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.

Tuesday 31 October 2023

Toffee, you are not helping matters!

 Oct 30th

Groan...wrong time to have a dog when the clocks go back and we could have had an extra lie in. Sunday morning and her body clock still said it was an hour later and no matter how hard we tried to ignore Toffee's tail banging on the radiator or for Ian, a cold nose against his arm, she refused to be ignored so up one of us got. Then today, because we had both got dressed at 6 am and a lot earlier than planned, we set off and started the cruise back to the junction. This time the weather was sunny and really quite warm so no dashing to get under cover from the rain today!


Getting back onto the GU from the junction had the same challenge as when I entered to go along the Wendover Arm yesterday. Ian was off doing the lock so had no one in front to let me know if anything was coming. I eased out but was worried about the breasted boats opposite, Still slow and gentle wins the day and with the wind for once helping, I got around to the lock with only the one reverse neccesary.  

The flight was trouble free today. For a start all the pounds were full and halfway down, CRT guy appeared helping a lone boater. He opened the gate for me sending Ian on ahead to set the next lock.

Shame she had to be secured. She couldn't be trusted, not with the amount of dogs about today.

Just liked this picture.

At Marsworth bottom lock one of those huge widebeams was seen. What was disconcerting was the water levels between the two locks were exceptionally low, by at least two foot I reckon. I started to exit the lock fully expecting that widebeam to do the same, but then the chap walked up to speak to Ian. It was suggested I keep to the middle while he went off to his right. I was a bit baffled but when he said his draft was only 2 ft and guessed quite correctly that we were much deeper, thought it would be beneficial if I didn't have to stray from the deep water. What a lovely chap and I thanked him profusely as we passed each other.

Nearly at the swing bridge to let Ian off, I suddenly caught a glimpse of this ginger/brown thing leaping off the boat. OMG it was Toffee and without permission either! She must have leapt a good 4 feet and how she made it to the bank I will never know because I was already steering FS away.  Anyway, she raced after Ian and got to him just as he started to open the bridge. Ian struggled again to close it and I don't think Toffee's added weight helped matters at all! 

Swing bridge looking through the railway bridge.

Think a caption is called for!

By 2 pm Ivinghoe locks were seen. By now I felt my knee had had enough and even though Ian had done most of the steering, I do like to stay and keep him company. So we stopped at the self same place as when we came through this way a few days ago, above Ivinghoe lock. 33

And wildlife,

Monday 30 October 2023

Lack of water

 Oct 19th

Touch and go this morning whether we went up the flight. Oh we were all ready to go, tiller on and engine about to be fired into life when a chap walked past and mentioned very low pounds in all of the 6 pounds! If fact he told us not to bother, it would be hours before the pounds would be full enough for a boat to travel through. Okay, we would wait until after lunch and see what the state of play was. In fact, we didn't have to wait long at all because that same chap came back to us about 30 minutes later and said most of the pounds now had sufficient water for us to proceed. 

So up those 6 locks staying well to the middle because most pounds were still down over a foot. Every lock was full bar one and that was because a pair of boats were met at the middle lock on their way down.


The Wendover Arm junction was immediately after the top lock. A right pig to get around but I persuaded Ian to open both gates to make my life easier. Even so it took several reverses before the bow was pointed at the entrance. 

Passing the helm duties over to Ian I went inside for a sit down. That walk yesterday had really stuffed up my knee. Last night I could hardly walk so out came the painkillers and Ibuprofen gel. I think Toffee will be going out with just Ian for a few days! Anyway having got settled suddenly the mother of all rain showers hit us. Not just a mizzle, no it was a deluge. Thankfully a mooring came into view and it was anchors on, pull in, grab ropes and piling pins and tie as best we could before making a dive for cover. 


We stayed over an hour, had lunch and once the sun made a weak appearance off we went again. The canal was like a ditch, single width only because reeds and grasses and encroached on both sides and boy very shallow. By the time the canal will have been reinstated to Wendover, I envisage that no boats will be able to travel along this section anyway! It was really slow-going and God help us if another boat was met.

