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 31 July 2014

Change of plan

Now this wasn't the best mooring we have had. In fact surrounded by factories and a fire station made it feel a bit hemmed in. To top it all, at 4 am a women's very loud voice came over the factories tannoy system calling for someone to take a phone call!!! Don't they realise people are trying to sleep!!

After breakfast we had a walk around Swaithwaite. Apart from the canal going through the center, there is not much going for it.

showing the narrow awkward bit to the lock 22E
  Some places are full of charity shops. This place is full of cafes, wine bars, sandwich shops,various eateries and hair saloons! One Co Op, one pharmacy, a butchers and a green grocers complete the picture. Another quirk of this place is as soon as you stop by a road the cars stop. In fact it got to a point that we felt obliged to cross over even if we didn't want to! So it was while we were walking back to FS that we started discussing Christine and her drive over to us tomorrow to drop Echo, stick insects and the Sunflower. Thats when we suddenly thought.....it would be  a Friday...... Traffic would be a nightmare and she has at least 90+ miles to do to get to us as well as the return journey. So a phone call to see if she was willing to come today, a confirmation that she would and, after getting a bit lost and ending in Stalybridge, she arrived by 2.30pm. So lunch at the pub was late. More like late afternoon lunch/dinner and then a walk to the park before she finally left at 7pm.

Christine, Thomas and Josh

Josh showing the lock by our moorings
Now we can leave tomorrow instead of Saturday. Our next stop should be Huddersfield (if we can find a mooring) so an early start me thinks.

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Never knew locks could grow gardens.

Having spent a night listening to the trains at Marsden ( we were moored right next to the station) but still managing to get a few hours shuteye, we moved off after 9am to tackle the 22 locks to Slaithwaite.


 Now the locals pronounce it Sloughwit and woe betide if you say it any other way 'cause you will be frowned at and told proper like. Anyway expecting low water levels this side of the tunnel, as warned by other boaters, we were pleasantly surprised that only the pound by lock 37 was low.

What did surprise us was the state of the lock walls! It is pretty obvious that most of the locks from 37 to 31 leak like a sieve. The weed has managed to take root and now the walls look like bushy gardens.

 We did have a few problems especially at lock 31. With it being my turn to do the locks, I found the bottom gate open and try as I might just couldn't shut it. I beckoned to Ian to bring FS onto the landing and come and help. Well with a lot of pushing and pulling and opening and shutting, Ian managed to close it enough for me to get the lock full.

Here am I trying unsuccessfully to close the gate

Then having walked down to set lock 30, on my way I had to paddle through a stream of water running down the towpath. Seems here is another lock that needs a bit of TLC.

 As we got nearer to Slaithwaite the channel between the locks got narrower and narrower. Its not by the usual reeds that are the problem but what I can only describe as horsetail  plants.

Then we reached lock 24E. Now this is the first time in all the years traveling that we have come across a guillotine lock. It happened to be me that had to try and work it out, but once Ian got in the lock, both of us read the instructions and after a bit of head scratching, Ian left me to it.

Ian studying the instructions

Now the first part is easy. Open the paddle on the guillotine gate and let the water out. Wait for it to equalise and lift the gate. Yea right!!!! This was the hard part, winding up the gate. I was exhausted after a few turns! It goes up very slowly, two turns needed to lift it a couple of inches. I wish I had counted how many times I turned the windlass I hadnt fully open it before Ian shouted that he could get underneath. Thank the Lord for that. Not sure how much more I could have done!

Ian's photos from FS.

 Winding the gate down was much easier and, at the next lock, I got Ian to take over the lock wheeling again. We only had 3 more to do, thankfully, and entering Slaithwaite the canal goes straight through the town. Imagine the gongoozlers watching your every move! After lock 22 a very narrow channel takes you to the last lock of the day. Two very very low bridges along the channel meant I knocked the heads of my begonias and had to quickly remove our Buckby cans before they went over the side!

Only passing place was at lock 21. Low headroom marked by red and white stripes.
The facility block was situated below the lock and after doing what us boaters do best (loo emptying) we moored on the visitor moorings right by lock 20. Here we stay until Saturday. Christine is coming on Friday to drop Echo (Jades sister) and one of Josh's stick insects for us to look after for a week. Tomorrow we rest and go exploring. Total miles 3, locks 21 and time taken 6 hours.

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Stuck again. Standedge Tunnel and chance meeting of another blogger.

Apologies now but this post will be twice as long as normal because as soon as we got to the East portal of Standedge Tunnel we had no WI FI. So Sundays post as well as Mondays have been incorporated into one.

The story of last night's fiasco went as follows. (Sunday) Ian arrived back from visiting the museum by 2.30pm. Knowing the trip boat was due back at 3pm we decided to wait before setting off, which also meant the first two locks would be with us. (A winding hole above lock 23 and by the facilities allows the trip boat to turn for the return journey.) As told in a previous post this was also the site of the pollution.

Pollution by the facilities. Green tank on the wall in the center is the pump out.

