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.

Wednesday 25 November 2015

Finishing ahead of schedule.

On the first opportunity to be had we headed out to Barkers lock to check on progress. Absolutely astonished at how far ahead they were with the work. Brickwork pointing completed, especially around the ladders, new ground paddles installed, which should make life much easier when trying to lift the paddles (says I hopefully) and some of the coping stones replaced. The gates didn't need re-planking as an inspection showed them to be sound, they having been replaced a few years ago, but where it had been rubbed (boats going in through one gate) wood has been inserted to the mitre to stop the leaks. The hope is that the lock will reopen ahead of scheduled, possibly by next weekend. Then an unscheduled short stoppage at Hallem Fields, (we think during the same stoppage period) to finally install the paddle gear removed 5 years ago!

Hard hat to be worn before I was allowed in

New paddle gear

Re-pointing done.

Scaffolding should be removed within days.

Wood inserted on the bottom gate mitre.

Monday 23 November 2015

Are we a Chinese laundry now??? and meeting with good friends.

We woke to the first real frost of the year and a decidedly cold chill in the boat. Even though the fire had been burning all night the windows were running with condensation. Probably due to the three wash loads of clothing hanging to dry on every conceivable rail and hook available. I really could have done with a whirligig but Ian is adamant he's not having one on the boat! Instead the inside looks like a Chinese laundry which in my opinion is an eyesore. If he so much as complains about the state of the place............well, I'll not answer for the out come if he does!!!!

Went to the Great Northern for lunch and met up with Roger and Pat, Nb The Cats Whiskers and Fred and Lisa, Nb Chyandour We all became friends after meeting at the Kingfisher dry dock at Trent Lock several years ago. Pat and Roger have a mooring at Mercia Marina and Fred and Lisa have  moored on the Erewash waiting to come up through Barkers lock once the stoppage is off. It was a laugh a minute and the chatter went on for hours and guess what??? Not a single mention of toilets, a first for us!! Good company, good meals and a very enjoyable afternoon spent with very good friends. What more could one ask for. More of the same please that's what!

Saturday 21 November 2015

Sun Dance hand over, day 9

Blooming 'eck it blew a holey last night. Even the rope fender Ian made from the center rope didnt give much respite. The life ring was in the well deck because it had been removed from the hatch slide as we were in danger of losing it in the wind. Ian thought the rope fender would be sufficient but by the time he thought about tying the ring to the cladding, it was gone 10pm and too blooming cold to venture out. Then about 2 pm we both woke feeling cold. The blasted gas had run out, what a time to be without heating. Minus temperatures and that wind whistling through the gaps in the hatch. Nothing for it but bury heads under the quilt and cuddle up. So as soon as it got light enough for Ian to see, he dressed rather hastily and changed the gas bottle, then it was  undress again and get under the covers, but not before relighting the boiler, turning the dial to it's maximum and putting the kettle on!

We left around 8 30ish. Only a few miles and a tunnel to do and had arranged with them at Tardebigge that our arrival would be between 9am and 10. What we hadnt built into the equation was how shallow that last section was and how much prop clearing was neccesary from leaves and branches that kept being attracted to it. The cutting up to the tunnel was scary. Those trees swayed alarmingly toward us and at one point a crack was heard. Nothing fell on us thank goodness but how releived were we to get into the tunnel, out the otherside and back into open countryside.

Our noisy neighbours arrived at droves at 7. 30am  

Shortwood tunnel

Glad to get away from these.
 Soon the yard came into view. Slightly later then anticipated but still within the time. Only one space available and that was by the paint dock. One of the workers came out and said Sun Dance needed to be winded before coming in. I looked on incredulously! 'In this wind' says I. Anyway he took the helm and after loads of forward and reverse in very high revs, cussing like mad because the wind refused to let the bow swing round and with Ian at the bow and me at the stern acting as fenders as she inevitably hit the moored boats, he completed the turn and we got moored up. Then it was wait for our lift to get us back to Oxford (turned up at 10. 30am) and and by 11.30am we had collected our car and was making our way home. We did a quick detour to daughter Christine to collect post and was amazed by the amount of snow that had fallen in Derbyshire. I cant remember the last time snow fell in November. None at Langley Mill and once on board a freezing FS, the Fire Log was thrown onto the fire and diesel hearting switched on. Now toasty and warm and looking forward to Christmas when we move Merlin from Great Hayward back to Bunbury.

Sun Dance needed to be in that gap by the paint dock, facing with her bow to the entrance.

Heading for the gap and then told she needed turning round.

2.5 miles, one tunnel.

Only one on route photo a rare sight on the canals,

Friday 20 November 2015

Move day 8 and for goodness sake not another tree in our way!

