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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.

Tuesday 12 September 2023

Water voles, good use of tennis balls and another meeting of a past friend.

Mon  Sept 11th

One forgets when living on a boat about all the council services that happen whilst people are asleep. 5 30 am the bin men arrived, lots of clattering and banging and orange flashes of the lorries lights as they made their presence known. No point in trying to get back to sleep, so a very early cup of tea was had instead.

Leaving Rugby I took these photos to show the difficulty boaters have in trying to see what is coming. If only CRT would just cut those trees back it would help. 

And looking back

Not having dieseled up yesterday it was imperative that we found somewhere today. Armada boatyard was doing it at £.1.20 Litre. I suppose 20p more isn't too bad, but annoying when we could have got it for a £1. Anyway at Newbold tunnel we arrived at the entrance before that hire boat in the distance. They held back, although I'm pretty sure this is a two-way tunnel as stated on the web

Talk about Sods Law...we arrived at Armada just as another boat heading in our direction turned up at the same time. They slipped in behind a moored hire boat, we did the same in front. But the hose was not long enough to reach that first boat. To cut a long story short, FS was pushed back out, that hire boat then took our place, the first boat moved forward and we came alongside to breast up with them. A right game of shuffle if you ask me!

 That hire boat was pushed forward to where we had been
Finally moored alongside the wharf.

Tank filled, it was off to find a mooring at Old Oaks Wood. No shady spots left, they had already gone but today more cloud cover kept the intensive heat at bay. We managed to moor at one of our favourite places, opposite the farm. Stakes had to be hammered in, there is no piled edge for the cladding pins. Unfortunately the only decent place without stones was near to the towpath. Many years ago we saw another boat with tennis balls placed on top as a warning. With our dogs long gone and tennis balls in abundance, this idea was adopted and has been used ever since. A trip hazard averted we hoped.

Fishing here in the past had been good and for the first time in ages, the rod came out. Nothing but bread as bait, but it did the trick. 4 decent Roach caught.


Whilst fishing two people in a small dingy kept stopping along the offside and looking in the reeds, so being nosey I had to ask and turns out they were looking for water voles.

I was amazed they were even here. Apparently there is a good number all along the Oxford from Hawkesbury Junction to just beyond bridge 35. The lady even came across to me to show a part eaten stem with a unique wedge shape which proves they are about.


tell-tale teeth marks on the stem

 So the rest of the afternoon I sat in the well deck watching and waiting with camera at the ready. Suddenly movement in the reeds, the briefest glance of a brown body before it disappeared. I didn't even have time to pick up the camera let alone focus on the subject. Just that glance was enough to prove to myself they were near and I did get to see this green woodpecker. Something peeked out from behind the fence post and my camera was grabbed pretty quick.


 It was also fun watching the antics of the bull with the cow. Should I have censored the photo?...Nah.... it was all in vain anyhow. That cow was not going to oblige!.


 These were tamer though,

No denying the father!

The afternoon wore on, many a boat had passed, some so fast that our pins were nearly pulled. We asked one chap to slow down a tad, his reply? He was already on tickover and couldn't slow down any more. Of course, we disputed that and mentioned adjusting the tickover speed. Told him the rate and bow wave as he went past was more like cruising speed! Quite a few choice words came out of his mouth directed at us! No surprise there then! One boat appeared coming around the bend after the woods, gosh it was a lot longer than most. Reverse had to be deployed to get around the bend and it was that sound that got us out to see what was happening. It took a moment to realise who was steering the tug.  None other than our friend Peter.  We first met on Heartbreak Hill both having been held up by a stoppage. His business is moving boats  Today he was delivering the boat to Cambridge. He stopped mid-stream for a chat and stayed until a boat turning up meant he had to leave and get underway. All I can say Pete is good luck getting past all those boats in Rugby. It will be tight and I do hope you don't meet anyone!

And I was amazed to see a Red Kite. They are certainly spreading North.

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