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.

Thursday, 26 May 2022

Not another one down the chimney!

 Isn't it always the way! You book a 5-day slot for docking with the hopes that the weather will be kind...and it's not. But we had to persevere, whether we liked it or not. 

Into the dock and wait for the water to be drained. Almost all gone when seen in the gully, a crayfish and not one of our white clawed native specious but one of those American interlopers, a signal Crayfish. Now it should have been dispatched and sent to crayfish hell, but one of the boaters here took pity and lobed it into the feeder. Mind you, I'm not sure how we would have killed the thing other than hit it with a hammer or drop it in boiling water


 Anyway, the rain held off and Ian got hold of the jet wash to get rid of the rust and crude from the hull. He then followed it up by using the grinder with wire brush on the worst bits, a job only my 'man that can' could do. Those dark clouds were never far away and thankfully didn't deposit their moisture until Ian had finished. The prop needed seeing too. All the way up the Erewash, the tiller had been bouncing. Ian would have gone down the weed hatch if we hadn't been so close to home.


Doesn't look much, but it was tightly wound rope.

Day 2 and my turn. Fully kitted in, what I deemed to be, my 'blacking gear' (old top and trousers) I set too getting the first coat of bitumen all around the hull. Got halfway and the heavens opened! Only a short heavy shower, but enough to wet the hull so the bitu wouldn't stick. Out came the old towels and I spent the next 30 minutes trying to dry it off. Just about to start again when... bu**er...the next shower arrived! That was it... I downed tools in disgust and went in for a coffee. 

Meanwhile, Ian had been inspecting the hull. On his request, I took a couple of pictures of the anodes. Gosh, they were pitted, badly in our opinion considering new ones had been fitted in August last year. It must be to do with us being in the basin and connected to the shore line. We have a galvanic convertor fitted, have had for years and although it doesn't stop all the pitting, should reduce the amount we get. It's all too much for me to explain exactly how it all works and why the need for one, so if interested check out THIS ARTICLE


The afternoon was better, so much so that I did get all the way around. With fingers crossed, Ian decided to turn his attention to the gunnels. They were in a really battered state, and a lot of filling and rubbing down was required. 

 I decided on painting the tunnel bands. Probably not my best move because by now, late afternoon, those pesky flying insects were about. Blimey, when I had finished, the paint was awash with small black bodies, all having suffered a horrible death. Huh, that will teach the blighters to land in my paint!

That night it rained....lots of rain, and the wind...lots of wind, blast blast blast! Forecast was not good, more wet stuff to come for the afternoon, consequently we were up and working by 7 am! Good news, all the second coat of bitumen was on by 10 am. If it rained now, who cares! Well, actually I still had the second coat to apply on the tunnel bands, and another quick rub down to get rid of those bodies. So I went for it, had the weather radar for this area on my phone. Every hour it updated and yes...not a drop of rain to come until late afternoon. Time enough for the second coat to dry. 



Ian was still faffing about at those gunnels. Now don't get me wrong, I like things to look okay, but Ian is a perfectionist, every blemish had to be either sandpapered out or filled, it all took a lot of time!. By the time the first black paint hit the surface, he was dicing with the weather. Somehow he got away with it. That paint, bought from Lidl, was quick drying, it needed to be because the radar was spot on and the paint was touch dry before it came.

Thursday was a day of titivating. All the roof furniture had seen better days, so this was to be my job. Goodness knows what Ian was doing, I know at one point he found yet more paintwork to be rubbed down. Best leave him to play, I thought. Anyway, that wind was still an issue, blowing bits into the paint as I was touching up the pole and boarding planks. 

 

Then a loud hail from across the water. Did we know a pigeon was trapped in the Toll Office! Oh, for goodness’s sake! Somehow these pesky birds find themselves falling down the chimney, it's not the first time this has happened and probably won't be the last! Luckily for the bird, Ian knows where the key to the Toll Office is, otherwise it could have been trapped for weeks and probably wouldn't have survived.!



 

So everything is all done and dusted. With us not taking FS out for the rest of this year, and maybe even not next year, we won't have to dry dock her again for at least two years. 

