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, 8 December 2021

Could he have got any wetter?

 December 6th

This morning was a no-brainer, we had to get away early, heavy rain was forecast from 10 am. By 7.45 ropes were untied and looking behind, noticed another boat coming toward us. Still quite away, away, so had no qualms about pushing off in front.

Breakfast was eaten on the move, toast with peanut butter and a nice cup of tea, loverrly! Ian had already eaten so he was ready to step of the boat by the railway bridge to walk to the lock and drop it out. It was bound to be full with that other boat going up yesterday. Then a sign from Ian to say a boat was on its way down...oh goodie, I'll hold out until it exits. But a little baffled as to the delay, and why was there no indication of the lock emptying? Turns out I had misread the gesture. A boat was going up in front, not coming down. 

 I can not recall a time when we haven't had to queue at these locks. No matter what time of year, someone always beats us to it. This time the boater was a single hander and even with Ian's help, took an age to ascend. Meanwhile, that other boat was coming up to FS fast so I had to pull over and stop on the lock landing after all.

Two locks taking 30 minutes...ridiculous! In the past lock 13 was notorious for being slow to fill. It was even put in verse as posted on the lock cottage wall. I took a photo way back in 2017, then on paper but now it has been replaced with a nice brass plaque.



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Why do we ever believe the beeb local weather forecasters.  Rain was shown for after 10 am but it was as we left Glascote top that small droplets started to sting my face. Steadily it got worse until I could stand it no longer and demanded the brolly. I think I have already mentioned in other posts how much Ian detests brollies so he went below, leaving me to it.

 We could have stopped but the mention of getting to Polesworth was Ian's preferred mooring so I soldiered on. After an hour Ian took pity and sent me in for a warm, but not before getting the whole wet weather kit and caboodle on including waterproof trousers and silly hat!  Ha...he definitely had the worst of the continuing downpour, I think I got away lightly but no amount of "Do you want me to take over dear" would make him relinquish his post. I just had to take this photo.


In the dry, I could take these photos from the inside the well deck.  CRT was doing a bit of offside trimming.  A very welcome sight but I did feel for those guys. Today was not the best day to do this sort of work.



And the view from the front.

 Atherstone bottom lock was reached. Why had he not stopped at Polesworth? We had gone further today than planned, it was to make up for the delay yesterday, he told me. In the process Ian got very wet, the jacket and trousers had to be left dripping in the bathroom. Gloves and hat pegged on the curtain rail by the stove and with that storm arriving tomorrow, plenty of time to for them to dry 'cos I don't think somehow, the locks will have the pleasure of our company tomorrow.



And wildlife,






Tuesday, 7 December 2021

It sure was windy!

Nice sunset, not long after the wind really picked up and the rain started.
 

 December 5th

What a night, that wind...wild it was and then the rain, torrential and I'm sure it was horizontal! Couldn't see because it was dark, but boy the noise as it pelted the windows and battered the cabin top was deafening. FS was rocking and rolling like a good 'un. We thought storm Arwen was bad, but those gusts seemed much stronger somehow, and then this morning trying to get away from the side took several attempts and in the end the trusty pole was put to use again with Ian pushing out the bow.

Heading for the bridge 'ole

It really was no fun cruising in strong winds, if it hadn't been for the met office telling of another named storm (Barra) to arrive on Tuesday, we probably would have stayed. But time is no longer on our side. In just over two weeks we had planned to be in Milton Keynes to join our son for Christmas, but in the meantime we hope for a get together with our daughter and family on the Ashby. The plan then was to put in a longer day today and possibly tomorrow, and sit out the storm on Tuesday. (it didn't pan out that way as you will see later)

11 locks to do today, plus one short tunnel. Now that wind, it will be mentioned quite a lot because it caused no end of steering problems, the first of which was at Curdworth Tunnel. Looking toward the entrance I had reservations on getting in unscathed. Gosh, it looked narrow and the roofline suspect. The arch appeared slightly flattened not the curve one expects.  Normally I point the bow where I want FS to go and she responds but today, because of that wind, where she would end up was anyone's guess. FS started crabbing toward the portal and how I didn't hit the handrail when I turned the bow at the last minute was not by skill but more by luck!

Then Curdworth top lock came to view. We really, really wanted this flight of locks to be with us, but t'was not to be. So Ian got off well before the lock to walk ahead while I tried to 'bimble' (hold back) and I did succeed in a way, at least I didn't pin FS against the towpath. A well oiled system was put in place on the next 5 locks. Ian goes ahead to fill the lock and opens the top gate then he's off down to the next one, I go in, close the top gate and raise the bottom gate paddle to drop me down. By the time Ian had returned, he had set the next lock ready for FS to enter, Already down, all Ian had to do then was open the bottom gate for me to exit. This worked a treat until lock 4.

Lock 3 to 4, a bridge spans the pound and the pound swings to the right, and sods law, a huge gust just as I make for the bridge 'ole catches FS's square on the side.  FS gets pushed toward the bank but the bow is pointing toward the bridge structure.  Oh eck...I still had some speed on trying to counteract the wind and seeing I was heading straight for the bridge brickwork, full reverse was deployed. Smoke filled the basin as the revs were that high, but somehow FS responded, and by the skin of my teeth, contact was avoided! Thankfully Ian was still nearby, he came to my rescue and he managed to get me through the bridge in one piece.

From this angle it doesn't look too bad and see...the wind had dropped now...typical.

So glad to see the back of the flight, but the next concern was trying to get into Fazeley Mill Marina, and that depended where the entrance was and if we had shelter. Meanwhile, some cruising was to be done.

Does this mean HS2 is coming alongside? That is Curdworth bottom lock in the distance.

Drayton Foot Bridge

And swing bridge usually left open.

