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 30 September 2018

Two in a lock????

We wanted to do a Morrison shop so with the store not opening before 10am a lie in was most welcome.  9.30 and we were on the move. Apart from the shopping, ahead of us was 12 lift bridges, 4 locks and 9 miles. So we raced around the store, grabbed the groceries and pulled pins as soon as we got back.

First two lift bridges were raised and most welcome it was too.

At Grants lock a boat was coming up. Got Ian off to do the lock and as the boat passed a lady happened to mention my photos so I'm assuming she reads this blog. Unfortunately, I didn't get the lady's name or the boat name but I thank you for your lovely comment.

 Two more lift bridges also raised. Wow, this is starting to look good. In fact, we were amazed and delighted that ALL the lift bridges were open on the route. So what we thought would take 6 hours to reach our planned stop, only took 4.5 hours.

We had to do part of the river Cherwell and Neil Bridge lock took us down onto it. It was on the lock beam that Ian spied a notice. "Here misses," says he to me. "Take a look at this and tell me what's wrong with it". This is the notice.

Spotted it yet?

This is the lock,

The other end of the river section and a unique lock. Aynho Weir lock with its diamond shape and a drop (or rise) of about a foot.

Leaving the lock this shows the shape.
Rain started as we passed under Chisnell lift bridge so the decision was to stop. Didn't quite make the 9 miles but with the rain and the wind chill, both wanted a warm drink and to light the stove.

 So here are my 'on the journey' photos,

Nice to see this as a restoration project.

Anyone for a sofa?

Hmm, vegetation and narrow channels. I think C&RT needs to address this sooner than later!

 And seen on route,


A late moorhen chick. Will it survive the winter?


Saturday 29 September 2018

The difference an hour makes.

Brrrr, the stove had gone out and FS was freezing this morning. A look out of the side hatch confirmed that we most certainly had had the frost I mentioned yesterday. More surprising, and I'm sure not forecasted, was the fog!
 Taken at 7 am

 And taken at 8 am

Gosh, the first freezing temperature of autumn and we even had ice form on the solar panels. Trying to untie stiff ropes took some doing.

But oh how wonderful to see the mist rising off the water and the sun starting to appear. With the chill hat, scarf, and gloves were needed until the morning had warmed. Only three locks to do today and this the first, Slat Mill lock, had to be filled.

We reached the outskirts of Bunbury by 10ish but it took a further 20 minutes to get past all the moored boats. A long section of permit holders but the 14-day moorings were nearly all full as well.
Beyond the bridge and right by the Castle Quay shopping center plenty of moorings available. We took a mooring right by a C&RT dredger. In fact our front button is nearly touching the arm.

 First thing was to find Wilko for the silicone gun so Ian could seal the window. Then it was off to Wetherspoons for an early lunch. Back at FS I left Ian to do the biz with the porthole window while I went for a bit of retail therapy. Came back with new trainers from Sports Direct my old ones having almost given up the ghost. I was also most surprised to see that Ian had made Soda Bread. Looks like tea is sorted then!

Ian has worked out that we may well be on the Thames by Tuesday. Both of us love this river and are so looking forward to spending a month on it. A Thames licence is needed which can be purchased from Eynsham lock after leaving Dukes cut. The cost for our size boat (35mtrs) it's £182.30 for the month. Sounds pricey but worth every penny to cruise this wonderful waterway. 

And on the journey,

This is one gruesome statue!

Won't he be cold if he falls in!

And seen on route,

Another waterfowl with Angelwing


Friday 28 September 2018

Theres always one.

 A comment from Graham (thank you) had a time-saving idea of not pricking sloes but to wash and put them straight in the gin bottle. I wasn't 100% convinced that this would work so I thought I would do an experiment. I did one bottle with pricked sloes and the other the unpricked sloes. After two days of shaking twice a day, this was the result.

To me, the flavour of the sloe has to mingle with the gin to create the wonderful taste and on the unpricked sloe bottle, this doesn't appear to be the case. I'm going to see what the result is after 5 days and will publish my findings then. (if I remember)

Last nights sunset
We had locks to do today and wanted to get as near to Banbury as possible so left by 9am. Good job we did as we hadn't realised just how low the water levels were on this part of the South Oxford. Should have known though, what with the restrictions on the locks. Consequently, a wash started on the far side and we throttled back to no more than 1200 rpm and more often then not it was down to 1000 rpm not quite tickover but near enough!

