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, 15 October 2019

What a complete farce!

 Monday 14th Oct

Talk about complete balls up today, and all because C&RT had put misleading information on their website.

 For once we made a unanimous decision (unheard of from us!) to first phone C&RT and ask if we can have passage past the stoppage on the Caldon, to which they confirmed we could, and then set off early, do the biz at the facilities at Etruria and make sure we were at bridge 16, Milton, before the deadline.

First locks on the Caldon was the staircase and both were set just right. Bottom lock empty and top lock full. 

Bywash in the lock
 The top section was not the most attractive part of the canal, but we did notice many of the old factories were being demolished, presumably part of a regeneration program. It didn't get much better once free of the built-up area. In fact, I would say that it almost looked to have gone into decline. Offside vegetation, as well as towpath vegetation, all left to encroach the waterway and l wondered if or when any dredging had taken place so shallow parts were! 

A low bridge almost stopped me in my tracks. Would the chimney fit under? Then there was the electronically operated road lift bridge to do, (a crt key was needed to operate this) and then somehow do a slalom move around two workboats, one almost in the centre of the canal. This was due to C&RT putting in piling, but why oh why couldn't they get the piling in a straight line? Then there was a burnt-out boat, a local told us it had been left for months and one day the youths came along and set fire to it. All this hindered our progress and therefore took an age to reach our destination. We were very thankful then that we had got underway by 8 am this morning.

Good job we removed the tall chimney.

As straight as a dog's hind leg!

Eventually, we reached where the closure was. Just beyond the winding hole was where the problem lay. The canal narrows to a boat width, probably a lift bridge was once in use here. On the offside and into the cutting was a huge hole in the wall. Booms were across the water to stop boat traffic and we managed to utilise the only bit of cladding available to secure FS. Then we waited, time was 11.15am.

11.45 and two C&RT bods turn up. Ian goes out to say we were ready for the passage through. "Have you got a home mooring on the Caldon?" the C&RT bod asked.  "No," said Ian, "We had planned to spend a week or so on the canal." "Well, we can't let you through then" he stated."Now hang on a minute" Ian retorted, "That is not what the lady in the office told us this morning when we phoned and where does it say on the stoppage notice that only  boats with a home mooring were allowed up?" 

(This was what was posted several days ago)

We are currently allowing assisted passage through this section on a Monday and Friday only at midday. We will work on increasing passage as we put in more safety measures and review.
Thank you for you cooperation. 

 There was not a lot that guy could say so he does no more than get straight onto the phone with his boss where he relayed our dissatisfaction and then passed the phone over to Ian. It was eventually agreed that we could go through if we so wished but there would be no guarantee that we could get back. What that meant was if the wall collapses completely then basically we would be 'locked in' which would stuff us up completely. So although we got our way in the end (by agreeing to let us through C&RT basically acknowledged that they had screwed up) we thought it best to turn back. 

The booms were removed, not for us but because two boats were due to come off the Caldon.

Removing the ropes

The boats were late! They should have arrived at this point by midday.
On the return journey, we were lucky enough to see two Kingfishers.

Made the left turn back onto the T&M to find a boat already waiting at the lock. But then a touch of Deja vu (see earlier post) because at the lock was Rob the Lock (see my sidebar) He was once again helping a lone boater down the locks and promised to lift a paddle for us on the way down. Even with his help we never got moored before the rain started. No way did we fancy stopping in Stoke. I did offer to remain with Ian as he had taken the tiller, but on the condition that I could bring out the brolly. He declined my offer as he hated the thought of it dripping all over him. He is not one for sheltering under it, so I left him to get wet!

Monday, 14 October 2019

Most unexpected

Sunday 13th Oct

Since arriving at Festival gardens every now and then a loud squawking could be heard remarkably like that of a ring-necked parrot. Impossible I thought. To far North for a start. I know Parrots abound down South, I've seen them when cruising the Thames but here?? So I set myself a mission. As soon as the call was heard I would leap into action and come rain or shine I was determined to see if I could find it. Sure enough, today was my lucky day.

