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.

Saturday 30 April 2022

It's behind you!.


Considering we were near the road, and considering the church was but a stone's throw from the mooring, it was remarkably quiet last night. The church bells must have been on a timer because from 10 pm not another chime was heard until 7 am this morning.

We left at 9, pretty sure the lockkeeper would be on at St John's lock by then as they normally come on duty around that time. Trying to get away from the bank was slightly awkward.  Those bushes at the bow stopped me from driving the boat out, and the bank was at the wrong height for Ian to give FS a good shove. Nearby lay a short length of wood which did just the job. 

It didn't take long to get to the lock. Going with the flow, we certainly felt the difference in speed and there was the lockkeeper already opening the gates.

Stopped below at the facilities to do the biz with the cassette, strange they have no fresh water tap at this lock though.

Nearly ready to leave when the lock was refilled and a bunch of canoeists went in. Ah I was wrong, the boats were Skiffs, 6 of them with three people in each. They were paddling to Teddington, a planned journey of three days, it's a yearly event, apparently.

We left fully expecting them to catch us up, and they did when we were nearly at Buscot lock. 

The Lockkeeper waved us in first, and the 6 skiffs followed and secured themselves the best they could. A lot of banter between us all, they are heading for Oxford tonight and a fancy dress do at one of the hotels. Good luck guys, it was great meeting you all.


17 miles and 6 locks done. We never made it to Pinkhill meadow, much too far, and time was getting on. By 3.30 pm, a mooring was being looked for. At Newbridge, about 2 miles from Northmoor lock, the perfect spot was seen. But by now we had sailed right past, and we didn't think the river was wide enough to wind, so Ian decided to reverse. Not that easy trying to go backward against the flow, and the bow did insist on heading for the far bank. Took numerous corrections with forward and reverse, but we got there in the end. The banks a bit high. I was determined to get off FS for the photo, but I literally crawled up on my hands and knees to get onto the flat. As Ian said, so unladylike!

And on the meadow at Lechlade, someone has come prepared!

Electric fence

And seen at Grafton lock. This made us chuckle. It's behind you!

It was also at Grafton that the hose situation became clear.

And wildlife,

Swan with Angel wing

Friday 29 April 2022

Those beasts are at it again.


 Ian thought he heard a Cuckoo this morning, hope he was right because they seem to be rarer than hens teeth. I've not heard or seen one for years! I took this excerpt taken from Cuckoo bird facts

Their recent population decline makes this a Red List species in the 2021 UK Conservation Status Report. Red is the highest conservation priority, with species on this list needing urgent action. Species on this list, such as cuckoos, are globally threatened, with big declines in breeding populations and ranges.

This mooring was so quiet. Well, it was until about 8 am this morning. The contractors started work behind Rushy lock. Not sure what they are doing, but all I know is that the pump out and elsan are out of action at present. 


It took nearly 4 hours to get to Lechlade, 9 miles and 4 locks to do, but very slow-going because of the way the river meandered. Today we felt we were definitely on a river, with its numerous twists and turns and with some very tight bends which almost took you back from whence you came. At every blind bend it was a challenge, would there be anything coming? So now to some advice, always give way to boats going with the flow. (downstream) It takes them much longer to put on the brakes!  Luckily for us, the only boat met was coming out of the lock, so no danger on those bends.


What was met, and gave me quite a turn, I can tell you, were these two paddleboarders, and right on one of those U type bends on the river., I only saw one at the last minute and almost ran into him. Blimey, that doesn't bare thinking about, so glad I was only going slow!


All the locks today were manned although at Radcot lock, even though it had the sign Lockkeeper on duty, Ian couldn't find anyone at all. Nothing for it but to do it himself. "Probably gone for a coffee break" I said

But then suddenly from out of the office came the lockkeeper. Oops...maybe we should have waited! It was okay though, he had been busy doing administrative things and hadn't realised we were there. Then as I was bringing FS out of the lock he turned to me and said, "Free Spirit, Ah yes, I read your blog occasionally." He was such a nice chap, well they all are, and so obliging too.

