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.

Friday 30 April 2021

A jaunt down the Erewash

And it all came about because ECP&DA workboat Pentland was required for handrail repairs to a pedestrian bridge near Trent lock. Work parties here at Langley Mill happen every Friday and with Pentland ready to transport all the necessary equipment, it fell to Ian and me to take the boat down on the Thursday. 

By 8.30am we were ready, sandwiches made, water and kettle onboard and then it was little 'ole me at the helm to steer Pentland away from her moorings, through the opened swing bridge and into the waiting lock. Dave and Izzie turned up just in time to help me down. (ECP&DA members and owners of historic boat Bath). Yesterday a boat had ascended Langley Bridge Lock, winded and then descended again. It stood to reason that all the 11 locks would be against us and Ian would have to turn each and every one around. We reckoned a further hour to be added to our previous estimated 5-hour journey.

Imagine our surprise to see that boat moored below the lock. As Pentland crept past, rather noisily because of her loud engine, suddenly the back cabin doors were flung open, but no hail came forth from the owner to ask if we would wait at the next lock. Of course, with no sign of that boat in the distance, we sailed into the full lock, paddles were lifted and down we went. Then sods law struck because Ian was just opening the bottom gates when they turned up! 

The next lock was Shipley and here we waited for them to catch up. Had a slight problem though on trying to enter. Reeds had obviously been torn from their roots, possibly by a speeding boater and the only way for me to get Pentland in was to push them to one side. This itself caused its own problems because having parted the mound, both sides of Pentland now had the reeds alongside. I couldn't bring Pentland against the lock edge, so Ian attempted a removal. This failed miserably, and the only option was to move all the reeds toward the bottom gates. Narrowboat Arthur eventually came alongside and with us chatting as you do, discovered that this was actually a time-share boat. The couple owning its twelfth part share was Penny and Mick? who were also members of the River Avon Navigation Trust. Anyway getting both gates open took a bit of doing , the reeds being particular obstinate in getting out of the way, but eventually they succumbed to Ian's brute force of swinging the gates to and fro thereby pushing them out of the way.

Shipley Lock

Trying to remove them with the grappling hook.

Barkers Lock and almost the same problem except this time something in the depths caused the bottom gate to stay shut when we tried to exit. Blooming good job Pentland had a VERY long boat hook (although good grief it was heavy. I struggled to pass it out to Ian). Mike? leapt on board Pentland with his boat hook and between them the obstruction was shifted. (Ian thought it felt like a large piece of wood)

No lack of water on the Erewash, rather too much I would say.

Trying to open the left bottom gate.

The rest of the journey was uneventful. With all bar one lock with us (Sandiacre was empty) we made it to Sue and Wallies mooring by 2.15pm. Pentland was now within spitting distance of the bridge needing repair and easy for the Friday work party to attend. Total cruising time 5 hours 30 minutes.

And a couple more photos of our jaunt.

More loosened reed beds. This time at Pasture Lock

Mick? joined us to help at Long Eaton Lock. He felt guilty that Ian was doing all the work with us being lead boat.

And wildlife on route

Oh, and finally today we have had our second AstraZeneca. No adverse effects from the first jabs so we are not expecting any from the second.

Tuesday 20 April 2021

Mini Beast is all ours but not without a few teething problems.

 T'was a cold but sunny start to the day as I unlocked the car park gate to allow Ian to drive the Beast onto the road. Time 9 am and date 14th April. Excitement was building 'cos the day had arrived for us to drive to Poole and do the motorhome swap. 5 hours later, with a short stop for lunch and a 20-minute hold-up saw us finally pull onto the Motorhome dealer groups (Three Counties Motorhomes) yard.

After being met by Rob we were led to where the Starburst was parked and told to take our time having a good look around. Meanwhile, he did the same with the Beast and 60 minutes later and with a virtual handshake, the deal was done.

With all papers signed we headed off in Mini Beast (MB for short) to Minstead Manor Farm camp site near Lyndhurst. What a cracking site nicely nestled in the midst of the New Forest and with abundance of ponies, deer and donkeys, just my cup of tea!



Ian does the driving these days; I'm not a confident driver any more you see, ever since taking the wheel of our car many years ago whilst still in boat mode. (steering on the right side of the canal) It was only the quick thinking of my passenger that saved a head-on collision as he grabbed the steering wheel to get me back to the correct side of the road! Anyway I'm digressing. Ian was very impressed with the way MB handled, finding the steering much lighter than the Beasts "And the brakes are pretty decent too" said he. Hmmm, I was very glad to hear that! 

Found the camp site and connected to the electric hook-up and with the temperature dropping we decided to put on the heating. Well....and this is why we decided to stay near Poole on collection day instead of driving straight back home, 'cos as he turned the control dial, nothing happened. No gas heating or electric heating. Tried to phone the dealer only to discover we had no phone signal. With the time too near to 5 pm to even consider driving back to Poole that night (it was a good 40-minute drive from this site) we spent a VERY cold night huddled together for warmth and even our super high tog sleeping bags didn't quite stop the chill from invading our bones! Temperature at dawn was -3 so no wonder we were cold. Knowing there was no one to man the phones until after 9.30 am we set off a tad before 9 and headed to Ringwood where we eventually got a strong enough phone signal to let the dealer know of our plight. With the nod from Rod to return the vehicle, we drove back to Poole for an inspection. With a lot of head scratching from at least three guys, the eventual discovery was made that the EC4000 power control system which deals with all the functions in the motorhome was faulty. Three hours of sitting in their waiting room, and with a new power unit pilfered from another motorhome to replace MB's faulty one, we were eventually free to leave.

Because of the lateness of the hour another night was booked at the campsite. This time we tried the gas heating and yes...lovely hot air came in from the vents. Then Ian tried the electric and.....blast... nothing happened again!! To cut a long story short, back we went the next day, another of the maintenance guys took a look and found that someone had forgotten to reset the electric switch on the new control system and with a quick flick of the switch, hey presto, the electric heater sprang into life.

Back at t'mill and most surprising to the both of us was that most of what we took out of the Beast had managed to somehow fit into Mini Beast. We may well have lost a metre in length, but the storage space had been well-thought-out. So far so good, although I decided that a few extra shelves in the overhead cupboards wouldn't go amiss. Guess what Ian will be doing in the coming days ๐Ÿ˜‰



Oh, and I had a disaster! Dropped my camera and damaged the intelligent eyepiece. It's going to cost in excess of £100 to get it repaired and serviced. Note to oneself. Must try harder not to be so clumsy!

Thursday 1 April 2021

April 1st and new life starts.

Gosh, I was that surprised to see this brood opposite FS, didn't even know a duck had been in the area and what a time for the eggs to hatch now that the weather is set to turn much colder and possible snow for Easter Monday too! The swans have also finally started sitting. 8 eggs laid, one more than last year and fingers cross we won't have the dramas to contend with this time, although the duck was well and truly seen off with her 11 ducklings 'cos she chose the wrong place to sit and cover her brood, right by the swans nest!

She saw this drake off pretty sharpish when he came a pestering!

 So freedom at last! Well, within limits of course but really looking forward to a change of scene. Hoping to set off in the Beast sometime in April. Down to Poole first 'cos we have bought another motorhome. Much smaller by about a meter, no overhang from the back wheels so should be much easier to handle on those narrow winding roads down South and up North. First we need to agree to the swap. With lockdown, we have only seen the motorhome by video so of course it needs to be inspected in minute detail. Then if it is all good and the dealer likes our Beast we will do the swap. Anyway something to look forward to now and no doubt everyone else will be feeling the same euphoria. Can't wait ๐Ÿ˜€

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