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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.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Thank goodness we're going to Braunston

We treated ourselves this morning, with the first cooked breakfast in ages. Scrambled eggs, bacon, mushrooms and tomatoes. After all...... it is Sunday and the last day of August. Not that that has anything to do with haveing a cooked breakfast but having had early starts and toast on the run, so to speak, we felt we deserved it. And it's 31st August! Where has the past 8 months gone? And with Strictly Come Dancing  back on our screens next weekend now I know it's  the run down to Christmas! Just 3 months left to go to get all those pressies.

 Once underway it wasn't long before we reached Hillmorton Locks. Two of the pair were in our favour but the third pair were against. At the middle lock a note had been pinned to the beam. Tells what the inscriptions on the lock beams are all about.

The 7 mile run into Braunston was a doddle. We had these cloud formations showing us the way but I have no idea what they mean. I'm hoping they are fair weather clouds but no doubt someone will put me right.

When we passed this boat, the first thing I noticed (apart from the smoke) was the size of his chimney. Seems a bit OTT for a narrow boat!

  So glad we were heading toward Braunston as I counted well over 25 boats all going towards Hillmorten. Cant begin to imagine the queues at the locks even though they are doubled up. With low pounds between the locks the water situation can only get worse.

We had high hopes that with so many boats coming away from Braunston the place would be empty. No such luck and makes one wonder where thy had all come from. One space was available opposite the facilities so we stopped to empty the loo, (very necessary) and hoped that no boat would take the space. Gosh we were lucky as no sooner had we pushed FS across the canal then a boat appeared out of the junction. As he came past he said he had earmarked the space for himself. First come first served I always say but he wasn't best pleased!

Always know when we are close to Braunston when the church comes into view.

Only space available and we got it first.
 This was the earliest we have stopped during our long run to Milton Keynes. It was dead on midday, so a bite of lunch and then out came the fishing gear and I settled for an afternoon of fishing. Very slow going at first but persistence pays as they say 'cause I landed this decent sized Perch.

While I was fishing Historic boat Monarch sailed past. 

So the Braunston flight is next for us tomorrow. We want to get away by 8am and I'm hoping another boater will have the same idea. Really would like to pair up going up this flight. Fingers crossed someone is awake early

And the usual wildlife.

What a great rope dog. Big fan of that.

Two family's of Swans. One family making a hasty retreat.

Two cygnets in the foreground belong to the aggressive Swan. Pen of the chaser went off in the wrong direction, Cygnets turned round to find her and failed, the the Cob aggressor (with his head bent toward his body) kept on going chasing the others and now the two cygnets are without parents! Hope they all get back together but have seen no sign of them yet.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

A nondescript sort of day

Every thing we did fell into place and for once there were no dramas at all. We made it to Rugby in 3 hours and stopped for a Tesco shop. It was wall to wall boats when we arrived but luckily a boater was just about to leave so we slotted nicely into his space. After stocking up the larder and getting another bottle of gin (ready for the sloes) it was a quick bite of lunch before setting off. We didn't fancy stopping to long in Rugby. Not the sort of place one stays over a weekend as we have heard some bad reports on boats being stoned and lines let loose, especially at night. Instead, after another hours travel, we arrived to moor about 1/2 mile below Hillmorton locks. So only a few photos today. Shame about Newbold tunnel though. Only one blue light is now working and I dont suppose C&RT will bother to replace the others in the future.

More encroaching reeds. By the M6 motorway and heading toward Stretton

The cutting before Stretton with notices telling us to go slow. It's all because of the threat of a possible landslip.

As has happened in the past.

Newbold tunnel and no lights this end

Stalactites covers the roof

Didn't appear to be any lights on the exit, but I was wrong

The last remaining light.

Now and...........
As it used to look.

Cruiser gathering at All Oaks Wood
And now for the wildlife.

Might be getting a warm bottom

Friday, 29 August 2014

Not a foot to be had at Boot Wharf

For once we had a lie in. No locks for us today having done Atherstone flight yesterday. Well okay, there was one lock to do but with a rise of just 6" (no pun intended men!) it was hardly worth mentioning. As we were about to leave, working boat Bascote and towing Gosport came past on their way to do a coal delivery somewhere on the Grand Union.Still have a long way to go and no doubt we will continue to see them as we are traveling the same route.

I do love to see these boats still doing what they were supposed to do. Not a big fan of the tonk-a tonk engines though. Dont think I could stand listening to that for hours on end. Ian would love to own a working boat but he will have to wait until I'm dead and buried and, if I have my way, that wont be for a very long time yet..

Nice to see some dredging taking place at long last and the towpaths being repaired. Shame no piling in place for us boaters to moor to, but I'm sure the walkers and cyclists will appreciate it.

We made good progress towards Nuneaton. We were still following Bascote and Gosport but they certainly didn't hang around averaging about 3.5 mph. The usual rubbish was ever present and bridge 'oles full of hidden hazards but it wasn't until we got to Boots Wharf that the fun began.

Now this is one place that is always a challenge to get by, plenty of moored boats on the offside and not helped by the odd few on the towpath side. So for Bascote towing Gosport this must have been a nightmare.

Approaching the Wharf

And then coming out of the bridge hole they met another boat. To say it was a tight squeeze is an understatement.

Breath in!!!
Then it was our turn to get through. Ian had reversed to allow the boat to get past but coming up at a rapid rate of knots from behind was another boat. Ian managed to get out of the way, but the chap behind had to jump of his boat onto the towpath in double quick time holding his center rope and heave with all his might to bring the his boat into the side and stop a collision. Another lesson taught  in the dangers of traveling to close.

Boots Wharf
The rest of the journey went without hitch. We passed the Ashby turn where the Shackerstone rally is to take place. Would loved to have supported the event but Milton Keynes and #1 son has requested our presence for Oscar birthday (will be 6), as well as his own (will be 39) in October.  We also have things planned in September and with our car being with Colin, it seemed logical that Milton Keynes was a good base to work from.

Our favoured mooring by bridge 11 on the North Oxford was already taken so instead we stopped at Ansty and just in time too as we had to dive into the boat pretty smartly as the rain arrived.

A while later we could hear tooting of a horn, laughter, loud shouts and high revs of an engine. Turns out to be a university bunch of lads and lasses on their way back from a weeks holiday. Told us they thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience other then being robbed while moored at the Dog and Doublet in Bodymoor Heath nr Marsden. Thieves stole, windlasses, mobile phones and even their clothes! It was upsetting for them at the time but they didn't let that spoil the holiday.

Tonight's moorings
Today's wildlife seen on route.

Don't worry folks.... just keep towpath side and you'll be alright.

How rude to show ones bottom!

Who me??

Isn't she a pretty duck

Tethered on the wide grassy strip on the start of the North Oxford.

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