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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.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Not a happy lady

And I don't mean me! The issue was water....or lack of it but more of that later.

This morning we set about trying to arrange a mooring at Rembrandt Gardens in Little Venice. These moorings can be pre-booked for a price and would guarantee a place for up to a week. Unfortunately we were unlucky as no places were available until August. We wanted them for July as we rather fancied going to the World Para Athletics at Wembley. But without a definite mooring it looks like we are to be disappointed. So it was a late getaway and after going up the lock at Fenny and then onto the waterpoint it wasn't until 10. 30 before we got underway.

Fenny Stratford lock with swing bridge across.
The weather was glorious but not sure what is happening in the skies up above. Strange cloud patterns and rainbows in the clouds. Weird.

A pleasant run to Stoke Hammond lock (which was full with top gate open) which didn't bode well for the next 3 locks at Soulbury. Was there a boat in front of us leaving every top gate open?

On the exit we noticed the back pump was running and the pound very low. Staying in the middle was a priority and we hoped we wouldn't meet another oncoming boat. What we did notice was a tree down across the towpath so Ian did no more than phone C&RT to report it.

A good 18 inches down

Just before the Soulbury Three and passing a line of linear moored boats was another narrowboat heading for us. Holding back and keeping as far over as possible without getting grounded was the only option but both of us ended up in the mud. Eventually we sorted ourselves out and continued toward the lock only to see a boat with it's stern stuck half way across the cut. A lady had managed to get off and was heaving for all her might on the centre rope to bring the boat into her mooring while her husband tried in vain to pull the front end in.

The boat nearest to us is almost out of the water.

Nearly high and dry.
 As we passed she asked if we could send water down to try and refloat the boat. I told her we would but then she mentioned the volunteer lock keepers on duty and they had point blank refused to help. I was flabbergasted at this but it wasn't until we got into the bottom lock and asked those volunteers to help the couple below that it was revealed they had phoned C&RT, who told them on no account were they to waste water. They must have had their reasons but I did feel for that couple. In fact while I was in the second lock (only just having scrapped over the cill because of the low pound) the lady came back to plead with them again. She left muttering that her bill to moor below lock was £1400.00 per year and this was a regular occurrence and why should she pay for a mooring that was not fit for purpose. In fact she was justifiably outraged. I'm sure we would have been too.

Bottom of Soulbury Three. You can see how low the pound is.

Every lock ready for us by the volunteers which was fantastic

Second of the locks and I only just scrapped in!

The lady having another word with one of the volunteers.

Last lock and still we have no water.
 It takes two days of back pumping to fill the 1 mile bottom pound sufficiently for the boats to float again so I can see why that lady was so annoyed.

Found a lovely rural mooring but only downside, we are very near to the main rail line. Oh well at least the trains will get us up in the morning.

 And seen today,

Tiny spider about the size of two pin heads. Took this photo as the blessed thing bit my foot!

Neighbours coming home! Hope the kids behave!

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Never knew he was one of the Code breakers

 With us still near enough for son Colin to visit and, with daughter-in-law in Holland for the weekend, the boys asked to come and see us for another fishing session. This time they insisted that  Nana join in. Only too happy to oblige!

 That was yesterday and today we walked the 1.1 miles to Bletchley Park to see the home of the WW11 codebreakers. The walk to the place was never ending, or so it seemed!. Funny how going to a place seems to take longer than the return journey. It's something to do with the 'return trip effect' even when travel distance and time are the same there and back, the back feels measurably shorter. Apparently, researchers have found that we are very bad at judging how long a trip takes and therefore forget the actual length of time it took.

For a Sunday the place was understandably busy mainly with coach parties but the Scouts were also in abundance. To avoid the crowds we started from the far end and worked our way back. Having been to the Park many many years ago I fully expected to see the same displays but in 2011 a lottery grant allowed a massive rebuilding program which ended in 2014 and therefore much was new to us. The most disappointing part was not seeing the Colossus (the first programmable electronic computer) which had been moved to The National Museum of Computing. Still on the Park grounds but now stood alone as a separate building with an extra entry cost. As our entry ticket to Bletchley Park is valid for a year we may go and see this exhibition on our return journey in October.

For six hours we explored every corner, going into the Mansion and huts, watching the many videos on code breaking, trying to take in all the information. It was thrilling to read about a code breaker and mathematician Rolf Noskwith account of his time breaking the code.

 A canal enthusiast who lived near to the Erewash canal in Ilkeston, both he and his wife were very generous benefactors to the ECP&DA Association over a number of years. However, both preferred to remain out of the spotlight and it was only when we wrote his obituary in the Outlook Magazine (Ian is editor) that his code breaking feats were revealed. He was aged 97 when he died.


