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 30 June 2015

Wait for a bridge yesterday and now a long wait at the boatyard.

Talk about a noisy mooring yesterday!! The trains (freight, local and cross country) thundered past with horrible regularity. And the boat actually shook and juddered as the freight came past!!!Wouldn't mind so much if they kept their tooting to themselves but every train sounded the horn. It wasn't until this morning that I realised why. A public footpath rail crossing was by the swing bridge with no barriers, only a stop look and listen sign so a warning had to be given. Think I might let them off.

How close to the mooring???
 Worrying that we wouldn get a mooring in Newbury if we left it to let to leave, we set off just before 7am. The sun was so low that anyone heading East would have struggled to see. Took this photo of Dave leaving Old Heales lock

 Another turf sided lock to do, Monkey Marsh, and this one was huge in comparison to Garston.


At Thatcham I wanted to stop to go to the Nature reserve. Hadn't banked on the amount of reeds and nettles on either side. Thought as we had managed to get in yesterday at Woolhampton amongst the foilage, this would be similar. I was so disappointed and annoyed with C&RT that moorings hadn't been made available. But there again if they had decent moorings no doubt the continues moorers would have utilised them first.
Widmead lock coming up and nature reserve is off to the right. No chance of mooring here though!.

Another sparkly photo

Gets a bit narrow in places

Strange angle for this boat to be
 Arriving at Newbury we met several boats coming down the locks. This was a welcome sight as moorings hopefully would be available. First we decided to get diesel at Newbury Marina and chandlers. At 86p self declare it wasn't to bad. But we did have a long wait. We were number 3 and 4 in the queue and boats 1 & 2 wanted water and gas as well. In the end we waited one hour and 10 minutes before we could push across. Worrying that any mooring available would be taken I walked up to the next lock to have a sus it out There was a space on the 24 hour mooring where two boats could get in but of course I hadn't banked on the delay. So after we had filled with deisel we found a mooring opposite the marina instead. Not brilliant because we are in direct sunlight and it's bl**dy hot!!! Tonight may well be very uncomfortable.

Two boats on the water and diesel point, one boat leaving and then it was our turn.

And on route as well as by yesterdays mooring.

Monday 29 June 2015

Blooming 'eck. How long does it take to open a swing bridge!!!

The fishing was good at The Cunning Man. Plenty of bites on the ledger, shame I kept missing them!!! The flow was quite considerable no doubt because of the width of canalised river. I did manage Perch and small chub so not all was lost. Dave came a knocking on FS at 8.30am to say it was time to leave so rods packed away, pins pulled and away by 8.45!!!!

So far the K&A hasnt disappointed. Rural and scenic but no time to sit and admire as not only did the locks come quickly but the swing bridges too. Never having seen a turf sided lock before I was suitably impressed and looked it up on the internet to see why they were built this way. I got this exert from Wikipedia ,

One of only two remaining working examples of turf sided locks on the canal Garston and Monkey marsh Lock has been described as needing "more water to operate than the now more common brick or stone-sided variety" as the sloping sides increase the volume of the lock.
The two sets of lock gates work differently: the upper set operates via a mechanical system, while the lower gates are hydraulic. The top part of the lock chamber has sloping banks which are covered by vegetation of various types rather than by turf. An arrangement of steel rails ensure that boats stay in the centre of the lock during the rise/fall of 7 ft 7 in (2.31 m).

Garston Lock

At Sheffield lock the sides are scalloped. Not sure why that is but maybe to hold more water?

 Now the swing bridges are either mechanical (windlass) hydraulic (key and button) or manual to open. The first we came across was at the pub Fox and Hounds, Theale swing bridge, with a hire boat inconveniencing us by mooring on the bridge landing!  Heather managed to get Dave off and all we could do was sit and wait. It was all good natured though, the lads just having a jolly good holiday, as they do, right by a pub.  

Pretty much what you see in this picture is what you get. No where to stop with banks full of grass and wild flowers. Very pretty but a pain if we had wanted to stop.
Towey lock was fun. The approach is through a narrow overgrown channel and one of the gates refused to open fully. With me at the rear all I could do was reverse back and I ended up well and truly foliaged!
Approach to Towey lock

Heather telling me to back off.
Once in this deepish lock, the men cracked a paddle and even though it was only open a notch it was a good job we stayed toward the back. Blimey there was some force of water coming in. Took over 20 minutes to fill but that was only because Dave and Ian dare not open up the sluices fully.

We arrived at Alderston with just Padworth lock to do before we stopped at the facilities. Hindering our passage was the three boats in the photo. The two at the back, Ara and Archimedes, had aware notices on them so goodness knows how long they had been there!