So I questioned myself, was it a pet that had escaped its cage or one of the down south Parrots having either got lost or blown off track? No other parrot answered its pathetic small calls as it perched high in the branches and I really felt quite sorry for it.

Christine and Kev turned up late morning. The meal had been booked for 2 pm, no way could they accommodate us before then so Kev made the most of the wait by doing a spot of fishing.

By the time 2 pm arrived, we were all very hungry. By God, we were staggered at the amount of folk in the Toby. Even though a table had been booked it was a good 10 minutes before the table was ready. Ordered the carvery option for the adults and both Josh and Oscar decided on the children's meals.  We made our way to the serving point and was met by a queue stretching almost to the front door! Took nearly 30 minutes before we got anywhere near to the counter and could choose what meat we wanted.

Kev got stuck right in that hungry he was and goodness knows what young Thomas was doing!
There may have been a long wait but the meal was delicious. I recommend that anyone wanting to go to this exceptional carvery to book early and chose a table for midday. You stand a better chance of a shorter wait.

Back onboard FS and Christine presented her dad with a cake. Not one she had made, apparently time had not been on her side shame really because her cakes are amazing. This was a shop bought Caterpiller cake, chosen by the grandkids. Went down a treat with a cup of coffee though.

These are just a few of the cakes Christine had made for family birthdays

Our son Colins 40th drummer cake

Grandson Josh

My 60th

Ians 60th

Sunday, 13 October 2019

Problem with the stove..again.

Saturday 12th Oct

Treated ourselves to breakfast at the Toby. Well it is Ian's birthday today, another year nearer to the big Seven O. And very nice it was too, full English, as much as you can eat, toast with conserves and tea or coffee and all for the grand price of £4.49 each. Okay, we did have to pay for the tea and coffee but saying that the bill came to a tad over £13 which we thought a very good price.

The stove was again lit last night. Cold and damp it was no fun freezing your socks off whilst watching TV but a problem occurred when smoke poured out from around the stove door. It could be because of the mooring, what wind we had was swirling around and caused a blowback down the chimney. The fire alarm was going nuts, goodness knows what those outside the pub thought! Anyway, the small chimney was swapped for the tall one, the cowl put on which helped but didn't solve the problem completely. So we let the stove go out. Didn't fancy being asphyxiated in bed! This morning Ian cleaned the flue and throat plate, such a good job he did that he was covered in soot almost from head to toe so it looks like his birthday bath will be needed sooner rather than later๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚

Looks like the change of venue was fine by daughter Christine and Son-in-Law Kev. Tomorrow is the day they will visit so out came hoover (removing the cobwebs from it first) and the duster, a job that I have kept on the back burner for quite a while. Not something I relish doing, strange though because I love washing the outside of FS. Took all of 30 minutes to do the inside, a quick lick and polish was all it got but it took over 2 hours to do the outside. Probably because I kept stopping to chat with anyone that would stop and listen. And one was a chap called Paul. He came straight up to me, shook my hand and introduced himself. Turns out he had spoken to Ian having seen him at Branston Water Park a few years ago. We had the dogs then, I was out walking with them so didn't get to meet. Gosh, I've just realised that they been gone over 4 years! Anyway turns out he reads this blog and saw FS moored outside the Toby. His boat is kept at Festival Gardens so often walks with his lovely dog to keep a check on it. Great to meet you Paul and maybe one day Glennis will say yes to cruising the K&A.

Lovely and clean,
And the Rugby was on again, Ireland v Samoa so left hubby to watch while I went walk-a-bout. Didn't get very far, blooming rain shower made me race back to FS. Gone without a coat see. Stupid I know but it was sunny when I set off! Managed to get a few wildlife photos first though, so here goes,

Being on the other side of the canal I got yet another photo of FS with Toby Carvery and Festival Gardens marina in the background. Oh, and before I get comments on mooring in the middle, we were on the very last ring before the entrance to the marina.

Saturday, 12 October 2019

Hmmm, now what do we do?

