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 16 November 2017

A feathered passenger and something new to play with!

View from our mooring on a very wet day.
 Would you look who paid us a visit? This cheeky Robin flew in the open door of our car whilst Ian was loading the boot and proceeded to make itself at home on the passenger seat!  Had to shoo him out as we didn't have a seat-belt to fit!

After an extensive search over several weeks, traipsing around caravan, camper vans and motor home sites, looking at numerous vehicles layouts, we eventually found the perfect motor home on eBay.  

And before you all fling your hands up in horror saying you're crazy to buy on eBay, we did travel to Warrington first to see if it was suitable. At 6.9 meters long it has 6ft twin settees either side which could make up to one huge double or stay as two singles. The toilet can be closed off from the shower, a bonus as most we looked at had wet rooms and the idea of using soggy toilet paper was not an appealing thought. It has the usual fridge, freezer, microwave, oven with grill and 4 hob burners, plus a reversing camera,  swivel driver and passenger seats, awning and oodles of storage.  And what is the make I hear you ask?  2005 Autocruise Wentworth, a tad older than we would have liked but with only 29,000 miles on the clock, an absolute bargain.

On the driveway at Warrington
The arrangement was to bring her back to Langley Mill yesterday so, with the owner having to leave for work by midday, we planned to get a train from Langley Mill to Chesterfield, catch another to Manchester and finally, the Llandudno train alighting at Newton-la-Willows station. You would think this was going to be a doddle but we couldn't have foreseen the problems encountered before the journey even started. The last thing we wanted to hear whilst waiting for the 7.31am train was that it had been cancelled due to a body on the line! An hour wait for the next one and a phone call to the owner apologising that we would be arriving 11.30am instead of 10.30am as planned and with one hell of a quick hand over, we finally became the proud owners of a new mode of transport.

The natty idea of the partition holding the sink folds toward the loo closing off the shower cubical.

Had a short cruise across the basin to water up and transfer spare bedding into the van. That's FS on the right. 

Monday 6 November 2017

Final cruise

Today was to be our last run up the Erewash for the foreseeable future. In a little under 5 hours with the remaining 11 miles and 10 locks, the cruising season with FS would be finished for this year.

Leaving very early so as to get to Langley for a prearranged Sunday Carvery with Dave, Heather, Dennis and Margaret at the Great Northern, the skies radiated a wonderful soft red glow. Sometimes it pays to be up by 6.45 am.

Pasture, Stanton and Hallam fields locks were in our favour but our hope for a quick trip up was dashed when the next 4 locks all had to be emptied.  At Greens lock, the approach was a smokey one. In fact, Ian indicated that I should hang back as the smoke was blowing across the lock entrance and the fumes somewhat obnoxious. He was not wrong as that smoke had an acrid taste and smell to it. What was being burnt??? Ian reckons it was some sort of plastic material.

Most relieved to be out of that I can tell you, as it was not nice.

Some of those top gates also refused to stay shut when leaving the locks so I'm sorry to say we left them open. Not something either of us are comfortable with doing but after the second time of heaving on those gates only to see them swinging open again we said sod it and left them to it. And that is how we found Barkers and Stenson lock, with one of the top gates needing closing before the lock could be emptied.

One thing very noticeable on our journey was instead of lack of water we had too much. At one of the bridges at the lock approach, I had to reverse rather rapidly when I realised our chimney wouldn't fit under. Never had we to do this in the past other than at Anchor bridge, the lowest in the Erewash. Mind you having removed the weight (top boxes and wood) I supposed our draft might not be as deep as it once was.

Potters lock and where I decided not to have a crunched chimney.
Shipley lock We may have got under with the chimney but glad it was laying on the roof.
 Shipley and at last a lock with one gate open beckoning us in. As we ascended water started pouring over the top gates. Was the next lock, Eastwood, being emptied? It was and by Margaret welcoming us back to Langley. Margaret hitched a ride back to Langley lock, the very last one on the Erewash. That also was ready with the gate open, Dennis having done the deed this time.

Plenty of water at Shipley lock

Margaret and Ian
 So on exit we pulled onto the facilities, filled the water tank, emptied loo and headed over to the Great Northern for Sunday Carvery. For £5.99 we were served with two good slices of meat (turkey, pork, beef or gammon) and as much veg as you could pile onto the plate, lovely and well worth a visit. By 4pm we were finally ready to push across to the swingbridge and onto our moorings. We reversed past Nb Dormouse (yes we did see Keith and Jenny again) secured the ropes, put aerial up and settle down knowing we had a long long 7 months before getting away on our travels again. But wait.... we will be heading out for Christmas. Not on FS but on our other boat Merlin. With the Anglo Welsh hire fleet, we will be returning her to Bunbury after a repaint and engine maintenance at Great Hayward. More of that trip will be posted during that journey from the 21st December.

