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.

Monday, 25 March 2019

Prepare to be scared!

Just love it here at Saltisford. Everyone is so friendly and welcoming and this spot in the winding 'ole is just perfect for being nosey watching the world go by.

 Friday evening we walked to the race course to meet up with No 1 son and family in their caravan. A great spot on the campsite overlooking the course and which would have been ideal for watching the horse racing. Shame then that the next race meeting wouldn't be until March 28th but we did get to see some running and racing, joggers making use of the track!

Saturday and the plan were to meet up at Warwick Castle for midday. At 13.30 we had tickets to see the dungeons so first a walk around the castle walls and all the 500 steps that entailed. With a one way system, there was no going back! Going up was exhausting but... oh my knees on the way down...  Anyway, we arrived moments to spare for the dungeons. Now, this wasn't just a walk along dark corridors to see the underground prisons. Oh no! This was a 'full on and try to be scared sh*tless for 50 minutes' experience! This is what was said in the literature. 

"Warwick Castle has witnessed some of the darkest, bloodiest and most frightening times in history. This new experience is set to echo part of the Castle's past, taking you back to 1345, when the town was gripped by the plague. In true Dungeon style, gore seekers will be greeted by decaying bodies, chanting monks, torture implements, execution and ?the labyrinth of lost souls? - a fantastic scary mirror maze. 
We found the whole experience not so much scary as highly amusing. Unfortunately, the two grandchildren (10 & 8) WERE scared out of their wits and after 5 minutes Colin and daughter in law Iwona had to take them back outside. Still, the Bird of Prey demonstration was enjoyed by them all and partly made up for missing out on the dungeons.

One of the actors

How did our son Colin get so tall????

Daughter-in-Law Iwona with Oscar and Oliver

Sea Eagle


Peregrine Falcon
We have another couple of days here in Saltisford before heading off back the way we came. I hate the Hatton Flight and will do anything to get out of having to do all those locks so instead we are reversing the journey to continue South along the GU and London. It's off to do the Lea & Stort for us having only done it once before.

And seen at the Saltisford Arm

This cheeky chap on FS's bow.

At the nest boxes

Friday, 22 March 2019

Moored in a winding hole...with permission!

How nice was it to actually sleep in this morning? With only 5 and a bit miles to do and 2 locks, it stood to reason that we could take our time. Therefore it was nearly 9am before we set off, but then...ah...hang on a minute... The breeze had picked up pinning us to the edge. Ian gave the bow a good shove, raced to the stern to get on whilst I put the power on to drive her away. But best-laid plans and all that 'cos we stopped dead. Bow swung back to the towpath and no matter how much wellie I gave FS all she did was pivot. Somehow we had got ourselves wedged on something unknown beneath the water. After a bit of head scratching Ian jumped off with the pole pushing the stern with all his might. I put on the revs and slowly she backed off. The bow had by now swung in again so back he went to give that a good shove as well. It worked but I had to leave Ian behind on the bank. ๐Ÿ‘‹   Never mind it's not really that much further to the bridge๐Ÿ˜„

Stopped to do a Morrison's shop between bridge 41 and 42 and was amazed to see a huge washing machine outside the store. We first encountered these machines in Ireland and thought what a brilliant idea that was. Great if you're a boater without a washing machine on board.

This machine was in County Clare Ireland
Outside Morrisons Warwick
Groceries packed away we headed off to ascend Cape locks the final two locks of the day. Ian was lock wheeling and judging by the effort he had to put in just to raise the paddle, I'm glad I stayed on the boat!

Difficult to see just how hard he was winding the paddles up.
Decided to stop for lunch at the top before turning into Saltisford Arm. Ian (manager) was expecting us but not until the afternoon. By 2 pm we did the left turn into the arm and, as soon as FS was under the bridge, I wondered where exactly we would be put. Looked to be chocker block with boats on either side. True to his word though he beckoned us toward the far side of the winding hole and a lovely spot it was too. Three more boats turned up after us. They have had to breast up where they can. Lucky that we arrived when we did.

View from the Port window.

And seen on route,

And the wildlife,

Nesting Canada Goose

Its a wonder she doesn't drop off.

Thursday, 21 March 2019

And when there is no road link....

Groan....another VERY early alarm call, not by the ducks pecking away at the hull or by cars, lambs trains etc being particularly noisy but by the water pump suddenly springing into life waking us up from a deep slumber. Talk about giving us a shock! Only 5.45am why should the thing start now! A ridiculously slow drip from the galley tap was the culprit! Took all night for the pressure to drop low enough for the pump to kick in. For heaven's sake...couldn't it have waited another hour? Anyway needless to say we didn't bother staying in bed so by 7am we had got underway.

