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, 31 October 2021

Sideways across the canal.

 27th October

Update on 26/10/2021:

Please be advised we have established a method of repair at Quoisley Lock, on the Llangollen Canal.

The pin and lock plate have detached from the bottom of the head gate preventing safe operation. To facilitate the repair the lock will need to be dewatered.

Whilst on site our teams will conduct other leakage repairs to improve future operation of Quoisley Lock.

We anticipate the repair works will start Wednesday 27 October and a further update will be provided Friday 29 October

And that was all the information we could find about the stoppage. Christine phoned Anglo Welsh again for an update on what they should do. Their suggestion was to head back to Grindley Brook and moor at the top of the flight. From there and if the stoppage turned out to be lengthy, Merlin could be left and they would take the family by car back to Bunbury. 

So we waved them off by about 10 am. We decided to wait awhile before we upped stakes in the hope that the wind would die down. It was those gusts right across the junction that was a killer. In fact last night Kev had to help fend off many a boater (and not all hire boats) from bouncing off Merlins side. Not the best mooring in those conditions. Anyway, while waiting  I tried my hand at fishing and managed to hook a couple of small fish. 

 

By the time we were ready to go across to the facilities, had waited for a lull in the wind so we could push off, two boats arrived claiming the mooring spot. So with a space available opposite the facilities, we made our way across to wait until they finished. Eventually it was our turn, but OMG how difficult was it to get across. That blooming wind...FS ended up almost sideways across the canal. Ian managed to get off and with a herculean effort, managed to pull on the center rope to bring her back in.

We only travelled about a mile further on. Nice open mooring, TV good as well as internet. Thursday is supposed to be very wet and windy. We had decided to spend the day sitting it out. 

 

Still early afternoon, I went fishing and caught a huge roach. Was the competition still on even though we had parted company? I sent Kev the photo, he sent one back and agreed that so far, I was well into the lead. 



 

The stove was allowed to go out. Well it's been that mild, and what a great opportunity for Ian to clean the chimney.

Didn't do much else for the rest of the afternoon, TV was watched and we just chilled out.


 And wildlife,





Saturday, 30 October 2021

Yes you do have to close the lift bridge!

26th October

 Getting ready to leave and Kev gets a phone call from Chris at Anglo Welsh. A problem had occurred at Quoisley lock and it could well be closed tomorrow.  Oh dear, as we were stuck on the wrong side, a decision had to be made whether to carry on or wind to get back to the lock before the closure. The advice from Anglo Welsh was to continue with the journey and they would advise Kev when the engineers had checked the gate. Well, Ian went straight onto CRT website and found that the lock had already been closed, had been since 16.45 the night before.

Please be advised navigation is currently closed at Quoisley Lock on the Llangollen Canal due to a lock gate failure.

Our local team and engineers have been to site and investigated the issue preventing the lock gate from operating. Whilst a method of repair is being organised, navigation will remain closed at Quoisley Lock, on the Llangollen Canal.

A further update will be provided Wednesday 27 October.

 Onward then to Ellesmere, it was here the Kev would have winded to head back. It was not long before we found ourselves lead boats to another 4 hire boats. The lift bridge Tilstock Park was coming up. It was open but only because a lone boater had already lifted the bridge. Ian did the gentlemanly thing and got off to give them a hand. 

 


Clambering over that boaters back deck he told them he would see to its closure. But thereby lay a problem. Those 4 hire boats also wanted to go through, but three were still far enough behind for the bridge to be closed. This bridge is a road bridge and must not remain open and with a car waiting to cross, Ian first closed it before allowing Merlin through. This meant that one of the hire boats had caught us up. I called back at the skipper and asked for one of his crew to get off on the offside to lower the bridge after him. This he said he would do, but not until he had asked the question "Why can't we leave it up?" Anyway I explained why and fully expected him to do that. Ian got back on board and we continued on our way.  But as I looked back he had obviously thought better of it and went straight through leaving it open. Those other boaters would probably have thought this bridge was to remain up, they were far enough behind not to realise. A bit of a dilemma now, Should Ian go back but if he did, how would he get across to the other side to wind it down? All we could hope for was to tell an oncoming boater what had happened and for them to close it after they had gone through.

  This moored boat's pin was pulled!