Friday 11th Oct

Do we stay, leave the moorings at Westport Lake, or do we go? That decision was up to the weather app on Ian's phone. Torrential rain had been mentioned for this area, all day as well and nowadays we prefer cruising in dry weather, gone are our hiring days when come rain or shine one had to keep going. But then the weather app for the area showed no rain until midday we pulled pins fully expecting to be moored on the Caldon Canal well before the downpour arrived.

Westport Lake

The TV was rubbish here, but then again we were very low down and aerials on the houses were extremely high up.
Stoke on Trent is the world capital of ceramics. Don't take my word for it, visit The Potteries-Stoke
and cruising along this canal you can see why. In fact, I found this exert on Wikipedia on the Trent and Mersey canal.

 In 1761, Josiah Wedgwood showed an interest in the construction of a canal through Stoke-on-Trent, the location of his  Wedgwood pottery, as his business depended on the safe and smooth transport of his pots. Pots transported by road were liable to be damaged and broken, and a canal near to his factory would provide fast and safe transport for his wares. Wedgwood's plan was not to connect the two rivers by canal, but to connect the potteries to the River Mersey. "As a burgeoning industrialist, Wedgwood was a major backer of the Trent and Mersey Canal dug between the River Trent and River Mersey." (a quote taken from a short Biography of Josiah Wedgwood)

That's a lot of rejects!

Lovely autumnal colours at Middleport Pottery.

Even travelling through Stoke, the canal can be picturesque
 That weather app was wrong! Got to the Toby Carvery at Festival Park and it started to drizzle. Then passing the marina and a chap from Black Prince boats happened to ask if we were heading for the Caldon. "We are" I replied. "Well you had better give C&RT a ring because last I heard it was closed." A few choice words came out of our mouths and reprisals at each other for not reading the closure lists. We stopped at the first available spot to reassess the situation and in a way, this was to our benefit as boy, did it rain! Waiting for a lull and having phoned and been told by C&RT that today they were allowing assisted passage at noon only, we had to revise our plans. This from C&RT's closure list,

From Date: 07/10/2019 14:00
To Date: On-going
Type: Navigation Restriction
Reason: Structure failure
Is the towpath closed? No


Closest waterway: Caldon Canal
Starts at: Foxley Pub, Milton
Ends at: Foxley Pub, Milton


10/10/2019 10:16
We are currently allowing assisted passage through this section on a Monday and Friday only at midday. We will work on increasing passage as we put in more safety measures and review.
Thank you for you cooperation.  


Due to third party works causing a wash wall to fail, the Caldon Canal is closed at Foxley Pub, Milton until further notice.
We apologise for any inconvenience caused.  

So here was our dilemma. We had planned to meet the family over the weekend to celebrate Ian's birthday. Our chosen pub to meet was the Holly Bush at Denford. So where to now? And our final decision? Back to the Toby Carvery. We needed to wind and Eutoria was the perfect place. But then Ian mentioned doing the loo at Etruria facilities considering family are arriving and we don't want to have a full cassette when they turn up!. This meant going onto the Caldon Canal. So we set for Etruria, in the dry I might add but not 2 minutes into the cruise and we were once again soaked by a deluge.

A left turn onto the Caldon Canal and as you can see, in a downpour
Heading toward the block and we noticed a notice. But what did it say? I was assuming it mentioned the closure but why is it facing in the wrong direction?

Looking back towards the T&M and that sign which said..

Shame it's pointing in the wrong direction!
Okay, so I expect the wind must have blown it around but I wonder if we would have walked back to it to see what it said? In that rain and after doing the loo biz, we may well have carried on totally unawares of the stoppage. It's a good job then that we had been warned by that chap at Festival Gardens.

Reversing out of the Caldon

And winding

So now moored facing the wrong way and by the Toby Carvery
Let's hope the family is happy with the change of venue. If not, well, we will be celebrating on our own.

And seen on route,

No wildlife today, much to wet but this taken at amost the same time two years ago at Milton Keynes.

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