Filled with diesel at Fenny Compton. 82p ltr and the cheapest we will be able to get from now on. The price once we make the Thames is well over 90p ltr.

Fenny Compton Wharf
 Sailed through the 5 Claydon locks with boats exiting as we approached. Here we also started on the descent toward the Thames.

At Elkington lock a Calcutt hire boat was going in. Ah, seemed our luck had changed and the lock would have to be turned. Also, a single hander lady waiting at the bottom took the empty lock after the Calcutt boat had left and was very grateful for the help Ian gave, as was I because the top pound was down by a good foot. Not wanting to risk going onto the landing I had to hold out so the quicker she ascended the better for me. Then our luck changed once more and not for the better. Reached Broadmoor lock and most dismayed to find not just that Culcutt boat on the landing, but another boat in front of them. Where had that sprung from? This pound was so low that any attempt to go into the side was thwarted by copious amounts of mud! So I was forced to sit it out in the middle for the two boats to descend for 25 minutes!!! That first boat went down quite quickly but oh that Culcutt crew...slow is not the right word. More like snail pace instead. Ian went to help but they understandably wanted to do it themselves so he let them carry on. My frustration was very apparent to Ian when I eventually got into the lock. Trying to hold the boat in the middle, boats on my starboard side, mud on the port side, wind and the water movement all trying to put FS where she wasn't welcome, well I could feel the anxiety mounting. The last thing I wanted was to hit another boat or get stuck in that mud. Only thing I did say to Ian was to please ask them next time to drop the paddles when the gates are open and the boat is going out, not, as was the case, when the boat had cleared the lock and they had shut the gates. Locking would go so much quicker if they did. (and I wouldn't be pulling my hair out!)

Hanging around.
 Cropredy and they stopped, yippee! Meant we had the last lock to ourselves. Beyond bridge 153 was the facilities, quite a difficult one to get to with the angle as was and of course the bow stuck out over the water so getting the hose into the filler hole was difficult. In the end, we pulled FS back so the bow was by the concrete.

Another mile travelled before we stopped. Dinner has been cooking all day in the slow cooker Chicken in red wine and smells delicious. The sun is still giving out warmth but that is all set to change as a cold front is coming down from the North. So fire ready to be lit and extra blankets put on the bed. Will we wake to frost? Only time will tell.

And on the journey,

There is always one! Either an illiterate person or doesn't think the rules apply to him. Lock landings are not for mooring on!

Sad to see these old boats like this

Oxford Canal. Not only shallow but very overgrown in places!
And seen on route,

Thursday 27 September 2018

More than I bargained for on my walk!!!!

Blimey...who'd a thought it! A sight you don't see every day!! But you will have to read on to see what I'm on about.

So another warm and sunny day and a very lazy start. I knew Ian had plenty to do, what with the window surround to be painted and to treat the rust spots on the roof.

As for me, I had three options. Sit and watch daytime TV (definitely not!) Bake a cake and make Leek and Potato soup (a possible choice) or go for a walk with the camera and Macro lens for bug hunting. I ended up doing the second option this morning and the third option this afternoon.

Cake and soup done and most pleased with the result. Had lunch and set off for my walk. Conditions were perfect for bug hunting and when I found a Comma Butterfly I quickly attached the Macro lens. But all was not well as I tried in vain to focus on my subject.

Closer inspection revealed a misted lens, not on the outside, I might add, but on the inside. I have no idea how moisture managed to get in between both lens's but to say I was gutted was an understatement.

 Pondering on what to do next suddenly a voice came from behind me and this chap asking if I minded him walking in the nude. "I'm a naturist," says he. Well, what can one say when asked that question? He had a pair of shorts on so I thought what is he on about. But then...not 20 yds further along the towpath, he whips of those shorts to reveal that he is wearing nothing underneath! Sorry folks but I just had to take this photo and then no sooner had I arrived back at FS and he passes me again. Glad I didn't look behind at that moment. An eyeful I most certainly would have had!

Ian had good look too!

 Oh and this canoeist came past. Was he also naked??


 Ian wasn't very happy on my return. The window was all ready to be siliconed and put back in place but he discovered his silicone gun was still hanging in the garage, Trying to improvise with a lump hammer had me in fits of laughter. I will leave you to see why!

 We now have an even bigger problem because the window is unsealed. Is there rain forecast in the next couple of days? I hope not but a handy large black plastic bag is to hand just in case.

And seen on my walk,

And they're off.

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