Hatton lock flight

It’s an infinitely fascinating life living on a narrowboat, cruising and trading on the canals as we do.

Unfortunately the weather’s been attempting to drown us with squally showers and intermittent hail, with a dash of sunshine thrown in to keep our spirits up. I’ve had to keep my waterproof trousers and coat on, as well as wellington boots. I even wore my thermal long sleeved top under my clothes for a couple of days as it was so cold.

Travelling down south wasn’t on our itinerary this year, so it’s been a delight to unexpectedly return to canals we’ve not seen since 2009.

Consequently the captain has been in his element snapping away, and he’s given me some images to share (there’s a few more to come from Tardebigge but I’ll save those for another post) …

Hatton flight

Descending the Hatton Flight – you don’t see a guy wearing shorts (on a rainy day), and carrying a surf/wave board very often in these parts!

Hatton lock Flight

21 locks in this flight – 79 on our journey to Crick!

Cape locks

It’s getting busy down here – waiting for a boat to come out of one of the Cape locks …

Grand Union Canal

Turners Green, we’re now on the Grand Union Canal just south of Kingwood Junction

Shrewley Tunnel

Entering Shrewley Tunnel – Barry gets a break from driving. There’s a horse tunnel to the side, which if you walk along takes you to a suburban street which you walk across to get to the path to the other side of the tunnel

Shrewdly Tunnel

Shrewley Tunnel through Barry’s eyes

Ball's Bridge

Looking towards Ball’s Bridge as we continue towards the Hatton Flight

Hatton Locks

Huge feeling double locks with monster sized gates and stiff paddles – our mooring for the night on Monday

Cottage window

A cottage window catches Barry’s eye

Evening light at Hatton Locks

A calm and colourful evening light at Hatton following a diverse weather day

Hatton flight

Starting out Tuesday – loads more locks to get through!


Hatton locks

It’s always best to share a lock whenever possible – saves on the work and water!

Canal side cottage

A picturesque cottage by the canal – is this a clematis?

Cape of Good Hope pub

What a quaint pub we sadly didn’t get time to visit, especially discovering that it’s actually run by a group of kiwis! Sorry Steve, Steve and Emma and the Cape Crew!

NB Areandare

Hovering as we wait for another lock to empty …

The week so far has been amazing – and it’s only Friday! There’s still the weekend to come which holds much promise – expected and otherwise I’ve no doubt.

Meeting fellow boaters

Not long after we started our journeys on Areandare, we met Leonie and Ray from ‘NB Firefly’ at Calf Heath. They’d been blog readers for a while and had arrived in UK in April 2013 ready to do their own narrow boating and blogging adventures. Originating in Napier, New Zealand, they lived in one of the closest ‘big’ towns to Gisborne, Barry’s home town. Hard to imagine here in England, but that’s a three-hour drive along a mostly winding, single lane highway.

I had a coaching client Wednesday morning, and Barry had a Home Brew Boat order delivery to make. Shortly after finishing my call, I heard the engine of a passing boat and a knocking on our roof. Peeking out there was Ray and Leonie standing on the back of their boat, with a couple of their friends from NZ. They’d already seen Barry and had a chat.

NB Firefly crew

They were all enjoying a final trip on Firefly, delivering it to the new owners. Like Paul and Elaine, from NB Caxton, they’re now the proud owners of a motorhome and are planning a European adventure in the near future.

We wish you lots of happy times exploring the beauty of our neighbouring countries.

Mooring a while later in Braunston, I heard a knock at the side hatch and saw a couple standing with Barry. I looked carefully for signs of recognition but am ashamed to admit I had no idea who they were!

Andy and Sue from NB Festine Lente who have been regular commenters on our blog for many years. Barry met them previously on one of the (many!) times I’ve not been on board. They’ve been cruising for two years now, popping back occasionally to their home on The Isle of Man.

Andy and Sue NB Festine Lente

Braunston Marina

Braunston Marina

Braunston Marina

Braunston Marina

Braunston Marina

Braunston Marina

Feeding the swans

Before we leave Braunston we saw these gorgeous cygnets – Barry the swan whisperer!

We enjoyed a few drinks with Andy and Sue at The Plough in Braunstone on Wednesday evening, then last night moored up nearby and continued getting to know them convivially on the towpath and aboard Areandare. What lovely people – so envious of them being retired at similar ages to us and having an income!

Chilling on the towpath

Chilling on the towpath

Then again, if we weren’t trading on board we wouldn’t have met so many people or been in the news …

Humans of the Waterways

You may recall a blog post from Middlewich in April (click here to read), when we spoke of meeting Alice and Adam from Manchester? Their organisation had been given a 12 month contract by CaRT to produce stories of ‘Humans of the Waterways’, and we chatted to them at length about our journeys.

We’d almost forgotten about this until Barry opened up an email yesterday morning and saw our faces smiling back at him!

We ARE the faces of the current CaRT newsletter, and the most recent story from the Tumblr Blog – http://humansofthewaterways.tumblr.com. They’ve written an inspiring piece about us which is very timely as we approach Crick and our upcoming seminar ‘Running a Business on a Boat’ alongside Sarah Henshaw of The Book Barge, and Helen and Andy Tidy of Wild Side.

Screenshot of our 'story'

How fantastic!

There’ll be much more to share with you from the coming few days so watch this space.

Next week I’m back up in Malpas granny sitting while Barry moves Areandare back up north slowly. Our next event is Funtastic Facepainting at Throckmorton Airshow on Saturday 6th June – though we’re definitely not arriving there by narrowboat!