The mansion

The Bombe

Lorenz Schlusselzusatz SZ40 Cipher Attachment

 The Enigma machine is a piece of spook hardware invented by a German and used by Britain's codebreakers as a way of deciphering German signals traffic during World War Two. It has been claimed that as a result of the information gained through this device, hostilities between Germany and the Allied forces were curtailed by two years.

Inside the mansion

Top left:- 1938 Austin 18 six cylinder Ambulance. Top right:- 1940 Packard 6 six-cylinder touring Sudan. Bottom left:- 1947 Sunbeam Talbot 2 litre sports saloon converted to a Tourer and bottom right : - blackout headlights.

Typex machines.

Watch keepers room

Bletchley Lake

With resident Swans

My feet were very relieved to get back to FS and we were just in time to beat the rain. Looks like we may well get good weather tomorrow, think it is now time to move on.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Offside branches, moored boat and a widebeam, something was going to go wrong.

I always say a good thunderstorm clears the air and today was no exception. Not a massive storm at the Park, a flash and a couple of loud claps of thunder followed by a minute of torrential rain, but it helped drop the humidity and we had high hopes of a pleasant morning cruising.

Pulling pins by 9.30am it was a steady run to Peartree where we stopped for water. Surely, there is not a slower tap on the system as it took over an hour to top our tank up by just 60 percent. By the time we had finished other boaters were queuing and I expect they are all in for a long stay.

 One thing I have noticed this year on the GU is the number of wide beams. Most are a reasonable width but there are the few that are monsters. With the amount of offside vegetation and branches now narrowing the width of the canal, the inevitable was due to happen. Unfortunately that 'inevitable' happened to us. Rounding a bend we first saw the moored boat before realising another boat was also coming toward us, one with a monstrous bow and one of the broadest wide beam boats I think I have seen on this canal. I'm pretty sure it could only just fit through a bridge 'ole, it was that big. Anyway we had to move over pretty smart and right into overhanging branches of an offside tree. Ian put FS into reverse but not before the front part of FS had disappeared from view. And as luck would have it, and following close behind the wide beam, was another narrowboat. We could do nothing but sit tangled until both boats had passed. Even that wide beam didn't come away unscathed. It too had to go through part of those branches to get past that moored boat. Then because FS was by now in the mud, out came the pole and with me reversing away from the branches, the front was pushed off by Ian sufficiently for our bow to clear the tree. I feel that all wide beams have their place on our canals, after all the water is to be enjoyed by everyone, but I do feel a limit on the width of some of these should be implemented, either that or C&RT has to start clearing the vast amount of offside vegetation that is encroaching on the canals to allow these huge crafts to cruise in a safe manner.

 On our way again we made it as far as Fenny Stratford. Stopped on the 14-day mooring and may stay until after the weekend. Quite fancy going to Bletchley Park which is the site of the WW2 codebreakers. We have been before but didn't feel as if we took it all in.

And seen on route,

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Could this be the future?

Sunset Monday night,

Most of us will have experienced some very uncomfortable nights with the humidity and heat. For us though, last night was a good one as the side hatch (now waterside) could be left open. Made all the difference with that slight breeze.

Blast... a text from Colin to say today's sports day was cancelled! This intense heat was more than the infants could endure so the headmaster has called it all off. Very disappointed not to see our grandson Oliver compete and with sports day now scheduled for July, looks like we are never likely too. But, instead of leaving Campbell Park, it was decided that we still head over to our son's house and surprise both grandkids when they return from school. A bus journey and walk was in store for us now and in this heat, not one either of us was looking forward to.

Before we left and coming toward us was what I can only describe as 'a floating bedstead'! Ian then realised it was not being powered by an engine, but by the two people sitting at the back peddling away like mad. Not only did it go past at speed (which in normal circumstances they would have been asked to slow down) but not a sound could be heard as they drew level and with hardly any water displacement FS never moved at all. Wow, could this, therefore, be the future of boating when fuel becomes scarce? Not only would you stay fit and healthy doing all that peddling but the environment, as well as air quality. would benefit as all. Something to think about eh!

After lunch, it was only a short walk to catch the bus. But what we hadn't realised was the bus route had changed due to a road closure. Asking the workman was a waste of time as they had no idea where we had to catch the bus from. Walking to the stop, a notice was pinned saying the next bus stop was nearly half a mile away. Blooming heck!!! Within 12 minutes it would arrive at that stop. Never had Ian and I walked so fast, up a hill and in the searing heat. Seconds to spare was all we had as coming around the roundabout was the bus. And do you know...even the bus driver didn't know of the change of route until today! Thats transport for you! Colin said he would drive us to FS later so thankfully haven't got that route march back.

When I walked to Willen Lake early (before it got too hot) I took both cameras and macro lens. So lots of photos taken, a few here, but more on my Jameisons wildlife photos

Juvenile Green Woodpecker.

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