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.

Monday, 26 July 2021

The brain dead strike again!

A sight greeted me on my walk this morning. Eastwood lock out of action because of a sunken boat. A  sad ending to any boat, but what made it worse was this boat had been moored for years at the Great Northern basin. The owner of the cruiser had died, leaving the family to decide what to do with the cruiser. After a hard decision they decided to sell and a couple of months ago it was sold to a lad with plans to take it to Manchester. We had thought this to be the end of the saga and we wouldn't see the cruiser again, but for reasons unknown this lad moored it on our moorings by the swing bridge and there it stayed for quite a while (we were away with MB.) I believe some work had to be done on the motor and eventually he took it below lock, securing it near to the lock landing. It was then abandoned!  Why he decided to walk away could be something to do with the outboard having been stolen, leaving the owner at a loss as to what to do. There it stayed until about a week ago, when inevitably the local layabouts decided to pull the pins and untie the ropes, causing the cruiser to drift, which consequently blocked the canal. C&RT got involved and removed it to Eastwood in readiness for one of their workboats to take it down to Trent Lock so it could be craned out. But things did not turn out as planned because where C&RT had left it, it could easily be accessed, and consequently those brain-dead idiots thought it would be great fun once more to untie and drag it into the lock where it eventually sank.




All this came out of the cruiser and unless it is removed promptly, will no doubt be another hazard to deal with once the idiots throw it all back into the lock.

We've not been idle since our arrival back at Langley, lots of things to fix on MB. Seemed to be one thing after the other, satellite packing up, waste water not draining properly, the full cassette light not working and this weekend we found out the fridge had given up the ghost! But one of those on the list  had been resolved, and that was the satellite dish. It's been removed and ready to go to the skip! The quote of £500 pound for parts was not worth spending so instead we have fitted a Selfsat Snipe 3 which we just happened to have as a replacement for our original Snipe on FS. It was bought cheaply for spares but Ian managed to get it working, great result as it meant we had two! The roofline on MB looks tons better now that massive dome isn't dominating the skyline!


Looking much, much better.
 

As for the other problems, the fridge has been found to have a fault with the thermistor, a type of resistor whose resistance is strongly dependent on temperature, so purchasing a new one should solve that problem and as for the loo light, Ian's a bit baffled at the moment how to remove that without having to remove the casing and he's not quite figured that out yet. He will though...I have full confidence in my man that can. He also needs to get a couple of car ramps to raise MB's bodywork to check out the waste tank, so as you can see, I'm keeping him very busy ๐Ÿ˜€

And as for me...plenty of walks keeping Toffee, our son's 6-month-old Labrador puppy, happy!



And wildlife seen here in the basin.

A late brood





Sunday, 4 July 2021

Crikey that was tight and homeward bound at last.

 There is something to be said about being totally isolated and away from  any technology. And so it was when we went to visit good friends Chris and Sue. They lived in a renovated Forge (all done by themselves) in a small hamlet at the bottom of a valley, about 15 miles from Carlisle. No phone signal and no internet, although TV was good, quite surprisingly. Probably because where MB was parked on on their land was way above the house.

The barn to the left, MB at the top of a long drive and the house far beneath.
 

During our stay Chris took us to Lanercost Priory where in the 11th century the first religious order of men in the Roman Catholic Church combined clerical status with a full common life. They were known as Augustinian Canons.





We have been to many Priories during our stint away from FS, each with its own merits. This one had a unique way of bell ringing as well as tombs, in remarkable condition, and nothing like any seen in others Priories. I took this excerpt from the history of Lanercost.

Like most monasteries, Lanercost served as a mausoleum for its founders and their successors – members of the Vaux, Multon, Dacre and Howard families. Many of their tombs still stand in the roofless eastern end of the church.

On the top photo, you may just be able to see the rope hanging down. The bottom photo shows the pully system, the end of the rope and the hole in the wall (R) where it enters the church. 

 As the afternoon was still young Chris then drove us to Carlisle Castle.


As magnificent as it looked, it was sadly lacking in information boards. There were rooms leading from halls, but what were they for? And sadly, the third floor of the Keep was shut off because of crumbling masonry. This allegedly housed the Bonnie Prince Charlie story and would have been interesting if only we could have viewed it. But like all Castles some of the stories were fascinating. In the dungeons, prisoners were kept so thirsty that walls were licked for the moisture, and graffiti was present on doors and walls made by bored men on guard duty.