This time though, it was definitely the way he had secured the boat. On just a center pin, in what looked to be soft ground, well even at the slowest possible pace it would have dislodged it. And it was probably us that did the deed but this time we had evidence of what speed we had been doing. Ian has a Garmin GPS72 gadget, fired into life because we had been following two very slow boats and wanted a rough idea of how slow they had been going. The Garmin showed 1.9 to 2 mph the correct tickover speed for passing boats.

We made Ellesmere early afternoon. Down the arm we went looking for a spot but the only one available was only just long enough for FS at 57'. Merlin at 62' would never have got in so we bagged that spot and Kev took Merlin to wind. Gosh that wind had picked up and with Merlin acting like a sail, it made life really difficult for Kev. With Christine on the bank and pushing at the bow, Kev managed to get Merlin around. 



Back up the arm they went and found a spot just after the entrance. Shame we were apart but with a meal out planned for later, it didn't really matter.


No fishing for me but I felt sure Kev would continue without me. So far (not counting Kev's Perch) I had the biggest fish at about 5 inches. Then a phone call to Christine asking what time we should book a table for at the Red Lion coaching Inn and she informed us that a space had become available in front of Merlin. We would just fit but would be tight. That was it, tiller back on, ropes untied and we headed for the winding hole. Knowing how difficult it had been for Kev, I was prepared to do the same as Christine and push the bow around but we got lucky. The wind died considerably making the turn easy.



Kev wasn't wrong when he said it would be tight!

This was the best way to secure Merlin, rope around our T stud.

 
We had booked a table for 5.30 and a good job too 'cos those diners arriving without a booking were turned away. Not the cheapest of pub grub but wow, delicious and plenty of it. This is one place I would recommend but best to book first. 

And seen on route,


 And wildlife,




Friday, 29 October 2021

Autumn sun, absolute killer.

 25th October

What a lovely start to the day although rain was never very far away. Plenty of rainbows seen but all well into the distance so not a drop fell on us.


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 Anglo Welsh was certainly on the ball because by 8 am a text message was sent that the engineer, Chris, was on his way. Armed with a Henry vacuum, the excess water by the front door was soon sucked up.

 Job done, and both boats pushed away to get through the Wrenbury lift bridge, a mechanised bridge  controlled by a barrier and traffic lights. Christine and the boys took on the operating of it and we made sure to stay close to Merlin 'cos the last thing we wanted was to hold up the traffic πŸ˜‰πŸ˜‡



 

As usual the Llangollen was busy, but most boats were heading toward us. No waiting at all at Quoisley Lock and a chap in a high viz jacket saw both boats through. It was a CRT bod who had only come to do a lock gate survey but stayed and helped. This lock gate is made of steel and apparently there is a crack with water leaking through.


Quoisley Lock
Kev and Ian at Willeymoor lock

Having heard the horror stories of 5 hour wait at Grindley Brook, boy was we surprised to see no waiting boats.  Three lockkeepers were still on duty, (this is their last week of volunteering) but only at the staircase locks but even so, the whole flight only took 40 minutes for both the boats to ascend.

The low Autumn sun caused me no end of trouble as I turned toward the staircase lock entrance. In fact it was a question of pointing the sharp end and hope I didn't hit the sides. I did, well only nudged it, but enough to throw me off track.


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1




Good clear photo looking back

Three more lift bridges to do before eventually stopping in the wilds somewhere. Have no idea where we were.. well apart from being on the Llangollen canal of course..and we had no internet, telly or even any decent fishing! Yep apart from a couple of tugs on Kev's lure rod, Josh catching a roach and me with two, This canal is the most difficult one to fish. With its constant flow from the feeder of the River Dee, baiting up where you want to fish is impossible. Anyway we enjoyed the evening as Christine cooked dinner and we spent several hours playing games and enjoying a tipple or two!

Josh's turn to fish.

 

Thursday, 28 October 2021

Two water pumps later....

Our time with the family is over. Yesterday we waved them farewell, they to head back to Bunbury and us to continue to Llangollen. There is still the slight problem of Quoisley lock. Will it be repaired in time for them to get Merlin back to base? As yet nothing on CRT's website.

Anyway I did still keep a diary of our time together so for the next few days, the posts will be of the holiday together.

