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 May 2016

Oh dear. Definitely a senior moment or two!

Bank Holiday Monday 30th

Yipee we had our first BBQ of this year last night and with chicken breasts and venison sausages, very nice it was too. Got a bit chilly later in the evening though, and the shorts came off for jeans and a jumper was quickly found and put on. Ian is made of sterner stuff not ever feeling the cold.

Such a glorious morning to cruise although that wind was a bit cool. Three more locks to do and another four swing bridges before arriving at Tarleton. Two boats had turned up late last night and moored in front of us so we knew the first lock would be with us. The second lock by bridge 4 had a lone lady boater just coming out so she left the gate open for me to go right in. It was at this lock where we had a couple of senior moments. 

So Ian wound up the paddle on both bottom gates and I started to descend. Got to a certain point and didn't descend any more. Coming from the side wall, water bubbling and swirling suggesting some sort of leakage. Calling to Ian he walked back to the top gate paddle on the off side to see if it was fully down and sure enough it was. So we ummed and ahed and thought should we bring FS back up again and phone C&RT. I decided to see if I could add my weight to Ian's to try and open the gate first. Now I'm not the most agile person and must have looked very awkward as I tried to get off my knees and according to Ian I gave a chap walking his dog quite an eyeful!  Not a pretty sight me I can assure you! Anyway absolutely no chance of shifting the gate. I started to worry that we would drain the pound and then Ian suddenly thought....(his senior moment) had he checked the towpath side top paddle to see if that was down, the same side as the lone boater came out from. And there it was staring him in the face, an open paddle! She must have forgotten to lower it in her haste to leave because I was coming. So finally the water levels equalised and we could open the gate. So then for my senior moment. Having taken the centre rope when I climbed off of FS, I now dropped it back on board before climbing down the ladder. And what should happen???? FS gently starts to make a break from the side and now I had no means of stopping her. Ian as quick as you like almost pushed me out of the way, descended the ladder and with his long legs managed to get onto the gunwale before she settled in the middle. Gosh wouldn't that have been embarrassing and to think we very nearly phoned C&RT to come sort the problem out!!

Water bubbling and gushing in

Centre rope tied to the bollard. I remembered to do that.
Thinking not much more could go wrong I dropped Ian off to open Marsh Meadow swing bridge. Waiting for Ian to open the bridge the engine note changed. In fact it made this horrible rumble sound and nearly stalled. In the past the centre rope, as well as the stern rope, has stalled the engine by trailing in the water and wrapping round the prop, (both times my fault) so my first thought was check the ropes. Both were still in place thank goodness so the prop must have picked up something  from below. I got through the bridge, just, and pulled over. Ian had the task of going down the weed hatch and unearthed nothing more than some plastic. Thankfully when the engine was started again the grumbling noise stopped and all we could think was whatever it had been had dropped off while we were stationary.

Marsh Meadow

Cant just have been this that caused the problem
In Tarleton we found an almost empty length of mooring. The first boats to leave for Lancaster are not until Wednesday as the tides are wrong at the moment so we almost had the place to ourselves. Deciding to walk to the lock we were also on the lookout for a winding hole. And not one was to be seen! Oh eck!! Did that mean we would have a several  miles to reverse back to the winding hole at Rufford Hall. We asked a chap working on his boat where we could wind. No winding hole is shown in our old Nicholson's but he assured us there was one but it was not readily obvious. There are a couple of signs along the water coarse which sort of showed where. I say sort off because the banks were so overgrown that without some knowledge you would have no clue., So for anyone coming down the Rufford arm here are my photos to show you where.

Before you get to the residential moorings there is a bungalow with a fence. A fishing peg with a gap in the foliage is the only clue to where it is.

3 foot clearance at the stern on our 57ft boat.

Tarleton Mooring.
Tide is out. No chance of anyone leaving for Lancaster yet.
River Douglas

I do feel for all of you down south. What is it your experiencing? Wind, rain, thunder storms!!!


And what do we have in the West. Glorious unbroken sunshine.

Happy in the sun

Rotten of me I know but couldn't help myself.

And the wildlife today,

Top knot ducks

Monday, 30 May 2016

Blasted lock...wont budge. Now how are we going to get out.

Sunday 29th

Last nights sunset, very encouraging for the day to come.