 What Carlisle Castle did have was the Military Border Regiment Museum which relates the history of Cumbria’s County Infantry Regiment, the Border Regiment and the King’s Own Royal Border Regiment and local Militia. Now this was a fascinating place full of military uniforms, weapons, medals and silver dating back 300 years. Unfortunately, I was that engrossed, I forgot to take any photos.

By now time was getting on, and Carlisle Cathedral was but a short walk from the Castle. We didn't dawdle on route, but we were still too late to see inside. The exterior was pretty impressive and a return visit will be on the cards later this year so we can go and see the interior. This, I have been reliably informed, is a spectacle in its own right.

On Saturday, we left Cumbria and headed for home. The weather was set to turn nasty and to tell you the truth, trying to find a site to take MB was getting beyond a joke. Wild camping is great until water is required and loo cassette need emptying. Then it's a constant worry about finding somewhere to take you in. Also, we noticed more and more car parks had little or no space for a motorhome, especially in the smaller towns and villages. Trying to shop at a Co Op in Brampton, we ended up going along Union Lane and was horrified to find a 6' 6" width restriction. We couldn't go back, cars behind us, so all we could do was breath in and hope for the best. We made it, but by the skin of our teeth!

 It took all day to do the 200 miles home. Several comfort stops and lunch of course and at one point the weather was so bad, deciding to sit it out was the best bet. 


 This will be the last post for a while. With school holidays in a couple of weeks and knowing the staycationers will be out in force on the canals, we have decided to stay at Langley for the summer. FS is due to be dry docked end of August and we will probably go away with MB in September. Maybe October then will be the right month for us to cruise the canals. I think we will just wait and see.

And wildlife,




 

Thursday, 1 July 2021

Walking part of the Haltwhistle to Alston disused railway track

 The threshers were out last night, huge farm machines travelling up and down the lane with trailers filled to capacity with cut grass. I'm almost sure this was for silage making, and we did wonder if this would go on well into the night. I'm not sure when we became aware of the silence, but boy was it quiet. Not even the hooting of an owl, and we went to bed secure in the knowledge of getting a good nights sleep.

It was about 6 am when we heard the sound of sliding van doors being opened and shut. Not just once, but several times. Sometime during the evening a small camper van had arrived and without a thought of whom they may wake, decided that if they were up so should everyone else be!

We hadn't planned much for the morning, an early afternoon slot had been booked at Housestead Fort, so what to do. We were parked by a disused railway track, at a large lay-by type section, presumably a siding and made into a small car park.  On a directional board almost obscured by dirt and with fading letters, we spied Lamley Viaduct. Intrigued, we just had to go and see, so the bikes came off the back of MB and we cycled the mile and half along a fabulously level track with not an incline in sight. 



 The rail track took us past the old Coanwood Station with the remains of the old weighing scales and also a buffer in a siding.

Coanwood station platform

Weighing scales

The buffer

 Arriving at the viaduct we were dismayed to see gates at the far end. No longer a right of way, it was at the owner's discretion to allow bikers and walkers through. He wasn't around so we couldn't ask, but what we really wanted to see was the viaduct from below in all its glory. Steep steps lead to the bottom, so abandoning the bikes at the top, we headed down. If you fancy a bit of history about it, click HERE




That footbridge was where we were aiming for.


 The river was low and slow and the viaduct with the reflections looked stunning.

 


 The above photo was taken from Ian's phone, and I tried a panoramic on the camera with interesting results.


 All we had now to do was climb back up! Gosh, those steps were deep and steep, and the short gravel bit wasn't any better. I certainly felt it on the back of my calves once back at the top.

Back at MB and with the time marching toward noon, we set off for Housestead Fort. Only just managed to get parked, so busy it was. Not especially for the Roman Fort, but because more of Hadrian's wall could be walked from this point. Our mission was to go around the Roman ruins, and I must say there was nothing really different from any of the others we have been to, although in the literature it states this is the most complete Fort to be seen. Lay-outs are very similar, but this one has a slight edge on the others because the wall joins the Fort in two places.

At the top of this photo you can see the wall stretching yonder going east and west.


East wall

Granary

The latrine


We chose the West wall to walk along, not to far, just to the first stile, although if we had time and known about Sycamore Gap we would have walked the two miles to see it. This tree became famous when Kevin Costner was filmed in Prince of Thieves rescuing a boy being chased by Deerhounds. No photos of it, although if I had been a bit more savvie I could have taken a photograph as we travelled on the B6318 as it was very visible from there. If you fancy a look, click HERE



Stretching way out in the distance.

And today's wildlife, bit meagre I'm sorry to say.




 

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