Came across this sign. Nothing wrong with that but.....

EEK.... Hope it's not that bridge we need to go under. I don't somehow think we will fit!

But no...phew, it was this one,

Up through St John's lock and finally in Lechlade and very surprised to see a near empty meadow, moorings. We had the pick of moorings, but one thing put us off, though. Those young heifers and bullocks. Still very young, they were like any toddler, naturally inquisitive. The photo below was taken in 2015 and the next few were of the 2022 youngsters.


And today

The pub mooring opposite the meadow was free. We have never been able to get on to it, and it's a good spot away from those beasts. unless of course they swam! First thing was to wind, which was achieved on the other side of Ha'penny bridge. A walk to the shop for provisions and yea, Jam Shed Shiraz only 5.99 a bottle. 4 made its way into the basket.


Thought we may as well walk to the Roundhouse. This is the furthest point that any boat can go (other than rowing boats and canoes) Nicholson show a winding hole at the end. Well it looked so silted that I wouldn't want to take a narrow boat to it even a small one.

 On the way back to FS, and we were in for quite a surprise. Coming straight for us was this deer.

 Suddenly it disappeared from view, and when next seen it was running hell for leather on the other side of the Thames. It had only gone and swam across the river!

Tomorrow we head south, would like to make it back to Pinkhill, but that is over 21 miles and 7 locks, a lot to do in one day. Apart from the moorings top of Rushy lock, between Rushy and Shifford locks there is nothing, well to cruisers maybe but not for narrowboats. 

And wildlife

Thursday 28 April 2022

Top and tail at the lock.

 We never did get our BBQ. The sun vanished beneath the cover of cloud, the temperature dropped, and the wind picked up. Lighting the BBQ would have been difficult and the thought of freezing one's socks off by sitting outside, did not go down well with me. So the chicken kebabs and sausages were done in the oven in a nice warm boat. Yep, the stove has been lit again!


I looked out for the Pinkhill Owl, It was a wonderful sight all those years ago to see it hunting, but then it had an owlet to feed. Today is a bit too early in the year for that, but I lived in hope. Of course there wasn't any sign of it. For all I know, the Pinkhill Owl could be no more!

Both photos were taken back in 2015

Today, the river has been busy, mostly boats heading south. As one came out from the manned Northmoor lock, the lockkeeper came to see us. He asked us not to tie to any of the wooden bollards in the lock. They had just been filled with silicone and were yet to set. Apparently, gaps had appeared around the base's and ropes had been known to get snagged, causing panic amongst the boaters. Ian ended up holding the chain, the lockkeeper took our front rope and I managed to slot mine over a bollard which seemed miles away! Okay, slight exaggeration, but it was quite a stretch. Hey ho, he lifted those paddles really slowly and was much appreciated.


Several miles further and Shifford lock came into view. This was self-service and no sooner had Ian walked on to get it ready, a boat turned up from behind us. The landing stage was short, so all he could do was breast up, and matters didn't help when Ian signalled that a boat was on its way down. Quite where he would pick up crew, well I hoped they had the sense to walk down the lock steps and get back onboard that way.


 Just as I brought FS out of the lock, another boat appeared as if from nowhere. This caused a slight dilemma because the staging only had room for two boats and both of us wanted to water up. A quick discussion culminated in me coming out first, that oncoming boat would then take my place and sidle in next to my locking buddy, who would then come out and tuck in behind FS at the water tap.

So what was I hoping for at this lock? A good water pressure and a fitting that worked. We got neither! It was almost, but not quite, as bad as Eynsham lock! Fully aware that the other boater also wanted to fill, after 10 minutes we called it a day. Hopefully St Johns Lock will be better!


Rushy lock had another two boats descending. Gosh, so many boats heading south, there is bound to be some meadow moorings free at Lechlade. That will be for tomorrow, though, 'cos tonight another rural spot was found, just past the lock. 


And seen on route,

Newly born lambs
 And wildlife today,

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