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 31 October 2017

Yes two boats will fit!

Didn't take long for us to reach Weston lock and with a boat passing us early we had high hopes of it being with us. Not quite though as the bottom gates were being closed as we arrived and a lady starting to raise the top ground paddle. Suddenly a shout was heard from the Captain and loud engine revs as the boat was being vainly put into reverse. Ian had by now walked to the lock just in time to see the lady winding the gate paddle up as well. More shouts from the Captain and she did no more than remove the windlass expecting the paddle to drop. (Huh, what, excuse me!!!!) Ian intervenes as by now the bow of the boat was in the flow of the water cascading through the paddle. All was not lost as the paddle was wound down and the Captain managed to take back control of his boat. If their front cabin doors had been opened...I expect this post heading would have gone a something like....Boat sunk in lock!.  Now by reading this, you would assume these boaters to be hirers. No...they were private boat owners who were not newbies to the waterways. The Captain then told Ian that the pound to Aston Lock was very low, so much so that  'beaches appeared' and they nearly got stuck under a bridge. Finding out their draft was the same as FS's we did wonder how we would fare.

Taking it steady was all that was needed and that bridge was fine, not even a scraped bottom!

Five more locks to do, Aston lock which has steel bars to keep the bottom gates shut and water pouring through the top gate paddles (could this be why the pound was low?),

Aston Lock

  Shardlow lock where these bars would have been useful because the bottom gates do swing open. It was here that a Canaltime was tied to a bollard on the lock landing. Not at the end but right in the middle so no chance of getting anywhere near a bollard to rope up to. Ian walked and knocked on their cabin side to give them a piece of his mind  advice about not mooring on the landing. Turns out they were waiting for their pals on another canaltime boat which was on its way up and when Ian asked why they didn't share a lock the reply "We didn't think two boats would fit" Even Derwent Mouth lock had been done singly!

Derwent Mouth lock which was ready and waiting with gates wide open,

 Hardly any flow to the Trent although crossing the two rivers (Derwent flows across the Trent from left to right) we got swept toward the mouth of the Derwent. Bit of power needed to go straight on.

Long Horse bridge across the Derwent

Sawley stop lock

Sawley lock was being operated by volunteers and this is the last day for the volunteers on all the manned locks. Next year, 30th of March over the Easter weekend will be when they are back.


 Locked down to join the Trent again and all to soon the junction of the Erewash came into view.

Then a sharp left turn off the river and onto the landing at Trent Lock. Waited for a trip boat to ascend (wide beam so we couldn't share) and finally got moored just after the facilities. Sad to think our trip is nearly over. Tomorrow we make for Sandiacre, will stay until the weekend and then the final leg back to our moorings in Langley Mill.

And wildlife,

Brambling I think. I have been reliably informed that it is a Stonechat. Thank you, Paul.

And yet another Kingfisher. This time on the river Trent

St Kilda Soay Sheep

Might need the clippers on these.

Monday 30 October 2017

Is it time to give up cruising?

Cold, dark  I just hate it when the clocks go back. By 5 pm its nearly twilight and by the time we set off to meet Pat and Roger it was already dark. Only the glimmer of the first quarter moon phase to light the way to Mercia. Good job Ian had remembered the torch!

Had a great evening chatting about New Zealand and the merits of buying a motorhome. Yep...we have made up our minds...a motorhome it is as soon as we find one we like. FS will still be lived in but our cruising days may be reduced. Both of us hate that the 'old school' ways have all but disappeared. More often than not we have had FS rock because a boater only throttled back at the last minute. Only yesterday we asked very nicely for a boater to slow down, only to have expletives come out of his mouth and rude hand gestures. Probably time we left the canals to those that want to rush. Anyway, we left Pat and Rogers place and stepped into the cold night air. Clear skies so no wonder it felt cold. So glad FS was nice and warm when we got back.

 Brrrr, woke to a cold bedroom this morning. Had the fire gone out? No, we must have closed the fire off to much last night and only a few coals were still alight. Ian did the gentlemanly thing by opening the vent and adding more coal while I stayed huddled underneath the quilt. And there I would have stayed until the first cup of tea had been forthcoming but he happened to mention that we had a frost last night. I was out of bed quicker than you could say Jack Robinson and took these photos. The first frost of the Autumn and a delight to see.

Leaving mid morning we arrived at Stenson lock to find it empty. Such a big and deep lock it takes ages to fill and I was glad when the gates finally opened. I tried to stay in the centre of the canal rather than tie up on the landing. Thankfully no wind and FS stayed where I put her. We also had help at this lock. Not C&RT but a chap who looked after the lock surrounds keeping it clear of debris and helping boaters through when they turned up.

Someone had a sense of humour. Brightens the day no end.

 Another lock that took an age was Swarkstone lock. Had to wait for a boat ascending. They were new boaters having just bought the boat so Ian stepped back and let them do it at there own pace. Cracked a paddle just a quarter and there it stayed for ages.  I was beginning to wonder what was wrong until Ian came over to put me in the picture.

We stopped at Cliffwood almost next to the River Trent and fabulous walks to go on. Took myself off to explore and ended up at the old railway bridge spanning the river. and the stone viaduct over the floodplain.

Viaduct over the floodplain

Old railway bridge

And on the walk


Sunday 29 October 2017

Unexpected twice

 Yesterday I put a picture on of last nights sunset. What a difference 35 minutes make.

Going out tonight as an unexpected meeting of friends this afternoon so I'm keeping this post short! Got to shower, cook dinner, do blog....all takes the time you know!

So.... As we left Branston Water Park the same new bridge but from a different view. Oh and the name of the new bridge...Nurton Bridge just in case you want to mark it up on your Nicholson guide.

 After a quick Morrison shop (moor at bridge 33b Marston Brewery bridge and walk through the estate) we made excellent progress to reach the last of the single locks on this trip. From now on its wide locks all the way back to Langley.

Dallow Lane lock

 No sooner had we exited the lock and just around the bend...a Swan. Not just any Swan but a Black Swan. Most unusual and unexpected to see them on the canals. They come from New Zealand you know, we saw many during our time there.

 As I mentioned before, most of the vegetation has been cut back from Wychnol lock to the River Dove aqueduct near to Eggington. Lovely open canals which are a joy to cruise. There still are the odd places where seeing around the bend to a bridge hole is a problem and one such place is by The Millhouse by bridge 29, not branches, but reeds that are a nuisance here.

Arrived at Willington by early afternoon and after using the facilities cruised the last half mile to moor by the footbridge near to Mercia Marina.

Approach to Willington
  Ian wanted to replace the seal on one of our cassettes so we walked to Midland Chandlers at Mercia Marina. The first thing to hit us was the new buildings (first started earlier this year) are almost complete. More retail units and a Resturant should be up and running by mid-December.

And there was a Market on. Lovely Dutch cheese was on offer at the cheese stall so just had to purchase the seeded Gouda as well as the smoked variety. Loverrrly.

Ian walked back to FS without me as I wanted to take some photos. Then when I made my way back...OMG, it's Roger and Pat The Cats Whiskers and who we spent some time with in New Zealand. So that's is why we are off out tonight, for a good old catch up!

 Cooking that Steak and Ale pie tonight. For the first time in 9 years of living on FS, I have cooked it on our stove. Put on at 8am this morning, and will be ready shortly. If this works okay I'll be doing a lot more stove cooking.

 Have a look at this photo, what can you see.

I would never have seen it if it had been anything other than the colour blue.
And wildlife,

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