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.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Can't think of one

Post title that is. It's been a nothing sort of day. Ian's been gone for hours just so he can fetch the car. He left at 9.15am to catch the bus to Stafford station (30 mins), train to Long Eaton (1 hr 45 mins) and then another 20 min bus ride to Sandiacre. Then it's a question of sorting out ones finery which is packed in suitcases in the garage for the up and coming wedding. Best bib and tucker and all that. I did what I said I would do yesterday and that was to clean FS from end to end. The rain started by mid morning so all my plans on another afternoon fishing went out of the window. I did happen to notice the grass cutting gang on the tow path opposite. Maybe all the emails sent by all those folk that moaned about state of the towpath (including us) has worked its magic. Shame it was so wet and I did feel sorry for the men having to work in these conditions. But come rain or shine the work must goes on.

Photo taken this morning

This one later in the afternoon during a lull in the heavy rain.
An odd rumble of thunder was heard in the distance this afternoon and judging by the sky I thought we were in for quite a storm. But apart from a torrential downpour, which lasted all of 5 minutes, it has been a mixture of showers and light rain.

Stafford Boat club went very dark. Its a wonder the lighting didn't come on.

Looking toward the club house.

Our mooring for the week, behind Icing.
 Because I was getting bored I had a go at downloading a game by the Bigfish games apps. It's called Empress of the Deep and so far I'm not doing to bad. Do have to use the hints a lot but no doubt I'll improve as time goes on.

Well, I'm still waiting for Ian to return. We had hoped to nip into Stafford to do a bit of shopping but time waits for no man so it may have to be abandoned until after Christine and Grandchildren visit tomorrow.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Now thats a sight for sore eyes

We said our farewells to Penkridge and slowly meandered to Filance lock. One boat was already on the lock landing and one descending and it wasn't long before a further 2 boats pulled in behind. It was at this lock that FS got a thorough soaking from a torrent of water coming from the lock side.

  At Penkridge lock, instead of filling our water tanks at the services and losing our place, I joined the queue at the lock landing which gave Ian ample time to empty both loo's. Thankfully both the boats in front were quick lockers (in other words pulled paddles quickly and jumped across the bottom gates on all but this lock) so our waiting times were reasonably short. Along the route there appeared to have been some mowing activity. Not the fast amount as hoped and only along the center of the towpath. Thinking it was fishing clubs again, I was amazed when we saw these contractors doing a spot of strimming.

And the dust!!!! All over our nicely washed boat. Still it's good to see some activity.

The downside of allowing the path to get overgrown. Clogged up the prop as we went past.

Single mown strip
 Within 3 hours we moored in sight of Staffordshire Boat Club. We assumed that we had booked in for a week from tomorrow and I settled down to what was an excellent afternoon fishing. By 5pm we had a phone call from Pete at the boat club to say we could go on our mooring if we so wished. With that we pulled pins and traveled the 100 yards to moor behind Nb Icing. We now have electric, Ian will fetch the car tomorrow, Christine arrives on Saturday with Josh and Thomas for a visit and Sunday we leave for Ian sister in Essex to attend our Nephews wedding on Monday. So its all go at the moment and all I need to do tomorrow is give FS a good clean before we leave her. On the other hand, that might not be such a good idea what with the Grandchildren coming (-:

Another lovely Perch. These are my favourite fish to fish for.
The buzzards by the boat club are still feeding their chick. I  think it is a rat in it's talons.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Just to put a few things right