Stockton locks came up all too soon. Here we met several workmen carrying all manner of building material along the towpath. Me being nosey asked why carry all that gear. Turns out the lock house needed some work doing to it and with no road link, they had to trundle everything along about 1/4 mile of towpath. Bit of a B if you happened to forget the screwdriver!

Ian and I took it in turns to lock wheel and boy did I realise how unfit I was. That paddle gear on all of the locks on this section of the GU is of a 'worm gear' type which requires at least 21 turns of the windlass to raise the paddle. Hard work or what! Exhaustion doesn't come into it. More like bl**dy knackered after I had finished my stint. Now I know why I hate the Hatton flight of 21 with the same paddle gear needing at least 25 turns. So glad we are not going back that way!

I hate this type of paddle gear!
 Another staircase lock to do at Bascote. This time only two chambers making it easy and quick. Follow the instructions posted and you won't go wrong.

Having arrived at Radford Semele we stopped for lunch. Tried the TV with thoughts of possibly staying the night and found not a single channel on either the main aerial or the Omni aerial. I need my TV so we upped stakes, travelled a further mile to open countryside and tried again. Success. All the main TV channels and one very happy girl. Not far now to Warwick and Saltisford Arm. Ian phoned Ian (manager of the moorings) who told us space would be found even if we had to breast up. We need to stay until Wednesday 'cos NHS calls for check-ups again!

And wildlife today,

Low rise and....

High rise!

No wonder this bee crash-landed on the Solar Panel. Look at what it's having to carry!

About to nest build?

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

And the water disappeareth

Not a peep was heard overnight, not until the dawn chorus started, then it was as if everything suddenly came to life. Cars, trains, lambs, tractors... quite a noisy start to the day. And no matter how early you get up with the intentions of leaving, there is always someone that beats you to it. Yep, a boat came past around 7.15am, blast now all the locks will have to be turned around. It was about 8ish then when we untied and headed for the Watford flight.

Nearly at the locks and we spied that earlier boat moored with the tiller removed and no sign of life. Oh goody, maybe the locks would be in our favour after all.

Top lock full and ready for our descent.
Lock keeper arrived as we entered the first lock and with his help, got us down the 7 locks in 30 minutes.

This shows the Red and White paddles for doing the staircase. Remember, Red before White.....

The lock emptying into the side pond.

Staircase of four
Turning right at Norton junction next stop was Braunston tunnel. This can be a pig of a tunnel with the bendy bits to catch you unawares especially if you meet an oncoming boat! Today we were lucky to get past the worst of it but not lucky enough not to meet a boat. In fact when two boats entered the tunnel it was with relief that we were near the end. In a way, this was good news as it did mean that all Braunston locks would be with us.

Braunston tunnel and chimney.

Top two photos and a boat entering and bottom two showing the bendy bits.
In Braunston we were hailed by 'the man himself'...Maffi. On board Milly M and knocking on the window to attract our attention. Legend on the canals what he does'nt know is not worth knowing about. A lovely long natter ensued only cut short by a boat sneaking up to us from behind. I'm sure it wont be long before we meet up again. Maffi appears when one least expects it so maybe later this year on the Thames?


Braunston is always full of moored boats

Left at Braunston Turn.
 Our plan was not to do Calcutt locks today. That would have been for tomorrow but, not wanting to stop before Napton junction and convincing ourselves that moorings were available before the locks, we turned right.

Napton Junction
 How wrong can one person be! Instead of finding a place to stop we found ourselves having to  descend the three locks. First lock ready and I sailed right in. Ian then noticed a boat coming up in the next lock. He also notice the water disappearing rather rapidly from the middle pound. Oh dear looked like someone had forgotten to close the bottom gate paddle before lifting the top paddle! Before Ian could rush down a crew member from that boat noticed and dropped the paddle quickly but not before the pound had already dropped by nearly 2 foot.

Calcutt top lock

Middle pound

And looking back
 By now we had been on the go for 7.5 hours, travelled 14 miles and had done 16 locks. First bit of decent towpath edge we saw we pulled into upsetting a fisherman as the bow went too near his swim.  Full of apologies we explained that by not stopping now meant we would be at the Stockton flight of 8 locks and we didn't want to start that flight tonight! Anyway he was gracious enough to say no harm done but he did pack away not long after.

And wildlife today,

It's that time of year again. I feel so sorry for that duck with two Drakes fighting over her.

Moorhens are nesting

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