Next adventure will be on MB. Looking forward to that.



And wildlife,


Anyone know what sort of moth this is? I can't find it on the web.




Friday, 20 May 2022

Oh, no wonder!

 Thursday 19th

With 12 miles and 16 locks to reach Langley Mill, we left Sawley a little after 8 am. Of course, leaving this early meant Sawley automated lock would not have CRT in attendance, so Ian got to push buttons.



The junction to Trent lock looking from the river

Off the river and safely into the lock approach.

Having to empty Trent lock didn't bode well, could mean all the locks would be full. Fully aware of how long the journey up would take us, it was very difficult to get a move on for the first mile because of the full offside moorings, it took an age to reach Long Eaton lock.

 I knew it, that lock was full...blast, it was going to be a long and challenging day! And when I noticed Ian closing the top gates, I had a horrible feeling this was to be our lot for all the other locks.

Thankfully, Ian came back to say these gates always open if the wind blew toward them, so that was a relief.

Sandiacre lock had a boat exiting, goody....one with us, and did that mean all the rest would be with us too?


We also managed to acquire a locking buddy at Pasture lock, Nb Straight and Narrow. They would be with us for the rest of the journey to the top. And of course names were exchanged, so Mick and Elaine, it was a pleasure to travel with you and for your help.

Also, at Pasture lock, Gareth, a CRT employee, was grass cutting around the lock side and landings. From him, he told that the grass cutting contractors would only mow twice a year. He took it upon himself to ask CRT's permission to do it himself. The Erewash has been his patch for years and when it got so the bollards couldn't be seen at the lock landing and the height of the grass on the lock edge was so high he reckoned it made it dangerous, he decided enough was enough. Good on you Gareth, after all, what was CRT thinking of by stopping a regular cut throughout the summer.

Gareth on the right and his apprentice on the left.

Stanton lock was being filled by another CRT guy, probably checking all the paddle gear was working. Took several hails from Ian to make him stop. "Oh" he said, "So few boats about, I hadn't expected any."

Anyone that has come up the Erewash will have had to negotiate four very low bridges to get into the lock. Only one boat at a time can enter due to the arch, and it was at Hallam Field's lock that I very nearly wiped out the solar panel! Ian looked on in horror as I got awfully close but phew, somehow with millimetres to spare, I got through. (it was my lack of concentration trying to take a photo, but I won't tell him that).


 Gallows Inn and another lock needing emptying. I went in first but somehow could not get FS against the side so consequently when Mick brought Straight and Narrow in, both boats made contact. A horrible scrapping sound and both gunnels with more scratches. Mick then asked if I would like my fenders down, well in a way it was a good job mine were up because we may have got wedged together. It's something we have never done, travel with fenders down. seen too many near accidents with boats getting 'hung up'. Anyway, the reason was a branch. A blooming great big branch! Ah, no wonder, now it all became clear.



It's a pain coming out of Gallows lock, the canal does a sharp right and Mick unfortunately didn't quite get the turn right and ending up tangled in the opposite garden hedge!

We made it to Langley Mill in just over 8 hours. Ian was knackered and my legs ached from all that standing. I was right about what I said in the beginning of this post, only two locks were with us, the rest all having to be turned. Got ourselves moored and took the usual photo, only this time mainly because of the state of the grass on the triangle. Disgraceful, what does it say to boaters coming up the Erewash, that this canal is unloved and not cared for. I think CRT need to think again on their grass cutting policy. 



That's it for FS, she will get her bottom blacked by us next week, we will attend a Jubilee party on the 3rd June, we hope to deck FS in Union Jack bunting, and then off with the motorhome on the 10th. No more cruising this year because if all goes to plan, we will be off to New Zealand in October for 6 months. Very, very excited about that.😎😁✈

And seen on route,

Fishermen on lock landings, the bane of a boater's life!
And another annoyance...allowing willow curtain to grow across the canal.


It appears Dr Who is in the area.

Jubilee supporters

Oh and remember that boot print on the side of FS's cabin side? Well, Ian found another on the bow!

And Wildlife today

A comfy nest and....