Having spent 30 minutes filling our water tanks and, with a hire boat coming down through the lock and swing bridge, we thought we may as well take advantage of an open lock. The hydraulic swing bridge, being a road bridge, was closed by the hirers so Ian walked ahead to get it open again. I was hovering midstream, Heather was hovering midstream but no sign of the bridge opening. Then Ian shouts to us that there was a 15 minute time delay between operations on re opening the bridge, all for the benefit of the motorist. We must have waited, trying to keep the boats toward the middle for nearly 10 minutes!!!. If we had known it would take that long we would have stayed tied on the bollards!

Key in box and countdown had started.

Dave joined Ian and still the wait!
By this time what breeze there was had pushed me onto the side, so it was a mad scramble when the bridge did finally allow us to proceed to get through and not cause to much of a hold up!

We wanted to stop here but as was the norm for this canal, no spots available so we pushed on towards Woolhampton.  Here we encountered the notices about strong stream conditions between Old Woolhampton swing bridge and lock. Both lock gates and bridge are to be open before attempting entry to the lock. Going upstream the flow comes from the left and one needs a bit of throttle to power into the lock. Heather unfortunately didn't put on the power enough and ended up hitting the side. I just went for it and hoped I would stop in time before I hit the top gate! Mission accomplished we then started to look for a mooring. Once again it was almost impossible and the only place we both could get in was after the 48hour moorings.

After the swing bridge there was a slight flow. If the river levels are higher then this could cause a problem

The river joins on the left and the flow was deceptively fast.

Hmmm...would those cyclists stop?

Yes and they even offered to help.

Another fun mooring on the K&A.

Sunday 28 June 2015

Worrying moment on the Thames and a difficult mooring at Tesco

Earlier then normal start for us this morning. No chance to say farewell to Marilyn and Dave but hopefully we may see them when we return to the Thames after the K&A.

Goring lock was literally a stones throw from Cleeve lock. Self service as we were too early for the lock keeper. We still wasn't the first to arrive though, as a boat had beaten us to it below the lock.

More canoeist but this time team GB with the lady canoeists pacing themselves, first upstream and then powering on downstream.

 At Maplethorpe lock we emptied the cassettes. It was a bit fraught at first, as we had plastics in front of us and behind and canoeists hogging most of the landing. A narrowboat was already on the service mooring pumping out so Dave had to squeeze Vixen on the end. For us to get in we had to ask the canoeists to move forward.

 Then coming through reading Ian suddenly threw FS into reverse. Not sure what was going on until I spied the upturned canoe. Where was it's occupant? Two paddles in the water and a lone canoeist frantically shouting for us to stop. 'Do you need help?' shouts I. 'No' came the reply 'Everything is under control'. Still had no idea if anyone was trapped but judging by his total lack of concern, assumed not.

Seems the young girl in pink life jacket not holding the rope was the one to go in.
 By now the rain had arrived with vengeance. One more lock to do, Caversham, before our Tesco shop. We were soaked and I envied the lock keepers their brolly.

Caversham lock.

Meeting the African Queen
It was only about half a mile from the lock that we came upon the Tesco mooring. Ian chatting to the lock keeper was told we didnt stand any chance of getting moored. The continues moorers had once again taken the prime spot. Two spaces looked to be usable but both were a tad to small for us to fit.

So only one other option open and that was between two trees. Not ideal as the trunks came out well over the water. We had no choice but to attempt to get in.A chap in a cruiser helped by taken our rope. The back end stuck out a mile and the front only went in so far. The trunk was also an issue so out came my seat cover from the bow and Ian wrapped it round the trunk and securely tied it on.

Dave coming into breast up

Tesco shop completed and Ian returning the trollys
2pm we set off and did the turn onto the K&A

 Still officially on the Thames, Blakes lock was the last of the Thames large locks. The Self Service boards were up and the last lock to be operated by the paddle wheels. Soon the dust was to be brushed of the windlass as we were back to the broad canal locks again.

Blakes Lock

Push the button Dave. We had to wait for the green light.

Green light and off we go.

Right through the center of Reading. Not allowed to stop unfortunately.

County lock after the traffic lights

One of the fiercest weirs I have encountered. Fobney lock
It was gone 5pm when we found our first decent mooring right by the Cunning Man pub. It's been a long day 9 hours and some difficult moments but at least we made it onto the K&A. For us this is new territory so we have no idea what adventures are to come. No doubt we will find out in the weeks to come.

And on route

Ladybird larva

And beginning it's change

Egyptian Geese

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