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, 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.

Friday, 11 October 2019

Oh dear, took my eye off the ball.

Thursday 10th Oct

Those early starts, great for trying to finish Heartbreak Hill but oh the sun. Like yesterday the glare was blinding and even with the Jessie hat and sunglasses, trying to see ahead was difficult.

We even tried to dry the solar panels to help with the glare but that was a pretty useless undertaking. It was a question of put up or shut up, just had to get on with it.

 I decided I needed the exercise and locked Ian through the first six locks. Our new method of locking had all the marks of being the best thing since sliced bread. T'was still slow going because although most of the locks on Heartbreak Hill had two singles side by side, both were usually full and it was a question of choosing which lock to empty. It all took time and even with the new system, still took nearly two hours.

That glare was bad especially trying to aim for the lock 'ole.

 Then at the sixth lock, we met another boat. The lady from this boat helped lift the ground paddle after asking how I would like it raised. "Halfway please" I replied. But then I took the eye off the ball. Nattering away I fully raised my paddle to which she followed suit. It wasn't until FS was almost up that I noticed a casualty of my stupidity. Opening both paddles fully forced FS hard against the gate and our poor button fender came off worse.

The protective tyre was the first to part company followed by both chains breaking at the sacrificial links

A sacrificial wire being replaced.

Back in place but without the protective tyre.
It was back to our original locking method, stern fender button running up the bottom gate.

Running up the bottom gate with the stern fender and having to keep FS on the reverse.
 By the time we reached Red Bull and the facilities, we had been on the go for 3 hours only having done just 11 locks in 3 miles. Another three locks to do before we reached the top of Heartbreak Hill. A lunch stop and a shop at Tesco stopping by lock 41, before then setting off to arrive at the North Portal of Harecastle tunnel. Total time of doing the Hill (with yesterdays 12 locks and todays 14 and with repairs and stops) 7 hours 15 minutes! Far cry from the 5 hours 30 on the way down several weeks ago!

Red Bull services
We had hoped to be the first boat through and I was dismayed to see one already waiting. We like to power through, get the tunnel out of the way as soon as, especially as we had been warned how much water was pouring through the ceiling. There was only about a 20-minute wait before we were given the thumbs up by the tunnel keeper. The lead boat went in, I took FS in about a minute later leaving plenty of space between it and us and took the revs up to 1400. The lead boat stayed ahead at roughly the same speed but my goodness, all we could hear was the boat hitting the walls and his stern light weaving from one side to another. Why oh why didn't he slow down? I even knocked the revs right back just in case he thought he was being pressured. We caught up with him at Westport Lake. He had just moored and we pulled in front. After passing pleasantries and mentioning how wet the tunnel was, he told me that for some reason he just couldn't keep the boat on a straight line and although he had travelled Harecastle many a time, this was his worst passage through.

 Now this made me laugh. The generator was running and a fire extinguisher was by its side. I jokingly asked the chap was he expecting a fire. Health and safety says he. I have to have one in case the generator catches fire. Laughingly he said, "But if that had happened I have a ready-made extinguisher right next to it. The canal"!

And more wildlife from yesterday

The squirrel had strange white marks along the back of its neck.

Thursday, 10 October 2019

Was this a better method of locking?

Wednesday 9th Oct

8.15 am and time for that Rugby match to start. As the day was fine I left Ian to it and disappeared for a walk. And I found treasure. A fender, hanging from the piling. Must have been yanked from a boat getting too near to the edge. Their loss was our gain although I have lost count how many we have found in the past.

Lovely peaceful rural mooring last night.

Not in bad condition that fender.

As soon as I stepped foot back on the boat, Ian told me of the epic win by Scotland. "Good-O," said I. "Now can we leave!? "But Wales is playing Fiji and I've got to watch that" he replied so it was gone 1pm before we finally left for Heartbreak Hill. I must say boat traffic had been virtually non-existent, 3 boats passed us going in the opposite direction and none going our way. That, we hoped, would bode well with all the locks empty.

Blimey, that first lock on heartbreak hill was vicious. No matter how slowly Ian lifted the paddle the surge of water made FS take off like a bullet. Smoke was pouring from the exhaust as I tried to get FS to go back, I had her in full reverse. Dropping the paddle quickly, Ian saved FS from crashing into the top gate. The next two locks took an age to fill as the paddles were lifted notch by notch. This was getting ridiculous though, so we resorted to another technique of ascending and that was to sit with the front fender button on the top gate rubbing board. Worked a treat it did as the flow of water kept us in one place. We used that method on all the rest of the locks today.

After 12 locks taking 2 hours 45 minutes we stopped, a far cry from when we did the flight a couple of weeks ago and then all 26 in one go. It's those late starts that do it. Gosh, I will be glad when the Rugby tournament is over.

and wildlife seen on my walk

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