 Anyway trip boat returns after his third trip out and we let him know we are leaving, but to help him along we would lift the bottom paddle at both locks. Unbeknown to us the trip boat had depleted the water supply to the pounds and, although we struggled to get through both locks, it was only when we went to get into lock 24 that we again stuck fast! And boy did we get stuck. Something sticking out from below got wedged on our hull bottom and all we could do was pivot. So Ian tried flushing water down from the lock. All this did was tilt FS so much that everything on the kitchen work surface ended up on the floor! Then he tried closing the bottom gates, filling the lock and then opening them to force FS off the obstacle This helped a bit as I moved backwards. Suddenly water started appearing alongside FS's hull. Someone had switched on the back pump (or it comes on automatically when the water levels drop) Still this was a godsend as within minutes FS came free and I was able to bring her into the lock.

Ian trying to bowhaul her in

Had a bad tilt on but difficult to see in this photo
After that it was a relieve to get into lock 25. Then the pound by lock 26 (the one in yesterdays post low on water) had what I thought a decent amount of water in.

Yesterdays photo
And late in the afternoon.
What I hadn't reckoned on was the amount of solid stone lying almost in the mouth of the lock.  As I couldn't see it I assumed I had enough depth. So once again I was stuck. Ian did the gentlemanly thing and rushed to my aid. I managed to pass him the boat pole and with me in slow reverse and Ian pushing against the pole with all his might, I once more came free and coasted into the lock. I have been told by another boater who has done the tunnel 4 times now that water conditions on the other side are equally as bad. God help us all but at least we are bringing a lockful of water down with us!

Post part 2

We found out yesterday (Sunday) that only 2 boats were booked to go through the tunnel on Monday. Nb Rose Marie and Nb Still Waters, so at 9am Ian was on the phone to C&RT to see if they would except us today. The answer was no they were fully booked. Okay we thought we would
stay until Wednesday but what a good opportunity to go to the tunnel entrance to have FS measured.

Moorings by Grandpa Greene's Luxury Icecream (hut  by the lock)

Waiting at the West Poertal

While chatting to John and Janice (Still Waters) a boat appeared out of the mouth, followed nearly an hour later by a second. Then while we were having a laugh and banter with one of the C&RT guides (he was to take Nb Rose Marie through) the third boat emerged from the tunnel. As the bow came out of the gloom,a big cheer of relief came from the front. Didn't know it then but it was Sandra from AREANDARE

 Of course we had to go and say hello and introduce ourselves to Barry and Sandra and ask how they had fared. They came through pretty unscathed, which was more then we can say of us but that comes later. Then some great news. C&RT had decided that they would allow us through after all. So along comes the guy with the measuring stick, measure every bit of FS and said our top boxes must come off. The nature of the jagged stone, narrowing of the tunnel and low ceiling heightmeant they would have obscured the steerers vision and it was difficult enough to see in the gloom as it was. We had a two hour time limit in which to remove them both so it was a mad scramble to get them empty and into the boat.

First boat through Nb Rose Marie and Ian emptying the box

Look no top boxes!

 All this was going on while Iwas trying to chat to Sandra, She disappeared back to AREANDARE and we had hoped to say farewell as we set off, but as soon as our C&RT guide got the call to say we could go we were off. Now I should have said that the other two boats left in 45 min intervals but we had an hour to wait before it was our turn.

Nb Still Waters disappearing.

 Maybe Still Waters had slowed to a snails pace but that interval between boats were to allow the fumes to dissipate. (Tunnel is three miles long) Ian took the helm and got kitted up with hard hat and life jacket. He hates wearing hard hats but this time he was very glad to have one on as twice he hit his head on the rock. Twice also we bounced off the walls but, although I could see the sticky out bits sitting in the front, Ian on the back, having to cope with low headroom and unable to look down the side, had no chance to miss them. Not only that but the  tunnel is not straight. It even has an S bend! but it made for one hell of an experience. The sound of the trains running through the adjoining tunnel and the sudden fog that was created as they zoomed past was amazing. There were adits (adjoining side tunnels)  along the route and our guide Trevor had to get Ian to stop and then call in to say all was well. In one of the adits a C&RT was already there checking our progress.

 We eventually saw the light at the end of the tunnel and managed the journey in 1 hour 50 minutes.

Ian and our C&RT guide Trevor emerging into the light.

 Not the fastest, that went to a boater who raced through in 1 hour ten a few weeks ago, but not the slowest either. That boat took 3 hours to get through!! Then there was the one who got stuck near the East portal ( sole plate got wedged on the rock below the water line) and was only released when a tug was sent in to add extra oomph. They emerged after nearly 5 hours! Once we got moored we checked over the paintwork on the cabin sides. And there it was. The only bit of damage done. A blooming great jagged scar 6" long on the back cabin paintwork! Took all the paint off and went down to bare metal. Still if that was all there was we got away fairly lightly and Ian has already treated it to stop it going rusty.

Just to proove we did it.

Moored by the tunnel East Portal

 So there you have it.  Our exciting trip through Standedge tunnel and of course my inevitable photos of our experience.

This shows the S bend (first two photos) and the fog the train created (third photo)

Today (Tuesday) we have moved off the mooring by the tunnel and stopped half a mile away at Marsden. Still no internet so have had to go to the Railway Pub for use of their free WI FI. Such hardship (:

Looking down on the East Portal tunnel moorings from the road above.

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