Gosh that sun had some warmth in it. We woke to the sound of FS's hull banging and creaking   expanding in the heat. Tea in bed before we got up to do a very important job. Give the starboard side of FS a good wash. We had been targeted by the local bird population and poo splatter seemed to be everywhere. So armed with bucket and sponge I went to open the back hatch. Couldn't understand why it wouldn't open. We have a hasp type lock which is opened with a key but the hasp wouldn't release. I called for Ian who also tried prying it open. No chance as it was well and truly jammed in place. Hmmm, How to get out! We deduced that it had to be the heat in the steel expanding which held the hasp in a vice like grip and it was only by Ian going into his man cupboard to find a suitable tool to prise it open that we got out. Took a good few minutes though. Never has this happened before. We have had the door stick in the heat but a good push had always freed it. Now the summer has finally arrived we will see if it happens again.

By 10.30ish we were on our way. Only the one swing bridge which had been opened by a crew member of the boat in front. She waited for us to arrive and as we thanked her she said that her hubby was turning the boat at the junction to come back through.

The boat winding while we waited to turn right onto Rufford Arm
 It was at this junction that we needed to turn right. Onto the Leeds and Liverpool Rufford arm and the 7 locks to Tarleton. To our surprise C&RT volunteers were on duty and they helped us down the first 3 locks.

Top lock

Taking on water. No elsan or rubbish here

Lock 4 and could this be the shortest lock landing on the canals?

This was left by the owner over the winter and then sunk by vandals. C&RT have been unable to find the owner and their hands are tied as they cant remove it without the owners permission. Ludicrous!!!! (Told to me by one of the volunteers)
 The forth was down to us but that's about as far as we got because a lovely mooring with cladding showed itself and with the fiasco of trying to have a BBQ yesterday, we decided to stop and try again tonight.

And the wildlife seen today

Sunday, 29 May 2016

I can say nothing good about these bikers!

Our intentions were to leave late morning, once those other boats had left. Didn't turn out that way 'cos a certain person not a million miles from me, woke early, got dressed, made tea and said how about leaving before those boats. Time 7.50am! No lying in bed for me any more so once tea was drunk and I was dressed, I left Ian to make the toast while I set off. Going early certainly has it's benefits 'cos one gets to see animals rarely seen other than in wildlife parks.

So in a way Ian did us a favour because the two locks we had to do today were also with us. Had two swing bridges to do, one of which was a road bridge. On that bridge I had difficulties on getting onto the landing to drop Ian off due to a couple of boats moored in the most awkward of places but manage I did and, as soon as Ian stopped the traffic, I was through like a shot.

Dean Locks

Ranicar's swing bridge

Now this is a great idea. Landings on both sides of the bridge so lone boaters can open and close the bridge on the operational side without difficulty.

Appley locks

Spencer road swing bridge

Barely open and already on my way through.
 We moored away from others because tonight we were going to have the first BBQ of the year. We chose this spot because of the rural feel. How could we have got it so wrong!!!

Seems idyllic doesn't it.
 Every man and his dog were out this afternoon, all heading toward the Ring of Bells pub. We must have had well over 50 bikers go past and the same 50 coming back, now all very much the worse for wear. In fact twice I had to rush out to retrieve our chairs which had been deliberately pushed over, one nearly ending up in the canal! It got so bad that we abandoned the plans for the BBQ because, as Ian pointed out, cant guarantee that these toe rags wont knock that flying too and full of lit coals! Very disappointing as I was so looking forward to not cooking, sitting outside and supping a Pimms. We very nearly moved even though the time was after 5pm but looking at the map Burscough was as near to the other side of the pub as Parbold was on this side. Who was to say 50 more bikers hadn't come from Burscough! But that wasn't all. No end of cruisers also came past us, some with men obviously out for a good time at the pub. If only they hadn't been inebriated on the way back they would have cut their speed. Well I like to think they would!

Roared past those boats

And heading for us!! I rushed out and gave them a right what for!! They did cut the revs but I got the usual obnoxious abuse from the pair!
 The only saving grace of this mooring was the tree on the field side of the towpath. A nest of baby Blue Tits all making a hell of a racket when mum and dad returned.

A Great Tit arrived.
 And in the field full of lettuce (bet the farmers loved that)

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