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, 24 September 2017

Talk about a shock!

Saturday 23rd Sept.

Left Etruria just before 9am and couldn't believe our luck as we managed to do the turn back onto the T&M before a hire boat arrived. And with all the locks in our favour, we sailed down the flight.

At Cockshutts lock and I got another photo of FS with a train. A bit more modern this one but couldn't resist having the "old" and the "new".

It was on the last lock of the Stoke flight that I nearly had a heart attack. Minding one's business as you do, I had just started to wind the bottom gate paddle gear when...blooming 'eck.... bark, bark, bark just behind me. Gave me quite a turn I can tell you! Turned around and more aggressive barking with teeth showing and top lip curled. Ian reckons I lept in the air with fright, well you would wouldn't you, having had a shock like that. No wonder the fence around the garden was reinforced!

Giving me the evil eye
Through Stoke on Trent known affectionately as 'The Potteries' and officially recognised as the World Capital of Ceramics. Not a fan of the place, to drab and dismal for my liking. Give me the open countryside any day. We did pass the Wedgwood factory and I read that it was all due to Josiah Wedgwood who commissioned James Brindley to build a canal that the T&M came into existence. HERE

 Not much else happened on the 5-hour journey to Stone other than a chance meeting at Meaford lock flight when we saw Sue and Wally (ECP&DA members) on their boat Midnight. After the briefest of natters (shame we couldn't have talked longer), we went our separate ways. What we did notice on this flight was the lock leakage on the bottom gates of two of the locks especially on Meaford Road lock. One of the top ground paddles was defunct so, what with the leakage, waiting for the lock to fill took forever.

Stone was almost free of boats so we could take our pick of moorings. Decided to take a mooring near to the lock, it's also nearer to the shops and we desperately needed a supermarket.  Spending all that time on the Caldon we had depleted our supplies....especially the wine!

Saturday night and the start of Strictly Come Dancing. Missed it altogether last year 'cos we were in Oz but determined to watch every episode this year so can't wait.... bring it on.

and wildlife,

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Heard and seen it all!

Friday 22nd Sept

Beautiful foggy start to the day and with the mist rising from the water it gave everything that surreal feel. A bit on the chilly side first thing though, where one needed gloves, jacket, woolly hat etc but by the time we got to the top of Hazelhurst flight, the fog had lifted and the morning was warming up nicely.

Hazelhurst Aqueduct.

The Hazelhurst locks were literally a short walk away and expecting them all to be empty due to a boat having arrived late last night, dismay when all three had to be emptied. Nearly got drenched at the middle lock when suddenly, from the air vent by the ground paddle, a huge great plume of water shot into the air...several times. If I had been standing over it to wind the paddle...well lets leave that to your imagination.

Before you all tell me off for leaving the windlass on the spindle, the quick reaction of mine to get out of the way meant the last thing on my mind was the windlass!

We met up with a lady single hander at Stockton Brook locks. Ian helped her down the flight and she asked if she could wait for us so we would do the two lift bridges for her. Apparently she had found it almost impossible trying to get the boat through the lift bridges on the way up and in the end had to get help from a dog walker, passing him the windlass for Long Butts lift bridge and the key for the mechanical one at Norton Green.

Long Butts lift bridge. That's the trouble single handers have. How to get the boat through when you are stuck on the wrong side!

Norton Green lift bridge (mechanical) She would have managed on this one but it was easier if Ian did it for her.
 We said our farewells at Milton as she pulled in for lunch. Rounding a bend and what did we see in the bridge hole...but a boat. Into reverse and waited for it to come through. Nope didn't appear to be moving so was he stuck maybe? Ian went to pull into the side and at the same time gave a short blast on the horn. Then the boat went backwards!!! No idea what was going on so Ian kept going. Expecting the boat to be pulled back on a rope, we saw instead that the chap was on the stern. Drawing level we asked if he needed help. His reply..."I stopped to make my lunch and didn't expect a boat to appear" Well, that beggars belief...stopping for lunch in a bridge hole, that's a first for us!

A sharp right-hander takes you under a bridge to the Etruria staircase locks. On the lock landing and tied to the bollard nearest the bridge was this small cruiser.

A boat was already in the staircase on its way up so Ian had to somehow get FS into the side and allow enough room for the exiting boat, but that cruiser was in the way. Only one thing for it (and it's not something we normally do) was to untie that cruiser and move it to the very end bollard. We had been watched by a local and then told the boat had been stolen and abandoned. Didn't feel quite so bad about shifting it.

Took these photos to show the way the water from the top lock of the staircase can be drained into the bottom lock by means of a side weir in the bottom lock chamber.

The rain was imminent so finding a mooring was top of our list.Luckily one was free by the museum so snuck in quick before the boat on the services filling his water tank got it. Well, he hadn't finished with the hose so felt it was ours to have! And as he went past....if looks could kill!!!!!

And wildlife today,

Friday, 22 September 2017

Opps, should have been more observant.

Before we set off I wanted to have a look at what we had missed by not going through Froghall tunnel. Crossing over the road, along a path and I found myself staring at the south portal entrance, but where was the basin? I expected it to be right on the exit of the tunnel but instead had to walk a short length of the canal to yet another surprise. A lock taking you down to Froghall Wharf. Moored on pontoons were two boats, both with minimal stuff on the roof. They made it okay and such a shame we couldn't make it with FS, especially as we did take FS through Standedge tunnel....twice (although we did have to take the top boxes off) and that was also very tight. If you fancy a look click HERE

South Portal

Froghall Wharf

Getting away before 9am the idea was we may as well get a few hours cruising in before the rain hit big time. Wrong...as we pulled pins so came the drizzle. Oh well, lets get past the river section and then moor. Stopped briefly at the Lime Kilns at Consall Forge. Completly different now to when we were last here. To see how they were back in 2011 click here.

Cruising past the station at Consall before arriving at the Lime Kilns

Lime Kilns

Another of those challenging bridge holes.
Coming off the river at lock 16 I happened to notice these newly planted Cyclamen under one of the trees. Made me wonder what might have been buried here? Or could it be a shrine maybe?? It's a mystery and wouldn't I have just loved to find out more!

By the time we made it to the Cheddleton Locks the rain had turned to mizzle. I had just started FS on her ascent and, smack my hand for not noticing, I suddenly realised the water was disappearing fast from the pound. Cricky...I dropped the paddle quick and Ian clambered up the ladder to have a look. He then took charge, walked to the next lock and opened the paddles, top and bottom, to refill the pound.

I must say the fish was pleased to get the water back. Watched them leaping in relief!

 The rain eased for a while so we continued instead of stopping at the Cheddleton Flint Mill. No sooner had we passed the lovely long length of mooring rings and we could have kicked ourselves for not stopping. It poured down for a good 15 minutes by which time Ian was soaked. I did the dutiful wife thing and went below keeping out of his way!

By the time we reached the Hollybush pub below Hazlehurst Locks, Ian mentioned eating out tonight. Jumped at the chance and the meat which had been taken out of the freezer went into the fridge for tomorrow. The rain stopped and stayed away. Typical as we could have carried on after all.

And still loads of Pheasants about.

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