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 30 July 2023

 Toffee had us up before 6 am, we never know if it's because she was desperate to go out or if she wanted company. It certainly wasn't the former because Ian was out for ages with her, a good 15 minutes and on his return, said she only had a wee!

Because we were awake so early it was decided that after finishing our first cup of tea of the day we would pull FS back toward the junction and wind. Yesterday the wind had become strong and the thought of trying to turn against it was not something to look forward too. I'm not sure if other folk have noticed but the wind seems to drop in the evening and then pick up later the next morning. I was lucky that the conditions were still calm when I attempted to wind. 

While Stoke top lock filled Ian set off with the loo cassette to empty at the facilities. And just in time he arrived back because from the same moorings another early riser had set off too. I would have waved them through first had Ian not returned.  

I think the boating life suits her.

Stoke top lock is a very deep lock.

Holding out at the locks became a battle with the wind so my strategy was to go really slowly between locks. Passing a moored boat, a chap popped his head out of the side hatch and said he had never had a boat go so slow before. My reply was what was the point of charging between the locks when I knew they would have to be filled and how I would prefer to hold out rather than pull onto the lock landing.  He nodded his head in agreement said I had a wise head (Ian would dispute that!) and then wished me good morning.

It hadn't registered on the way up that the bank had collapsed. More cost involved for CRT.


Marilyn happened to ask me days ago if I had noticed the wood beam in the lock wall at Cockshutts lock. My reply was no, my mind must have been on other things at the time or it just didn't register. Anyway I did notice today and would love to know why it has been placed there, could it have been to stabilise the brickwork?

One hour later and we cleared the Stoke bottom lock and from there on we had 4 miles of lock free cruising until we reached Trentham lock. Good opportunity to prepare dinner. It may only have been 8.45 am but I like to know I can put my feet up when we stop. With it being Sunday, a roast dinner was in order. Unfortunately the only meat I had in the freezer was mince or sausages and as Ian has always raved about my Sausage and Cabbage bake that would do nicely. Add a few roast potatoes, broccoli and cauli and ta da.. dinner fit for his Lordship. It was while I was below that Ian suddenly pulled over to the side and stopped FS. Oh dear, what had gone wrong? Turned out nothing, it was a lady walker who asked if we could possibly fill up her water bottle as she had forgotten to do so at the Hotel she had stayed in last night. This we did. She explained why the need for water, she was doing the Two Saints Way

Starting at Chester she would eventually finish at Lichfield. This taken from LDWA (click on the above link)

A pilgrimage route of approximately 92 miles has been created between the cathedral cities of Chester and Lichfield, named the Two Saints Way after the Saxon saints who brought Christianity from Northumbria to the ancient kingdom of Mercia in the seventh century.

I should have asked her her name, most remiss of me, she was a lovely lady and full of praise of FS. In two weeks time she and her husband (who is in Spain at the moment) are taking a narrow boat holiday on the Mon and Brec canal. She was full of admiration of Ian's steering! 

We are by no means slow and our pace was such that we achieved about 3.5mph. Lovely when there is enough depth of water not to create a wash. Not a boat had been seen since leaving Etruria so we were slightly dismayed to have caught two Black Prince hirers up. 


We met them at Meaford Locks, a flight of 5, blast, we now had two boats in front. They were not newbies, in fact they locked through very quickly. By the third lock boats started coming up so no longer could Ian whip open the top paddles to fill the lock quickly. It probably only added about 10 minutes to the journey time and to be fair, we were going to stop in Stone anyway. By 12.30pm we had found a mooring near to Lime Kiln lock, 5 hours was enough cruising for today and anyway, tomorrow I hope to see the doctor about my infected toenail

And seen on route

That tiny narrow boat 'Spirit of Phoebe'  seen at Meaford Locks on the 19th was on the move today. I'm still amazed that this tiny boat can be home to two people. (You can just make out the ladies hair)

 What is wrong with Trentham Lock?

No Leakage!!!! Yea!!!!
And a surprise canal visitor

Dippers are usually seen at rivers.

Saturday 29 July 2023

We say our final goodbyes.

 July 28th

 Breakfast was on Waka Huia. The last thing Marilyn said last night after Quiddler finished was come for breakfast, bring eggs!

Ed was arriving by 9 am so the plan was for us to be on Waka Huia for 8 am. Sourdough toast with baked beans and fried eggs were served almost immediately, lovely way to start the morning. Then just before Ed arrived we said our goodbyes, the inevitable photo of us all wearing our Aussie hats and then long hugs and sad farewells before setting off on FS.

Passing those moored boats Marilyn walked along beside us. Ah...she really didn't want us to leave, I thought, but then. "Just checking how long we can stay here for" said she reading the information board!

I was not looking forward to negotiating that roundabout in the centre of the cut, even the bridge 'ole had me a little nervous. Ian would never let me hear the end of it if I hit the sides again and this time obey the roundabout arrow!

I made a bet with myself, would that boat still be moored on the lift bridge landing? A chocolate biscuit if it was yes. I think I knew what the answer would be. And a most enjoyable club biscuit it was too.