And finally, more wildlife from the moorings at Sandiacre,

Nuthatch and Goldfinch


And wildlife on route,

Sunday 5 November 2017

Dumped vegetation and power lost.

I hadn't noticed when we arrived at Sandiacre, call me unobservant if you like, but Ian was very annoyed at what had been left outside the side gate! From our bungalow, the gate leads out onto the path by the lock. The bywash is opposite and with the lock drawing water towards it, as well as the continuing flow coming down from Langleys 'feeder', all manner of stuff gets caught on the grill bars. It was very obvious from what Ian told me that the floating reeds and other vegetation had been pulled out and dumped by the gate blocking our access.

 He was not a happy bunny and would have had words with C&RT had I not seen them first walking along the towpath from the overflow bywash further along the canal. Collaring one of the team I asked why they had left it by our gate. It was then brought to my attention that it was most unusual for C&RT workforce to remove the stuff and leave it on the land as their policy these days was to flush it down the bywash instead of removing it. "Can't take it to the tip because of the expense and we are no longer allowed to spread it on farmers fields" was the reply. But the answer I didn't get was why then leave it lying below the hedges instead! Anyway, they were pretty decent about pulling the stuff away from the gate and leaving it slightly further along. The assurance was it would be removed as soon as a pickup truck was available. We will wait and see.

Thursday afternoon and all power were lost on FS. We had connected to the shoreline and wanting a shower I switched on the emersion heater. Ian then turned on the electric kettle and bread maker. Going outside I was in the process of washing FS's roof when I heard loud expletives from inside and I gathered that Ian was not best pleased with something. Soon found out what it was when he came out to inform me that there was no power getting to the boat sockets Out comes his tool (careful!!!!) one that when placed on a wire will light up if it's live. Power was getting into the control box and going into the inverter but from there on all was dead. Oh help...bread machine on with rapidly collapsing loaf, and worst of all my fridge had gone off and with the freezer full  But thankfully all was not lost as Ian plugged the bread machine directly into the mains and I kept the fridge and freezer doors firmly shut. It took 2 hours to fix as my man that can 'mister fix it himself', deduced that a fuse had blown in the inverter. To gain access the circuit board had to be removed which is why it took two hours!  Who in their right mind would put a fuse where it is almost impossible to get to?.

All those wires from the control panel. Good job Ian knows where they all go. But....oh no....Ahhhh just seen the dust!!!

The fuse was behind the circuit board.

Had a lovely surprise from a couple off of Nb Dormouse. A knock on the cabin side and gentlemen who read this blog enquired on which camera I used for my wildlife photos. Well, I had to show him my Canon complete with 70-300mm lens. There ensued a discussion on the merits of this lens and I gave him the camera to feel it's weight. He had thoughts of going up to a 100-400mm lens but that makes the camera a lot heavier and not as easy to handle. I found out his name was Keith and his wife Jenny and it is almost a certainty that we will see them on the return from Langley Mill.


All day was spent looking at motorhomes. We now know what we want, narrowing our search to the Autocruise Starburst, Starspirit or Wentworth. Just need to find one at the right price!

And wildlife in the Derby Arm, a Rat and Kingfisher

Wednesday 1 November 2017

Where she nestled she stayed.

That's it...our penultimate journey all done and dusted. Took us two and half hours to arrive back at Sandiacre. We could have done it in half the time but we wanted to enjoy this leg. Also, all three of the locks had to be emptied before I could ascend and with the Erewash as our home canal, plenty of the locals came out to chat and welcome us back.

Reversing into the only bit of the Derby Canal still in water, I did an almost textbook manoeuvre until halfway in when the rudder got stuck in the silt. Tried to go forward but that wasn't going to happen. In the end, Ian was thrown the centre rope to pull FS in. The ropes were tied to bollards but with quite a stretch as 'where she nestled she stayed'. Every time Sandiacre lock was used more water was drawn from under her hull until we may as well have been on dry land, not a movement was felt! But so long as we are not on the P, that's the main thing.

Just the photos to show and you won't hear another word from me until we leave for Langley at the weekend (I can almost hear the sighs of relief).

Leaving Trent Lock

Trust boats waiting for the dry dock.

Long Eaton lock

I still can't believe this hasn't been repaired. It was like this when we left in May. See below
May 2017

But this Willow has been trimmed. See next photo as what it was like before.

Dockholme Lock

Sandiacre Lock

One of the locals pleased to see us.

That banner on the bridge, The Start of the Derby Canal.

Just a bit of a gap!

And wildlife today,

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