 Once the winding hole appeared the depth increased, we winded and stopped on a 48-hour mooring. Ian then went to walk to see what progress had been made by the restoration trust, quite a lot since our last visit in the Covid year of 2020. 

 There is another storm on its way and this time I don't think we will be lucky enough to miss it. So a discussion last night and we are going to high tail it back to The Plough at Simpson for Thursday. It's also a great place for Toffee to be collected from and son and daughter-in-law can treat us to a meal!

And now for the restoration photos 

In 2020



and today


Sunday 29 October 2023

No nature reserve for us.

A problem has arisen with the stove, we can't seem to get it to regulate properly. Every night it roars away no matter how much we try to stop the air flow. Consequently the boat remains very warm and we have moved Toffees bed well away from the heat. This morning Ian had a sudden brainwave, could the fire rope (or Gasket)) sealing the bottom door be the problem. Turns out he was right, no glue holding the rope so with this man of mine carrying almost anything on this boat, out came a tube of heat-resistant rope adhesive and within a minute the job was done. Tonight our sleep will be a bit more comfortable, I know Toffee will appreciate the cooler temperature and it may stop her from trying to settle down beside the bed. 

The day dawned fine again so after breakfast we packed a rucksack with lunch and drinks and set off toward Collage Park Nature reserve.

At the top lock several CRT guys were busy running water down. When they arrived three of the pounds were low although by the time we arrived found them all to be pretty full. 

 It's a fair walk to the footpath that leads to the reserve and a short but dangerous stretch of road without a pavement had to be negotiated before reaching it. We made the 20 m dash and made it just before another car arrived.

Crossing the canal at bridge 133

At the start of the footpath a notice saying no dogs allowed except guide dogs. What a bummer! Never mind we had a feeling this may be the case. So instead of taking the right path we carried straight on. Gosh the path was muddy and the sort that sticks to your shoes making it horrible to walk. A glimpse was seen of College Lake, a chain link fence separates the footpath from the reserve


Eventually we came to a road, turned left and about quarter of mile came to the White Lion (now closed) by the canal. It was but a very short walk back to the boat from here and boy was I glad to be back!

Checking the fitbit watch discovered we had walked nearly three miles. I'm knackered, knee hurting and Ian also hobbling but that dog of our sons was still raring to go. Does Toffee ever get worn out?.

And wildlife

Saturday 28 October 2023

Strength not what it used to be.

 27th Oct

Gosh just realised Toffee has already been with us for 12 days. Her season is now coming to a critical time...she is very interested in dogs but treats as bribery keeps her by our side. I'll  be glad when she gets to the end and we can walk without being on edge every time a dog is seen.

More locks to do today and still no boat appeared to join us. At the first of the Seabrook lock Ian really struggled to close the top gate. I was already on my way to the second lock when I noticed him struggling. He called out that maybe another body (me) pulling at the gate while he pushed may do the trick so I started to reverse back toward the lock. Then just as I was about to stop the stern by the lock, he got the gate closed!  Hope the next boater won't have the same trouble!


Seabrook second lock had CRT working. They were clearing the coping stones of weeds and lichen around the lock. I mentioned how impressed we both were with the grass cut and towpaths well attended along most of the GU. They answered how they take great pride in keeping their patch looking good although admitted the offside veg needed attention. I laughed at that, told them they had nothing to worry about, just go along the Oxford Canal to see how bad that was! Anyway it was nice having a laugh and a chat with them.

Ian walked on to open the swing bridge, said how stiff the bridge was and again he struggled to close it. Maybe he has got to admit that he is now no longer as strong as he used to be!

Before ascending the Marston locks we had a brief stop at the facilities. Next stop was find a mooring and again we struck lucky. Plenty on the offside bit it was the reservoir side we wanted, One space available, Ian paced it out and yes we would fit. 

Such a lovely afternoon that we took Toffee around the reservoir. Hopefully the weather will stay kind tomorrow because we fancy a walk to the College Park nature reserve. Not sure if dogs are allowed although on the website it states they must stay on the lead. Still, if not, at least it will have had a good run.


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