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 25 September 2016

Thought the journey would never end.

Blooming 'eck how long did it take to arrive back to Langley on Friday? We left the hotel at 7.45am, got to Calais and onto the ferry around 10ish, arrived at Dover 90 minutes later and after a horrendous journey of hold ups and the driver having to take his breaks, finally got back to Eastwood around 6ish. A taxi was due to collect us from Ikea and take us back home....but after 30 minutes waiting with no sign, Ian, without any real hope of the phone being answered because of the lateness of the hour, tried the Nova travel number. We got a result!!! There was still a person in the offices who assured us a taxi would be with us as soon as possible. Another 10 minutes wait and after 9 hours of sitting in a coach with only the occasional stop at the services to stretch our legs and use the facilities, we thankfully arrived back to FS.

Even the ferries had a queue

So clear we could see the white cliffs before we had left Calais harbour

That kettle went on pretty quick and with no food in the place other than in the freezer, we made do with toasting the frozen bread slices and pigging out on peanut butter toasties.

So now the countdown to Oz starts. Another few family visits to do first though so, with only a little over two weeks to go, it's all hands on deck to get everything done.

Saturday 24 September 2016

Us Brits cause a bit of bother.

Oh dear. Seems the eight of us got into a spot of bother last night. Carole, Mick, Dennis, Margaret, Heather, Dave and us visited Ron's bar for the second time last night and were welcomed back by the owner. One of her bar staff took the drink order and unfortunately got it a bit wrong. All in good fun we joked about this but the chap doing the drinks was not very happy and complained bitterly to his boss. She, in turn, told him no uncertain terms that the customer was always right and if he didn't like it to leave. Now, this was all relayed to us when we enquired as to why he was storming out of the pub and of course we were mortified and full of apologies. The owner was marvellous telling us that his attitude was not one she wished from an employer and was very glad she found out now. So all ended well and a good report will be posted by us on trip advisor.

So back to today, walked along the prom and admired the marina before taking a short ferry crossing to the other harbour.

One of the harbour locks
Free ferry across the harbour
 On reaching the other side, Port Napoleon, we were lucky enough to see a fishing vessel locking up. Notice the lock keepers lack of safety gear. They appeared so blasé' about everything, even when we watched the workers on the railways in Ostend we noticed the men without hard hats. They appeared totally unconcerned about their safety and I don't suppose they will even have heard the term Health and Safety voiced.

Huge lock housing a fairly large fishing vessel.

Yes that's the lock keeper

"This bunker of the type R (Regelbau) 633 was a component of the German coastal defence Atlantikwall. The main armanant composed of a 5cm M19 mortar, installed underneath a heavy armoured steel copula, with a fire range of 750 meters. The task of these type of bunkers were to protect the beaches and 'Stutzpunkten" (the harbour of Oostende). The R 633 is the only surviving example of this type in Vlaanderen. The bunker is easily accessible and unit signs can be found on the walls and inside the mortat copula. The original armoured doors of the main entrance and emergency exit are preserved and the steel mortar copula is still equipped with its cover."...Translated from the information panel.

And inside

Looking up at one of the air vents possibly
Not far from the Mortierbunker was these large wooden structures attached by a chain to a massive reduction gearbox. When a boat needs to dry dock, the wooden structure gets lowered by the winch, the boat then manoeuvrers over the cradle and once the gears are engaged, the chain pulls the whole thing, boat an all, out of the water.
Is it called a slip???

No longer in use because of the damage

winch gear.
Another of the casualties of war was WW1 battle ship 'Vindictive' She was sunk as a blockship at Ostend during the Second Ostend Raid on 10 May 1918.This part of her super structure was the only thing on display near the breakwater..

After a very pleasant few hours we caught the ferry back and had a wander to another of the harbour locks. Yesterday a huge ship was being locked up which we saw as the tram trundled past. Shame I didn't get a picture The vessel was huge and would have completely filled this photo.

One of the many fish stalls along the prom.
I wanted to dip my toes and with the tide coming in so not to far to walk, got my wish. This is both of us enjoying a toe dipping session in the warm North Sea.

That's me pretending to dive. (sad I know)

No it wasn't pecking Ian's leg although it does look like it.
And seen along the promanade,

Oyster catcher

This surprised me as I thought dragonflies only emerged from fresh water.


Thursday 22 September 2016

Eneco road race comes through Blankenberge

We opted out of doing the coach trip to Blankenberge deciding to take the tram there instead. For 3 Euro's each, we could have an all-day ticket and hop on hop of as much as we liked. Margaret asked them in the ticket office if that was right. His answer... well yes but only when the tram has stopped!

Imagine all these along the towpath!

At the station

Ian, Margaret, Dave and Dennis waiting for the tram.

Many a close encounter during the trip.

Chose the wrong day to go to Blankenberge. Talk about standing room only on the trams. We were very lucky to get seated although not all together.  Deciding to head for the pier stop first, going through the centre of Blankenberge we saw wall to wall people, some standing and others heading towards a giant marquee. Found out later why.

Blankenberge beach from the Pier.

We caught the tram back to the centre and wished we hadn’t. Managing to get off fighting our way through the throngs, there was a mad dash by the public to get to the traffic junction which in turn blocked any movement by the tram or cars. Then in one huge mass loads of cyclists came tearing past. Obviously a road race and looking online discovered it was the Eneco Bolsward, Netherlands/Belgium, road World tour and this was the third leg.

Just see the cyclists helmets

And the support teams with the bikes

And the coaches
Needless to say, we got back on the very next tram and headed up towards the terminus in Knokke. Another place we found disappointing with not much to do other than shop. So deciding to give up on the sightseeing got the tram back to Oostende. We all found seats but the number of people getting on at different stops it's a wonder the trams managed to keep going. There was obviously no weight limit!. We did get slightly held up at one of the massive swing bridges across the huge locks. A truck long loader got well and truly stuck trying to get off the bridge and consequently wedged fast against the wall. Luckily for us it was on the opposite side and the queues of traffic behind it was phenomenal! Anyway back to the hotel and straight to the pool for a swim. Tomorrow is a free day so going to explore Oostende. Need to do as much walking as possible 'cos I know the pounds are creeping back on. All that hard work before we came away only to have to start again on our return.... sigh.

Seen by the pier

Tuesday 20 September 2016

Ostend day 2. Ypres and the Menin Gate

Very surprised that I didn’t have a sore head this morning. Went a bit OTT with the red wine seeing as how it was free. Dispensed by a hand pump instead of out of the bottle. Most strange but wow wouldn’t I like to adopt that method! On tap and as much as you like....lovely.
Before the coach arrived I walked to the beach a few yards from the hotel. With Thursday being a free day, cant wait to dip my toes in the sea. 

The Dancers

Off  to Ypres to see the Menin Gate . Unfortunately due to extensive road works all around Ypres another hour was added to the journey as our coach driver tried almost in vain to get to the drop off point. So when we did eventually arrive in the square only 2 and a half hours were allocated for sightseeing. Still that was plenty of time to see most of what we wanted to see but not enough time to go round the Museum of Flanders. I suppose we will just have to make the effort to come back at some point in the future. Anyway loads of photos to show as usual and a few wildlife from yesterdays trip.

The reconstruction of the Cloth Hall


Partially rebuilt

And finished

Menin Gate

The Last Post happens every evening at 8pm

This tap on one of the roundabouts. 


 And wildlife

Young pigeon literally dropped out of a tree right in front of us. No way of rescue as the walls were to high (yesterday)

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