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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.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Attacked by briars!

Yesterday may have been a bit tame but today we more then made up for it. Not only were we forced into a briar patch but on the plus side we met up with Roger and Pat on The Cats Whiskers.
 We had a thousand canoeist go past us early this morning ( slight exaggeration ) but noisy enough to wake us up with the oars splashing in the water and the occasional bang as one of them hit the hull of our boat. Nothing for it but get underway.

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Destination today was to travel up the Stort to Harlow. First we had to get to the junction. The middle part of the Lee is very rural. Reminded me of traveling up Savic Brook off the Tidal Ribble on the Lancaster.

After about 2 hours traveling, 4 miles and 3 locks later we made it to Feildes Weir Lock. It took us ages to do this section. All the locks were against us and top gates open ( must leave the exit gates open on the river ) and all were very slow fillers. And chatting to the locals at every lock didnt help either!  Feildes At the top of this lock is the Junction to the Stort. Warning boards were up on the lock about the narrow locks.

Turning onto the Stort
Now we really have got to a rural river. It was shallow in places and very overgrown. Mooring opertunities are far and few between with the best spots already accounted for. We did pass another lock which made me do a double take. I wasn't expecting a lock that took you back down having locked up all the way! This is a lock which takes you down to the new marina and therefore not one we needed to use unless you wanted to use the facilities. We also encountered a couple of low bridges. Not as bad as the one on the River Wey and we got under easily. We have been warned by another boater of another low bridge nearer the head of navigation aparently lower then these two. Maybe my plants and Buckby cans will have to come off.

Not quite sure what to make of this vessel. Hot water tank suspended overhead must hold his water supply.
 Before you got to Parndon Mill lock there was a sharp right hand bend and then a short run up to the lock. Ian had the helm and I spied a boat traveling towards us through the thicket. Ian slowed right down and went as far over to his right as possible. The other boat obviously didn't see us and was traveling at some speed when he noticed our bow coming round the corner, and instead of attempting to make the turn, made straight for the bank in front of him instead. Turns out it was a widebeam who had just come out of the lock. Why he had to put the power on with a bend coming up was beyond me. Ian was pushing the tiller hard over to the left and in doing so cut the corner. Next thing I know Ian shouts at me that my fishing rod on the roof was caught in some foliage and was being dragged ever nearer to the side of the boat. I had visions of losing it and as quick as I could rushed down the gunwhale to save it from a watery end. Unbeknownst by me the rod was actually caught in blackberry briars and having released the reel, the briars then sprung back and attacked me. I was frantically trying to extricate myself from the thorns but in doing so I managed to scratch myself all along my right wrist. Then the thorns grabbed hold of my T shirt and even managed to attach itself to my hair. With a lot of silent swearing and a few 'by jove that hurt' I finally got myself free. By now Ian had completely stopped the boat, the people on the other boat was trying to reverse and in doing so side swiped a branch and we heard an almighty crash. Could well have been his window that gave way. I have no idea what happened next as I dashed below to stem the bleeding and remove the thorns poking out of my flesh. All I know we eventually got underway and into the open lock.
Then while I was back at my normal post at the tiller, I noticed a lady coming from above with windlass in hand. Turned out to be Pat from The Cats Whiskers. Sure enough on the lock landing and holding the boat was Roger. Having read his blog yesterday we were pretty sure we would meet somewhere along the Stort. Roger came over to see us after securing his boat and I had a lovely hug from him as a hello. We had a lovely chat while the lock filled and hope to see them at Hertford next week.


Roger crossing the bridge

 We eventually arrived at Harlow Mill with the hope of getting a mooring. All I can say is forget it unless you are extremely lucky. Visitor moorings are after the lock and can accommodate no more then 2 boats. If one moors in the middle you stand no chance. So on we went to find something suitable as by now it was gone 2pm and time we stopped.

Another lock where there is no balance beams. Burnt Mill lock. Ian using the BW key and pushing buttons to close the gates.
We eventually found a mooring after trying several times to get into the bank. It's right by a small weir and I hope with the sound of running water all night we wont be getting up to the loo at all hours!

Mooring topside of Feakes lock

Just before I was going to publish this post, Ian called me to the back of the boat. Sitting on the weir's handrail was a Kingfisher. No time to get the camera but I hope he will be back in the morning.

And finally:-

Male Demoiselle waiting for his female

Female not long emerged from the water

Then she goes back in and.......

is grabbed by the male

away they go


KevinTOO said...

Sorry to hear that you've had such a prickly time today, hope you heal up soon :)

Ian and Irene Jameison said...

Hello Kevin,

Thanks for that :) If it ever happens again the rod can fend for itself!!!

Anonymous said...

I'm planning to pick blackberries today - full personal protective equipment needed - those briars fight back :-)

Sue, nb Indigo Dream

Jaqueline Biggs said...

Ahh yes we remember it well! The Stort was not a great experience for us and we won't be back again. I do wish we could have gone up to the terminus of he Lee but a lock gate had come unhinged and it took weeks for it to be fixed so we didn't hang around. We have been told though that the Lee is lovely up at that end. Gorgeous pictures as usual!!

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