Ian wanted me to pick him up further along the towpath but I refused. Nop, he would walk across the rear deck in the hopes someone would be on board. They weren't mores the pity!

 By Planet lock a pharmacy was just across the road. I wanted to get my toe checked out. It's gone a bit manky, very black and now infected. (I have just had the biggest telling off from Marilyn. I have made this sound as if the whole toe is black, gangrene was her worry, but it's just the nail. So apologies to everyone who may have been concerned especially Marilyn Xx ) The pharmacist took one look and said I must go to a walk in centre. Only trouble with that, it's a good taxi ride away at Burslem! I'm not the best at directions that's one of the reasons Ian always comes with me and I had visions of getting to the centre and not finding another taxi to take me back or worse, getting completely lost. So Ian looked up another alternative for me. At Stone, he phoned a doctor surgery who was willing to place me on their books as a temporary resident. I am to arrive sometime on Monday for registration. So that's the plan now. We proceeded down Planet Lock, first having to deal with a floating sofa behind the lock gate.

We stopped briefly at Etruria facilities before rejoining the T&M. With no mooring before the junction the only other place available was on the T&M towpath. Why we didn't turn toward the lock and then reverse up to, well we must have had brain failure! Now we face the wrong way!

And seen at the junction

Friday 28 July 2023

The promised photos and a drip we did not want to hear in FS

 27th July

I have promised photos of the difficult conditions we encountered during the 5-day trip along the Caldon Canal. The first section left a lot to be desired but the further along and the prettier it got. It was after Stockton Brook locks that the rot set in. It was hard work from that point. I was asked by hirers today if they should proceed to Froghall. "Only if you have some experience", was my reply. With very narrow bridges obscured by the undergrowth, blind extremely tight bends and a river section that needs a lot of concentration, it would not be a relaxing cruise. They laughed and said they liked a challenge!

In 2017 the River Churnet looked completely different. What lovely riverside moorings

Look back through bridge 50. How lovely and well kept the towpath was then.


 And this today.


I could keep on making comparisons, a picture tells a thousand stories, I do hope someone from CRT  will read my blog, they will see what I mean but just to make sure, an email with photos to Richard Parry may just make him sit up and take heed!

And the lock landing is...where????

River section

The bottom three photos... there is a lock around the corner and through the bridge and would you believe this was supposed to be the lock landing!

step off through this lot????

And there is a bollard in there somewhere.

So now a question, what will this waterway be like in another couple of years?

We did cruise today but just back to Park Lane facilities. M&D have Ed returning tomorrow, he never completed the huge list David had made of things to do on Waka Huia. It was also the day Bevan and Madeline left to continue the journey in their motorhome. 

 At the junction of the Leek branch a boater made that turn toward the lock, a three point manoeuvre did the trick.

Making the turn

 It was a good job that we didn't have far to go. Last night I was woken by a drip! Rain had fallen from early evening and continued all night. Midnight, the rain still beat down on the cabin top but this incessant drip was what brought me out of my sleep. It was definitely coming from inside somewhere. I tried not to wake Ian, failed miserably because my shuffling down the bed and then switching the light on, was all that was needed. And I was right! To the right of the porthole nearest the engine room, and coming from underneath the gunnel, was water. Groan...it had to be the porthole leaking. Thankfully Toffee had decided that night to sleep in her basket in the lounge. She would have been one very wet doggy otherwise! Nothing to be done until morning so towels were placed where the droplets fell and we went back to bed.

We met Waka Huia still on the facility mooring. Another boat was also there which meant no room for us. I held back through the bridge hole until Waka Huia started to move and then took her place. Once the biz was done, a mooring had to be found. Waka Huia was on the 24 hour, David had walked ahead and found a mooring for us right at the very end, not ideal as it was right by a narrow section. Anyway we got in, we went to M&D for orange drizzle cake (jointly made by Marilyn and Bevan) and then said our farewells as Mad's and Bev departed for their motorhome.

Back at FS Ian started on the porthole window. It was lose hence the rain getting in through the frame. It was not just a question of silicon around the outside, that would have been too easy. No he also discovered the drain hole to be blocked by the glass having slipped down to cover it. So it was a proper job of complete removal and dismantling the whole thing.


Ian was on a time limit for this job. He was to make dinner tonight, 5 bean chilli, rice and garlic bread. Marilyn was to make the crumble for desert, I had some rhubarb left and David came to collect it. Now what is it about older men acting like toddlers? I ask you...playing swords with the rhubarb???

I can't remember why Marilyn came over later on in the day but she was there at the right time because coming past us was the boat that had been moored by Waka Huia. This was too good an opportunity to miss, so on went the tiller, engine started and with Marilyn fending off at the stern and Ian at the bow, I reversed it back into that vacant space. 

That night the last game of Quiddler played. Ian won, he often does. I came last...as usual! Tomorrow we will be saying farewell to Marilyn and David. We to head south toward Brum and they to meet up with family in Stoke. These two weeks together has been the best, we laughed a lot, played loads of games and eaten wonderful home cooked vegetarian meals. Gosh, we will miss their company. Hopefully this won't be the last time we see them. I have been hankering about going back to experience a NZ winter. I have been told the South Island is spectacular at that time of year!

And wildlife


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