 Sunday 24th 

Game on, The fishing competition has begun We have decided on biggest fish so let the best man win!
It was a late start then because rods were out. The first fish had been caught earlier, much earlier but not by me. No it was Kev and a huge Perch. But I didn't count it 'cos the rules of the competition hadn't been decided by then, 

 

By 10 am and not even a nibble but we were prepared to persist when Christine appeared with the news the floor by the front step was wet. Ian went and had a look and deduced there was a leak from the water pump and unfortunately my man that can...couldn't! So phoned Anglo Welsh who asked if we could get to Wrenbury and the ABC Alvechurch yard, immediately before the lift bridge. Here we would be met by Ed and a new pump fitted. That put paid to any more fishing as a time of 13.00 had been mentioned. Hmm, I was unconvinced about the timescale, nearer to 2pm I thought because we still had the two Swanley locks and three Baddiley locks to go through and this being such a popular canal, especially during half-term. I had visions of long waits at the locks.We got lucky though because most of the time only a very short wait for us, more so for those boaters turning up from behind.




At every opportunity the rod came out. Hmm, I think Kev is determined to win!


Wrenbury Church lift bridge.
 

It was closer to 2pm when we eventually arrived at Wrenbury. Merlin went into the yard where Ed was already waiting and handing him the keys, left him to change the pump. We decided on a meal at the Dusty Miller, not bad food for pub grub but they were so understaffed that we had about a 40-minute wait for the meals. Then as we were about to leave the pub, Ed returned with the keys with good news, the pump had been replaced and we were good to go. As a good will gesture he told Kev and Christine they could return Merlin by 14.30 on the Saturday instead of 9 am.

 

Kev brought Merlin back to moor by us and fishing was resumed. But all was not well with that pump because it was discovered that the leak was now 10 times worse. In fact every time anyone stepped on the carpet, water seeped through. By now it was gone 16.30...groan...another phone call and back Ed came. 

Turns out the pump, which he thought to be new, had been an old pump taken from another boat and placed in a new box. This time he did have a new pump with him and in no time he had that one fitted. Without any means of sucking up that water, he advised not to walk on it and he would send someone out first thing in the morning with a vacuum. 


And wildlife,


Sunday, 24 October 2021

And she took off by herself

 We just had to do it, sent CRT's regional manager an email highlighting the dangers of this lock at Bunbury. Anglo Welsh manager Edward, well he told CRT about this ages ago but still nothing was done. But paparazzi me, always with camera to hand, had evidence now of the disaster that could have happened. All the photos were sent so if nothing is done about it now, well shame on CRT! These photos below show how simple a temporary repair of replacing that piece of wood would be. In fact so simple because as it's the middle lock of the staircase, both chambers could be dewatered and the job done in no time. All it needs is to remove the bolts, square off the damaged ends, replace with new wood and bolt it back to the gate Even Anglo Welsh themselves has offered to do this but to no avail.




Today then we met up with the family. Merlin was all ready and as soon as they arrived by midday, handover was done, papers signed and we were on our way.



 

Christine and Kev has decided on the Llangollen. Strange that, 'cos when Merlin was based at Trevor this was one waterway they had done numerous times, but apparently they had never come down to Hurleston Junction, so this part was all new to them.


 
Thomas

Usually a lockkeeper is on duty but by the time we arrived they had gone home. A boat was already ascending and one on its way down. We both managed to get up the first lock before meeting that descending boat so crossed over in the first pound. 


 

Kev went up next and I could see him at the top but why was Merlin right across the pound? Silly beggar had decided to get off Merlin right by the top gate, close the gate so Josh could start emptying for us. But to be fair he is hardly an experienced boater even though Merlin has been taken by the pair for years (only for one week though at half-term) and without a rope holding the boat, she took off when Christine opened the paddles to empty the lock on number 3. He barely made it back on board, visions of Merlin alone by herself with only FS coming to the rescue came to mind. but oh the agility of youth. Christine said he leapt on the back just in time. but of course by then Merlin was at the angle you see her in.




 

A lovely rural mooring was found about a mile further along. To dark for fishing, games were played instead. A new UNO Flip had been bought so we had to give that ago. Hmm, UNO is one of our favourites and I wasn't at all sure about this new version. It grew on us as the night wore on so maybe this will become the game of the holiday.

Kev has challenged me to a fishing competition. We have yet to decide if it's numbers or size but because of this I may well be too busy for the next few days to put finger to keyboard. I will be back though, you can't get rid of me that easily πŸ˜‰

And only this Robin today



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