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.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Never knew he was one of the Code breakers

 With us still near enough for son Colin to visit and, with daughter-in-law in Holland for the weekend, the boys asked to come and see us for another fishing session. This time they insisted that  Nana join in. Only too happy to oblige!

 That was yesterday and today we walked the 1.1 miles to Bletchley Park to see the home of the WW11 codebreakers. The walk to the place was never ending, or so it seemed!. Funny how going to a place seems to take longer than the return journey. It's something to do with the 'return trip effect' even when travel distance and time are the same there and back, the back feels measurably shorter. Apparently, researchers have found that we are very bad at judging how long a trip takes and therefore forget the actual length of time it took.

For a Sunday the place was understandably busy mainly with coach parties but the Scouts were also in abundance. To avoid the crowds we started from the far end and worked our way back. Having been to the Park many many years ago I fully expected to see the same displays but in 2011 a lottery grant allowed a massive rebuilding program which ended in 2014 and therefore much was new to us. The most disappointing part was not seeing the Colossus (the first programmable electronic computer) which had been moved to The National Museum of Computing. Still on the Park grounds but now stood alone as a separate building with an extra entry cost. As our entry ticket to Bletchley Park is valid for a year we may go and see this exhibition on our return journey in October.

For six hours we explored every corner, going into the Mansion and huts, watching the many videos on code breaking, trying to take in all the information. It was thrilling to read about a code breaker and mathematician Rolf Noskwith account of his time breaking the code.

 A canal enthusiast who lived near to the Erewash canal in Ilkeston, both he and his wife were very generous benefactors to the ECP&DA Association over a number of years. However, both preferred to remain out of the spotlight and it was only when we wrote his obituary in the Outlook Magazine (Ian is editor) that his code breaking feats were revealed. He was aged 97 when he died.


The mansion

The Bombe

Lorenz Schlusselzusatz SZ40 Cipher Attachment

 The Enigma machine is a piece of spook hardware invented by a German and used by Britain's codebreakers as a way of deciphering German signals traffic during World War Two. It has been claimed that as a result of the information gained through this device, hostilities between Germany and the Allied forces were curtailed by two years.

Inside the mansion

Top left:- 1938 Austin 18 six cylinder Ambulance. Top right:- 1940 Packard 6 six-cylinder touring Sudan. Bottom left:- 1947 Sunbeam Talbot 2 litre sports saloon converted to a Tourer and bottom right : - blackout headlights.

Typex machines.

Watch keepers room

Bletchley Lake

With resident Swans

My feet were very relieved to get back to FS and we were just in time to beat the rain. Looks like we may well get good weather tomorrow, think it is now time to move on.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Offside branches, moored boat and a widebeam, something was going to go wrong.

I always say a good thunderstorm clears the air and today was no exception. Not a massive storm at the Park, a flash and a couple of loud claps of thunder followed by a minute of torrential rain, but it helped drop the humidity and we had high hopes of a pleasant morning cruising.

Pulling pins by 9.30am it was a steady run to Peartree where we stopped for water. Surely, there is not a slower tap on the system as it took over an hour to top our tank up by just 60 percent. By the time we had finished other boaters were queuing and I expect they are all in for a long stay.

 One thing I have noticed this year on the GU is the number of wide beams. Most are a reasonable width but there are the few that are monsters. With the amount of offside vegetation and branches now narrowing the width of the canal, the inevitable was due to happen. Unfortunately that 'inevitable' happened to us. Rounding a bend we first saw the moored boat before realising another boat was also coming toward us, one with a monstrous bow and one of the broadest wide beam boats I think I have seen on this canal. I'm pretty sure it could only just fit through a bridge 'ole, it was that big. Anyway we had to move over pretty smart and right into overhanging branches of an offside tree. Ian put FS into reverse but not before the front part of FS had disappeared from view. And as luck would have it, and following close behind the wide beam, was another narrowboat. We could do nothing but sit tangled until both boats had passed. Even that wide beam didn't come away unscathed. It too had to go through part of those branches to get past that moored boat. Then because FS was by now in the mud, out came the pole and with me reversing away from the branches, the front was pushed off by Ian sufficiently for our bow to clear the tree. I feel that all wide beams have their place on our canals, after all the water is to be enjoyed by everyone, but I do feel a limit on the width of some of these should be implemented, either that or C&RT has to start clearing the vast amount of offside vegetation that is encroaching on the canals to allow these huge crafts to cruise in a safe manner.