Firstly if I come across as having it in for hire boats I apologise, I don't. What I do object to is for those that wont admit to being at fault whether it be private boat owners or a hirer. A comment left on my last post made it sound as if all I do is grip at hirers. As hirers ourselves for nie on 22 years I  remember very distinctly the very first time I went on a hire boat. I was terrified trying to steer and to keep it in a straight line was impossible. I couldn't judge bridge 'oles or how much to turn the tiller going round a bend. And yes I did unintentionally hit boats now and then but was always very quick to apologise to the boat owner. I couldn't travel fast if you paid me, being that scared of not keeping it in the centre of the canal and had no idea which side to pass on. And locks were  completely baffling. No idea which paddle to lift (didn't even know what they were called) or when to open a gate and when to shut it. The times I got the boat stuck on the mud doesn't bear thinking about and even now, 30 years later, I still do stupid things. So if I come across as harsh it is only because some folk just don't think about whats happening in front of them (or behind them for that  matter)  and traveling to fast through a bridge 'ole or round a sharp bend is just asking for trouble. Today was a classic example of a private boat owner getting it wrong. He came out of the bridge 'ole and just didn't turn the tiller in time. He headed straight for us and we were again hit on the bow. He slammed the throttle in reverse but the boat didn't respond  and when it did also hit the boat in front of us with his stern. Ian shot out and the chap was mortified by what had occurred. The chap apologised once again, asked about damage (scratched all the way down our gunwale) and went on his way. 10 minutes later we had a knock on the cabin roof. It was the same gentleman. He asked if there was anyway he could do to compensate us for his mistake and was once again very sorry for his lack in concentration. Now to me this is what boating is all about. Consideration for other users and saying sorry when we get things wrong. He was a real gentleman and of course Ian said there was no harm done. A quick splash of paint would hide the marks and, after a pleasant few minutes chatting to him, he went on his way much relieved. I don't know his name but the boat was called Yorkshire Rose. If you ever come across him this is one hell of a nice guy and one of the most considerate boaters I have ever known.

Bridge 'ole by the Cross Keys. Photo taken from the bow to show the angle

Anyone else think this duck is smoking a cigarette?

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Side swipped by a hire boat in a bridge 'ole

A very early start this morning. Silly time like 6.45am. We wanted to make Penkridge by lunchtime to get a decent mooring and with it being market day tomorrow, we had a long list of things to get for our holiday to the Middle East early next year. I know we still have 7 months before we set off but you try getting summer clothes in winter! Anyway all was going well, we passed the red and white gaffer tape round lock 21 on the Wolverhampton 2 1which, incidentally, is now fully open.

It was as we were coming out of the M54 bridge (being widened to accommodate the above road traffic) that I was suddenly confronted by a Stone hire boat heading straight for me. Inside the bridge was a line of mini booms to direct boat traffic away from the edge so other then scrape the whole of our cabin side against the steel, there was nothing I could do other then hard reverse and gesture to the hirer to stop. He kept coming!!! I shouted again to put his tiller the other way to try and avoid me but still no response. Next thing I know bang.....straight into the side of FS. By hitting me so hard I shot off to the right and straight into overhanging branches. By now I saw red and asked what on earth he was playing at traveling at speed toward an obvious hazard, especially when he saw me coming. He said he had everything under control, wasn't going fast and it must have been my fault! Well you can imagine what I said to him. His bow then ploughed into the opposite side of the bridge, scattering the work force in all directions. With the force of the impact he shot off toward the middle and putting on a bit of power left me to try and sort ourselves out. If only I had got the name of the boat but both Ian and myself were busy trying to rescue flower pots, wifi aerial, fishing rod etc as well as try to untangle us from the branches. I tried reversing out but all that did was to take me toward the red steel holding the bridge supports. Starting to panic I jumped off the back and pushed as hard as I could to stop us from going onto the steel. Nearly lost my balance but saved myself by grabbing hold of the tiller. Honestly thought I was a goner at that moment and heading for a ducking. The men of the workforce could only watch as they were on the other side of the bridge but once we managed to free ourselves, shouted across to Ian with a distinctive laugh to his voice 'see you got yourself free then'. Do you know I can laugh about it now especially as all the hire boat did was scrape a load of blacking off the side but if FS's paintwork had been scratched I would have been heart broken.

If only I had got the boats name! On the front was a silly blow up palm tree

I was reversing out by this time and even the solar panels had been pushed across.

Ian fighting his way to the front to rescue my other planters

Mini booms to keep boaters away from the side.

