on the floor. To add insult to injury they then put the boats hard into reverse as they had missed the junction and wanted to go up the Wolverhampton 21. I got up muttering to myself about inconsiderate boaters, took Jade over the bridge toward the lock only to find one boat in the lock and the other in the junction entrance.   I was all prepared to say something to them about slowing down, when I heard one of  them say to another that they couldn't operate the paddles. Thats when I realised that they had no idea that they needed a handcuff key. So instead of having a rant I offered my assistance. A key was duly found and I showed them how to unlock the paddle gear but gave them strict instructions that the last boat through was to lock them up again. They were ever so grateful for my help. I did comment on the speed at which they passed us and they were really apologetic.Apparently they were told that doing the Stafordshire ring was doable in a week, 104 miles and 98 locks. What they hadn't been told was the amount of cruising required to do it. They were now 3 days into the cruise and still had to do part of the Wolverhampton, Birmingham and Coventry canals before heading back up the T&M. To say the were peeved about the amount of cruising they had to do was an understatement.
I left them to it and, on getting back to the boat, found Ian dressed, toast and tea made, satelite dish down and put away and tiller already on. Okay I got the message. We were ready to get underway.
The journey toward Gailey went without hitch. We didnt even meet a boat in the narrow cutting between Bridge 67 & 68. It was so hot by lunchtime that we managed to find a shady mooring before the top lock at Gailey to have lunch. Thats when we got the chairs out, sat on the towpath with a beer and decided not to move any further today.

Hope he doesn't poop!!!

The narrows

Unusual coloured duck

Gailey moorings.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Ian!! No more excursions, please.

If Ian suggest a trip along the lesser known routes of the BCN again, I think I'll strangle him!! Both of us were looking forward to the excursion up the Wednesbury Oak Loop, so after a peaceful and trouble free night  (the added bonus of a powerful light from the building opposite, illuminating  the bridge ( no longer used ) and also the boat) we set off  on a gloriously sunny morning and journeyed through Coseley Tunnel, ( very wet )  we soon came to Deepfield junction. The weed was covering the whole of the junction and turning into it was like going through a thick soup. It soon became apparent that it was getting the better of us when we got slower and slower. We made it to the first bridge 'ole and out came the trusty boat hook with the hope of clearing the prop instead of having to go down the weed hatch. Ian had some success, so the decision was made to carry on. If I knew then what I know now I would have persuaded Ian not to venture into the loop. Again the photos will tell the tale.

Deepfield Junction

Bridge 'ole just inside the loop

Looks so idyllic

Then the weed started.

The majority of the way was like this.

The winding hole

Thankfully back at the junction
After making a wise decision that we would not try to reach the end of the loop, and having managed to wind with only a few hard reverses to clear the prop, I was very pleased to see the junction. We turned right and finally made our way to the Wolverhampton 21. The top of the flight was lovely. I have had various comments on my last blog all saying that the C&RT bod was wrong in suggesting that we shouldnt moor there. Im inclined to agree with Jo Nb Hadar, Bruce Nb Sanity Again and Nicolas who all said the moorings were safe. The area looked fine and we moored for an hour while we nipped into town to do some shopping without any trouble.

Wolverhampton top lock

Started the 21 with the first two locks with us. We started to think we would be in luck with the rest, but it was not to be. The next 19 all had to be turned round and in the soaring temperatures was no joke. We did the whole flight in 3 hours 10 minutes.

Chimney of the recycling centre.

Impressive railway arches

The final lock
We stopped on towpath side bollards just after the Aldersley Junction. Again seemed an idyllic location but a boater moored for a short time opposite, put the fear of God in us when he said that 3 hire boats had been set alight near here. Both of us were, by now, too tired to move any further, so I do hope we don't have any trouble tonight!!

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