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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.

Thursday 18 April 2024

Day 1 of our hols and not the best start.

 April 17th

A break in the weather at last and a great morning to set off in MB. Took far longer to reach our destination though, not because of traffic, but a slight detour was made to collect our post from our daughter in Swadlincote. So we eventually arrived at the Furze Bush pub near Newbury around 5 pm. 


This pub was a Brit Stop, a place that one can overnight, so long as frequents the pub and buy a drink or meal. We chose to have a meal and very nice it was too. Got back to MB and discovered the fridge hadn't gone over to gas. Blast now what! Normally, this is done automatically once the engine is turned off. But even though Ian manually switched it over, it still wouldn't work. For goodness’s sake, what else is going to go wrong with this van? Out he went to check connections and at the wrong moment too because as he was fiddling with the connectors, the heavens opened. Still what ever he did worked and a slight soggy Ian returned much relieved.

Bloody hell, it was cold last night, had to grab a blanket and dressing gown to try and warm up. I wasn't going to wake Ian, he lay there just in a thin sleeping bag totally oblivious to my distress, and snoring gently. Well, I suppose I could expect nothing less seeing as this is the man that wears a T-Shirt in minus degree temperatures! Slowly I warmed, thank goodness, and next thing I knew it had gone 7 am.

So the plan today was to get to Highclere Castle (Downton Abbey). Only 6 miles from the pub, it was to be a good day out. The sun shone, warming everything nicely and by 9.45am we were ready for the off. Ian turned the key in the ignition and the horrible sound of a laboured engine trying to start came into play. Both looked at each other, both wondered if MB would start. Try again and this time it sounded more promising. At the third attempt, MB sprung into life. Phew, but the worry was why! Nothing for it but abandon the trip to Highclere Castle for the moment and instead find someone who could check the battery. 

We wanted to get to Newbury, but the bloody sat nav took us to the wrong place! Well to be fair we only put in Mill Lane, Newbury and didn't bother with the post code. OMG...down the narrowest of lanes reminiscent of NZ, although at least in NZ we could be relatively sure no cars would be met. Gosh, we were fortunate. Got through unscathed but on reaching said Mill Lane, it was of course the wrong one!

  This time the post code did go into the sat nav and guess what, it was a good 7 miles back from where we had started from! Mill Lane MOT, Tyre and Battery centre was what we needed, duh....thought it a bit strange to have a garage out in the back and beyond. Anyway, eventually found the place and turns out it was right next to the K&A with loads of moored boats. Unfortunately, this was the only photo I could get from the MOT centre.

The alternator was checked that was fine with 13 amps plus volts going in, so deemed to be okay. Battery also okay so no need to change that either.  No more suggestions made by the very nice chap from the centre, so we left hoping it was just the very cold weather this morning making the battery sluggish to start. 

Back on track toward Highclere Castle and within 15 minutes pulled up to the gates. What greeted us was somewhat unexpected.


Talk about not a lot of luck today. We debated what to do and decided on Avebury Manor, Wiltshire. Luckily, Ian checked the website and....oh no....that too was closed due to the January flooding! Crikey can the start to this holiday get any worse? Looking at a proper map, noticed Salisbury Plain was fairly close by. About 30 miles and visiting Stonehenge seemed like another good plan. It must have been nearly 40 years since our last visit. So that was where we would go then. Sat Nav showed the route, seemed okay so clicked agree. Well, not 10 minutes into our journey and the sat nav rerouted. Turns out the A360 was closed and the only way to get to Stonehenge (according to the Sat Nav) was a further 30 odd miles to add onto the mileage. Bloody hell....you couldn't make any of this up! Took nie on three hours to get there. God knows what the Sat Nav was on, and more fool us for following it! Finally, we arrived, it was packed with foreign tourists and coaches lined up in their dozens. A designated motorhome parking was shown but when we got there, car owners must have a size issue because all but one of the parking spots were of cars! Anyway, a shuttle bus took us the mile and a half to the site, took 30 minutes to walk around and we were back to MB before an hour was up.

One surprise by the stones was a very tame Great Bustard! It normally resides in northern Morocco, South and Central Europe and Central and East Asia.This one has been a visitor to the stones during April for the past few years, stays for a short time and then disappears until the following year.

Ian found a wild camping site at Danehill Fort Roman ruins. Very quiet but for the dog walkers tuning up in their cars. No doubt this will be our wake up call in the morning.

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