And the overhanging tree. My stern ended up in the dark bit of the bridge heading for the steel work.
 Having got underway again we picked up a slow boat at Hatherton and it seemed like an age before we got to Gailey. Gailey was the usual chaotic self although all the Viking hire boats were out. We stopped to water up and empty loo and 30 minutes later set off for Penkridge. A volunteer lock keeper was at Rodbaston Lock and she gave us a snippet of information regarding the towpath on the stretch between Rodbaston and Otherton lock. Apparently the fishing club mows that section but only because it is in the agreement to C&RT that, to get the fishing rights, they must maintain it. On no account must they mow to the waters edge, not because of health and safety, but because of the wildflowers that must be allowed to grow. What utter rubbish. Most of it is weed, nettles, elder, ragwort and the likes. Excuse my language but C&RT cant be arsed!
So finally arrived at the cross keys pub by 13.30pm. Having been told by boats passing through Penkridge that all the moorings are full, we decided that the extra walk to the market was worth it so pulled in and moored. Fishing is great here and the added bonus is Ians Tackle shop (not my Ian) is literally a 3 minute walk away.

Must just show you these photos. When we moored below Penkridge lock last Tuesday Ian and I walked up to the tackle shop. On route this swan kept chasing a female duck. I was most surprised to see the same swan still chasing the duck nearly 6 days later. It left all other ducks alone but not this one. Most strange.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Aliens invade Free Spirit.

Have you ever wondered what all those tiny white insects are that stick to the boats super structure waterside and are always there first thing in the morning. Well so have I, and having winded FS before Wightwick Lock , all those insects were now on the towpath side. I just had to find out what they really looked like and, having taken several pictures with my macro lens I noticed that not all of them are alike. Some have tails and others appear to be losing them. My last picture shows one with no tail so I assume this to be the final stage.

Tail disintegration

 This one was on our hopper window so we removed the window, set it up against the cabin side and set my camera on a tripod. This one shows more detail and the tail all but gone.
I'm still none wiser but aren't they the weirdest and fascinating of creatures. At least now I have an idea of what they look like.

After winding we didn't go very far only back to Compton lock. It was to hot to do much at all today but Ian did find the energy to wash the roof and sides while I went for another walk around the nature reserve.

Wightwick Lock by the winding hole

Mooring below Compton Lock

Ratty opposite this mooring

Need to keep well away from this waterfall. Wightwick Mill Lock

Got wet feet from these side spouts.

New way of winding. Giving it a good push.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Flight closed and all because of £5 worth of steel

After I had sent my blog into the great wide world yesterday a boat we recognised came past and up to the lock. It was the boat with no name that was first on the scene for the boat rescue. Now if I had been observant I would have noticed that scrawled all over its back counter was the name Lady. Anyway just chatting to him he said that he was due to go up the Wolverhampton 21. Ian noticed when we came past there yesterday that red and white gaffer tape was all over the first lock. Not really taking that much notice it came as no shock when the chap told us the flight was closed. He had stopped on the lock landing, had a look on waterscape to see what it was all about and when he could find no mention of a stoppage phoned a friend of his that works for C&RT in this area. Thats when he was told that at lock 9 the gate had fallen off!!! Someone had nicked the collar holding the gate on. How they had got the collar off in the first place must have taken some thought. So for a repair that will no doubt cost C&RT, and ultimately us the licence payers, £1000's and all because that bit of steel might earn them a fiver! Anyway if anyone is thinking of traveling up or down the flight forget it. Could be next Friday before it's opened again!

It was too nice a day to move on and with a nature reserve right on the doorstep I persuaded Ian to join me for a walk.

This place is vast.  Lots of natural meadows, wooded areas and it even hosts a small pond.

Loads of water boatman

Tettenhall railway (disused)

Not often you get a view from a railway bridge
Railway cutting

Found a lovely stream for Jade to paddle in. She couldn't wait to get down to it.

Now all she has to do is clamber up

After a couple of hours we returned to FS. Moored behind us was this hire boat and stretched right across the towpath was their rope. Not a soul nearby other then the lady standing at the front. We called out to her and asked very nicely for her to remove it. Lots of hand gestures later and we realised she didn't understand English. Her husband returned from the lock side and thankfully he did understand us.Turned out they were from Belgium and hadn't realised what a danger the rope posed. After putting them right and helping them through their first ever lock, they went on their way slightly wiser then when they arrived.

We will move on tomorrow but only to wind and head back to Penkridge. Hope today isn't quite as hot as today.

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