The rest of the flight this morning was a doddle. Only 2 locks against so the 9 locks up to lock 6 took a little under an hour. Mind you the last 4 locks took equally as long as they had to be emptied and we struggles with low water, leaves and branches.

Early start this morning.

Lapworth flight

 Then before the first lift bridge....there it was. Another small tree across the canal. This time we kept hard over on to the cladding and with a lot of crunching and grinding from the prop managed to squeeze past.

That lift bridge about did Ian in!!! It was heavy and needed a quite a few turns to raise, as well as lower, and back on board he was puffing like a good un. Told him have a sit down to recover but he is a stubborn old cus and would have none of it.

Lift bridge 28
And then.........another young tree in our way. Most of the trunk was under water so coasting over the top seemed the best idea. It worked and apart from a slight roll as the hull went over we were at least still be moving. Both of these hazzards were phoned through to C&RT and Ian was told that there was still numerous reports of trees down along the system.

The last lift bridge of this journey was at Shirley and needed a BW key to operate the barriers. Amazing how much traffic use this bridge but Ian got lucky that he managed to get the barrier shut before the next lot of cars arrived.

The weather has been very fickle today. First thing this morning and we were still only needing jumpers. By late morning the coats, hats and gloves had gone on. The wind picked up causing a real chill and a shock to the system. Blue skies were with us until we reached Lady Jane Wharf. Then we had rain, hail and high winds. Blooming 'eck it got cold!! I think maybe a cold spell is coming so quite glad this is the last day of the move.

Look at that, sun shinning, blue sky in the distance and a hail storm to contend with.
Through the Guillotine lock and towards Kings Norton Junction where a left turn took us onto the Worc and Birmingham.

Still a massive amount of branch debris lying about and thankfully this tree was only across part of the canal.

Wast Hill tunnel came into view, a length of 2,726 yards, about 1.5 miles and a good half of it had  water dripping from the roof.  With no other boat in sight Ian powered through making it a quick passage through.

Wast Hill tunnel

I got rather wet taking this photo

So we are now nearly back at Anglo Welsh base. Arrived at visitor mooring in Alvechurch to spend our last night and do a bit of a clean up. We do like returning the boat looking decent. Tomorrow one more tunnel to do before arriving at the yard. Packing is all done, just the boots to put into a plastic bag tomorrow. They did get very muddy and will need a darn good scrubbing when we get home.!

18 mile 14 locks 3 lift bridges 2 tunnels

On route,

Thursday 19 November 2015

Move day 7 and crikey was my eyes deceiving me

Oh what a lovely peaceful night with only the slight hum of the M40 in the distance. And oh how nice to have a lie for a change. It was turned 9am by the time we got up, sheer luxury. Plans for today, first go to fallen tree to see if any other boat was moored on the other side and then phone C&RT to see if they had any idea of when the contractors would arrive. Well the first of the plans didn't happen as it started to rain and didn't let up until after midday.

 The second on the list did happen, phone C&RT, and we were told that the contractors would arrive sometime today and they would phone back to let us know when. So we settled down to reading the towpath talk, playing Sudoku (Ian) and me doing code words. No phone call was forthcoming so after lunch and, once the rain had nearly stopped, I walked through the bridge 'ole toward the tree. Well I stopped dead in my tracks and was completely stunned!!!! Where was the tree??? Had I dreamt it all???? In fact I started walking back to the boat, turned to have another look just in case my eyesight had deceived me but no the tree had definitely been removed.

 How and when was the question I asked myself. No sound of chainsaws and no phone call from C&RT. I rushed back to Sun Dance, told Ian who was equally stunned and pulled pins post haste getting us underway. Hats off to C&RT for responding so quickly but I do wish they had contacted us, we could have got back on track that much earlier.

Loads of logs to be had. Shame we were not on FS.

So we reached Kingswood junction, turned onto the Stratford, was told the canal was closed.........WHAT.... PARDON....did I hear right!!!! Then relief as it was the South Stratford that was closed not the North.

 Water was a priority and it was good to be able to fill the tank. Got the first 6 locks out of the way and stopped on the visitor mooring before lock 14. By now time was after 3pm and, as I was wet through to my undies from leaning on the balance beam opening the gates, I just wanted to get in the shower and have a warm. Once moored Ian informed Anglo Welsh at Tardebigge that we were on the move again and to expect us on Saturday, that is if nothing else untoward happens between now and then.

Kingswood junction

See I can do locks.....just not very often

Phew, a bit out of practice me thinks

3.45 miles, 6 locks, 1 hour 50 minutes

And the moorings at bridge 62 and on route,

Gold Crest

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