The entrance was in a bit of a cutting, not quite as windy here. Before going in we stopped at the water point, good job too because there was already a boat  on the service point.

Taken from the footbridge spanning the entrance.

Ian went and had a chat with the lady in the office and unfortunately she was about to go off for lunch and would not be available until after 2 pm. So we sat on the water point mooring, hose was connected and we filled the tank, Then we both had showers and filled the tank again. Still only 1.30 pm we had a dilemma, move off to the other side of the entrance and then have to reverse back (not ideal considering that wind) or stay and hope another boat didn't turn up. Not a difficult decision...we stayed. Two o-clock and we set off to go in, but another boat had beaten us to it! One of the residential moorers wanting a pump out. So we waited again. By the time they had finished and it was finally our turn, we had been waiting for 90 minutes. Then setting off another boat coming toward us signalled he wanted to go into the marina. Nop, we were not going to give way. They would have to wait instead.

On the point by the sign was a dead fox. Had it drowned and was pulled out? A mystery never to be solved.




Diesel price here was 84.5 ltr and the pump was stopped at 100 ltrs. More could have gone in and if Ian had been doing the fill, it would have been completely full. Never mind, there are plenty of other places to fill on the way to Milton Keynes. Whether they will be as reasonably priced is yet to be seen.

I didn't fancy going much further, even though the wind had dropped. Ian suggested continuing to Fazeley Junction, do the right turn onto the Coventry Canal and moor by the aqueduct. This seemed like a good plan and for once Ian was at the helm to do the turn. Wow, look at that, another boat on the move but heading in our direction.



In a way this made us all the more determined to stop. The Glascote locks was about a mile further along but if we had continued, would have had to follow a boat up. Ian's idea of stopping by the aqueduct seemed much more appealing. That would do for the night.

and wildlife







Monday, 6 December 2021

"I do love boating...honest," said she who was wedged in a lock!

 December 4th

 Another boat appeared, my goodness it's been well over a week since we have even seen another boat on the move. And the good news was he came from the direction of the last of the three locks on the Aston flight. Wonderful, they would all be with us!

 

This morning we would have had a full English at the cafรฉ and so looking forward to it but then a disappointment. They were shut! Seems with all the offices closed over the weekend there was no need to stay open. Even that small general store was closed! Back to the boat then, slice up some of Ian's disastrous bread of yesterday and make our own full English. I must say that bread of his, even without the yeast, tasted great as fried bread. 

Getting underway on another cold clear day meant lots of warm clothing. I actually counted up how many layers I was wearing. 14...including hat, coat, gloves and scarf. The usual underwear (2) then socks, thermal leggings, leg warmers, thermal vest, ordinary vest, T-Shirt, jeans and jumper. No wonder it takes me an age to dress!

The first lock went without a hitch.  Arrived at the second lock and it was empty. How can that be unless the lock leaks like a sieve. Anyway Ian gets it filled and as I enter, a word of caution from Ian, A builder's bag was seen in the water and he failed to grab it as it slowly sunk beneath the surface. Must be careful then on exit of the lock and maybe try coasting out. Down I go, Ian opens the gate but then it stops. Pushing against it gave me a little more room so I decided to try and get out. Bad, bad move! I came to a stop. Oh dear, I tried a short reverse. Well the tiller was all but grabbed out of my hand and jerked alarmingly. The engine note changed meaning it could stall at any moment. I knocked it out of gear as Ian shouted at me to try and go back. For Goodness sake Ian...I couldn't...there was no way. I eventually manage to relay the fact that the prop was being held fast by something and we both deduced it must be that builder's bag. So here was the situation, Ian is above still trying desperately to open the gate, I'm below now wedged and FS has been rendered immobile! There was only one solution, abandon the gate, switch of FS's engine and for Ian to go down the weed hatch again.



Yep it’s that builder's bag!


 One problem sorted now for the other. First the removal of that bag off the stern. I wasn't going to trail it through the boat and into the well deck. No Ian could do that when and if I ever got out of the lock!



Instead of me going back into reverse, Ian suggested I put the revs on and try to drive FS out. In the meantime he put all his weight and strength up against the gate and sure enough with an awful scrapping sound FS slowly inched her way out. As soon as she stern was free she shot forward as if all the bats out of hell were after her. Oops I hadn't realised just how high those revs were! Still, she was now free and we could get on our way.

No issues with the third lock, and it was full so still baffled as to why the second lock was empty. 

It gets a bit confusing at Salford junction. As I approached it looked for all the world that I was about to join onto another canal but no, to go left the start of the Tame Valley Canal, and turn right continues on the Birmingham and Fazeley. Then just as you make the right-hand turn onto the B&F there is yet another right turn taking you this time onto the Grand Union canal.  No wonder they say Birmingham has more canals than Venice!




Tame Valley Canal


Grand Union Canal


To make the picture clear:- Looking back is the Tame Valley, by the large pillar in the middle is where we came from and the B&F and FS, still on the B&F, just passing the Grand Union.

If we had of turned left onto the Tame Valley then the thrill of going under Spaghetti Junction would have been ours, Instead this was the only part we travelled along.


Troutpool Bridge. Above is a complete factory unit.

In the distance, an interesting object could be seen laying on the ground. Looked like a torched motorbike.

 Heading away from Brum I had hoped the rubbish would decrease, Appears not as seen at the top lock of Minworth flight.

Second of the locks and judging by the top gate paddle  up, yep I think the lock may well be full.

This afternoon we had an early stop, not on any official visitor moorings but away from any light or noise. The wind has picked up and the canal has waves! Could be an interesting night.

Ian realigning the chimney. For some reason it didn't go down on the collar properly....Hmm I wonder why,๐Ÿ˜‰


Oh and this was the damage to the handrail yesterday. Going rusty already!!


And wildlife,



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