..... one with an umbrella and...
k
...don't you just hate it when the kids won't leave home!







Thursday, 19 May 2022

The penultimate cruise.

 Wednesday 18th,

 Today a mammoth eleven miles and eight broad locks to reach Sawley, and we hoped to do it in record time. roughly 5 hours. It can be done, we have managed it before, but then everything was in our favour, no waiting for locks to fill and boats coming toward us, so the bottom gates could be left open. Unfortunately, today everything was against! 

First lock, Stenson, a deep lock which ,if all the paddles are working properly, doesn't take too long to fill, so I decided to sit out in mid-channel and wait. 5 minutes went by, 8 minutes went by, and all the time the slight breeze kept trying to take me to those boats moored on the offside. "Blooming 'eck...what's the problem?" I thought, "For goodness’s sake, hurry up!" Was I glad when Ian opened the top gate. I was inches away from hitting a wide beam! 10 minutes it took before Ian managed to open the top gate. And the reason? Only the ground paddles worked, those gate paddles, useless, allowing just a trickle of water in.

At Swarkestone lock, we got ourselves a locking buddie. He was about to leave the mooring as we sidled past. We said we would wait in the lock, but this was another lock that required filling. Again I held out didn't feel the need to go onto the landing and our buddie arrived just as the gates opened. Gosh, by now we had been on the move nearly 15 minutes short of two hours! We should have been halfway to Weston lock by now!


 

It appears that all I'm doing is talking about the locks. Well the three-mile journey to Weston lock was pretty straightforward, and we could actually get a good a move on, a heady 3.5 mph! And our locking buddie stayed with us the whole way. One slight hairy moment came when I noticed three walkers standing by the water's edge staring at FS. I joked to Ian that they must be admiring our sleek lines, but I nearly laughed on the other side of my face when suddenly two men in a small dugout appeared from behind a bush. Blimey, I knocked the revs back super quick, I could have hit the boat and tipped both over the side! I couldn't apologise enough, I just hadnt seen them and those walkers never gave any sort of gesture. One of the men said, "Not to worry love, my mate is expendable!" 

It was a for gone conclusion that this lock would also be empty, and this time I pulled FS onto the landing. From experience, we knew that the bottom gates of this lock leak like a sieve and to open the top gates, even with both paddles still open, two people would be called for to push against the balance beam. 


 In the end, our locking buddie also joined in the heave and with the three of us, we almost fell over when the gates moved easier than anticipated.

Met another canoeist  on the next leg of the journey. Only because of the colour of his oar made me realise he was there. Again he had tucked himself behind the reeds. This time I did pass very slow.


Finally, at Shardlow lock, a stroke of luck. This lock was full!!! And the luck continued when a boat appeared from under the bridge so the bottom gates could be left open. Here we said goodbye to our buddie. He stopped for water, we carried on toward Derwent Mouth.



Easier to climb down the steps.


Look at this impressive Wisteria. At our bungalow we also have wisteria . It never flowered when we lived there, and it still doesn't today for our tenants. We have no idea why!

 Derwent Mouth was also full, a boat had just left. I dropped down onto the river and noticed how low the water was. Even Ian had trouble getting back on FS from the landing.

 


Sawley stop lock

Not many spaces at Sawley, although one was left by what looked to be an abandoned cruiser. Checked the time, and it took 5.5 hours, slightly better than I thought. Tomorrow we head for Langley Mill, normally a sad time because of knowing our trip away is over but with the motorhome for our next adventure, Really looking forward to that. 

Oh, I mustn't forget the dry docking in between!

Radcliffe cooling towers in the distance

I noticed something in the hedge bottom right by our mooring. A beautiful bunch of flowers, roses and carnations, placed in a cut coke bottle. Oh dear, someone's appeasement offering rejected? Anyway, they are mine now...😏

Amazing fishing here. Roach after roach and not a tiddler to be had, It had to come to an end though and it did when a Cormorant invaded my swim!




And seen on route,

Fields of blue. I believe it is Borage Thanks to Alan it is Linseed

And wildlife

White throat, (thank you, Jo)







Mayfly

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