 On our way again we made it as far as Fenny Stratford. Stopped on the 14-day mooring and may stay until after the weekend. Quite fancy going to Bletchley Park which is the site of the WW2 codebreakers. We have been before but didn't feel as if we took it all in.

And seen on route,

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Could this be the future?

Sunset Monday night,

Most of us will have experienced some very uncomfortable nights with the humidity and heat. For us though, last night was a good one as the side hatch (now waterside) could be left open. Made all the difference with that slight breeze.

Blast... a text from Colin to say today's sports day was cancelled! This intense heat was more than the infants could endure so the headmaster has called it all off. Very disappointed not to see our grandson Oliver compete and with sports day now scheduled for July, looks like we are never likely too. But, instead of leaving Campbell Park, it was decided that we still head over to our son's house and surprise both grandkids when they return from school. A bus journey and walk was in store for us now and in this heat, not one either of us was looking forward to.

Before we left and coming toward us was what I can only describe as 'a floating bedstead'! Ian then realised it was not being powered by an engine, but by the two people sitting at the back peddling away like mad. Not only did it go past at speed (which in normal circumstances they would have been asked to slow down) but not a sound could be heard as they drew level and with hardly any water displacement FS never moved at all. Wow, could this, therefore, be the future of boating when fuel becomes scarce? Not only would you stay fit and healthy doing all that peddling but the environment, as well as air quality. would benefit as all. Something to think about eh!

After lunch, it was only a short walk to catch the bus. But what we hadn't realised was the bus route had changed due to a road closure. Asking the workman was a waste of time as they had no idea where we had to catch the bus from. Walking to the stop, a notice was pinned saying the next bus stop was nearly half a mile away. Blooming heck!!! Within 12 minutes it would arrive at that stop. Never had Ian and I walked so fast, up a hill and in the searing heat. Seconds to spare was all we had as coming around the roundabout was the bus. And do you know...even the bus driver didn't know of the change of route until today! Thats transport for you! Colin said he would drive us to FS later so thankfully haven't got that route march back.

When I walked to Willen Lake early (before it got too hot) I took both cameras and macro lens. So lots of photos taken, a few here, but more on my Jameisons wildlife photos

Juvenile Green Woodpecker.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Unwanted visitor

Who on earth was knocking on the side of the boat at a silly time in the morning. Thats what I asked myself at 6.30am! Nothing for it but get up and inviting itself in, was a swan! With it being so very hot and humid last night and because the side hatch was water side, we didn't expect any intruders but seems I was wrong.

No point in going back to bed so may as well get going and down the one and only lock for today.  Ian filled the lock, I motored in and FS was about to descend when a wide beam turned up blocking the exit from the lock. He was unable to get onto the landing as a boat was using the water point, nothing for it but to sit in the lock entrance. Then as Ian opened the gates he reversed to allow me out. All well and good but I had to avoid the moored boat on the water point and the chap on the wide beam didnt realise I wasnt fully out and started back toward the lock  We only avoided a collision because I put the power on and we missed each other by an inch. A bit of good natured banter followed and we were on our way.

 This is one very popular place as can be seen by the amount of boats moored.

Looking back toward the Iron Aqueduct.
 After a stop at Wolverton for a Tesco shop we arrived at the park. Here the arrangement was made to meet the family. Both boys wanted to fish and I was most relieved when fish were caught. They could so easily have got bored silly and started messing about.

First Oscar caught a fish

Then it was Olivers turn

And back to Oscar.
The heat and humidity seems to have got worse as the day progressed and with the side hatch towpath side, it will have to stay shut. So no inquisitive swans to deal with but also a very uncomfortable night in store.

Not expecting to blog in the next day or so as we may push across and stay on the 14 day mooring. Olivers sports day is on Wednesday and he begged us to be there. Only to happy to oblige for our grandson.

And seen at the park,

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