Lock flight

So far we’re on schedule to arrive at Crick by Friday.

Yesterday was a nine-hour day. Not too bad. It was though, rather a wet one for poor Barry at the back of the boat! By the time we arrived at the first lock the rain had abated a little.

Half way down the Lapworth Flight a couple of voluntary lock-keepers appeared which helped to hasten our journey time.

Amazingly too almost every lock was in our favour. And we were fortunate to have a boat following us initially whose crew offered to open the two swing bridges for us. Marvellous.

Back in time to April 2007

People who know the story of Barry and I, will be aware that when I brought him to England to ‘meet the Walshes” (not the Fockers!), his condition for coming was to include a narrowboat holiday. At the time I was perplexed as to why he’d want to. New Zealand is a very ‘new’ country, with a sparse amount of history in comparison to Great Britain.

And Barry adores history.

Additionally, and importantly, New Zealand has no canals.

Anyway, I digress …

We duly hired a narrowboat from AngloWelsh in Tardebigge called ‘Wye’. Barry, my mum and dad, and Kim my youngest daughter, came with us for four days and nights. We did a mini ‘Birmingham Ring’.

The trip itself had many fun and a few stressful times.

Yesterday was the first time we’ve done the Lapworth flight since then.

My dad was 87 years old when we did the trip, and he loved it I suspect even more than Barry did. At the drop of a hat he’d offer to take over the steering from Barry so he could ‘have a rest’. Barry’s never forgotten taking a shower whilst dad took over as we went through a long tunnel – and Barry bounced around the shower as the boat bumped along the walls!


Narrow boating

Dad in his element driving the 69 foot Anglo Welsh narrowboat ‘Wye’, with his ‘Captain’ cap on, hand nonchalantly at his side 


“I’m okay Barry, you have a drink.”

At one of the locks on the Lapworth flight, dad decided to come and help mum, Kim and I out. Barry had taken the boat out of the lock, and Kim was getting the next lock ready.

Dad walked back up to the upper lock gate and began walking across. I was winding the paddles down with mum and then shutting the gates, when I saw dad suddenly drop from sight!

Running up fearful for his life, I found dad’s head above the water, cap still in-situ, and an embarrassed grin on his face.

I held his hand and shouted to Barry to return as quickly as he could.

Barry abandoned the boat, Kim thankfully realised what was happening and jumped on board as the engine was still running, and Barry heaved dad out of the water.

Taking a wet, cold and shaking elderly man back to the boat for a hot bath and a cup of sweet tea, I remember thinking about my recent ‘adult rests’ update and where on earth I’d summon help from should he collapse.

Fortunately he didn’t and was fine.

As he relaxed in the small tub back on the boat, I walked past and he shouted “Sandra?“, “Yes?” I said. “Did Barry get a photo?“!!

Bless you dad. You had such a wonderful sense of humour.

We knew we’d recognise it when we saw it again – and we did. Lock 17.

I took a few photos this time …

Lock 17 Lapworth flight

Lock 17 – where I witnessed dad falling off the upper lock gate walkway in April 2007

Lock 17 Lapworth locks

Looking at it now I wonder if he walked along the thinner part rather than on the top of the gate?

Lap worth lock 17

Dad’s head was peeping up in the corner here, as he held on to the ridge


Lock 17 Lapworth flight

Barry was heading down to the next lock when dad fell in

Later on during the holiday we moored at Alvechurch.

Dad, Barry and I had a walk into the village and a drink in the pub. We passed under the railway bridge on the way. The following morning dad had a cut on his head and mum told us he’d fell out of bed in the night and banged it on the floor. Apparently he’d been dreaming and was “jumping out of the way of a passing train”!


Dad in the pub after the trip – sporting his large forehead bump and black eye! Oh the dangers of boating …


We’ve laughed so much with dad over the years about his escapades in this neck of the woods.

It was a tad emotional to be back.

I guess that’s how we become ‘immortal’, by leaving so many magical memories we’re never forgotten.

Half way down the Hatton flight

We made it to a long pound half way down the Hatton flight of 21 locks last evening around 7pm.

That was more than late enough to moor up and cook tea to recuperate ready for another long and potentially rain-filled day.

Ah well. There’s far worse ways of spending time …

Reflections at Alvechurch Beer and Boat Festival 2015

We’re currently ‘speeding’ along at 3-4 mph to the Crick Boat Show. Barry’s driving in the pouring rain which promises to accompany us throughout the day.

Unfortunately we don’t have the luxury of sitting it out as we’ve 55 miles and 79 locks to get to Crick in time for the show. I’ll be making an appearance shortly kitted out in waterproofs and wellies, ready to do numerous locks …

All being well, we’ll arrive sometime on Friday ready for our slot on the Waterways World panel talking about ‘running a business on a boat’.

I didn’t go to my daughter’s yesterday as planned, because it became too complex with trading and travelling. I’ll be heading up in a week’s time instead, following this weekend’s festivities.

Alvechurch Beer and boat Festival

We’ve just experienced another terrific two-days of trading along with Helen and Andy from Wild Side. This time we were also joined by Sue and Ade on the Cheese Boat, who had the pleasure (or pain if truth be told!) on Saturday night of being taught the customary card game of six-handed rummy.

They may never recover after partaking in the competitiveness of our seemingly habitual entertainment.

The festival itself was an enjoyable weekend. On Friday evening the four of us tasted a small selection of the 61 beers on tap in the beer tent – we didn’t get time for the 13 ciders or 7 perrys!

There was even more excitement to be had when Helen, and eventually Andy, got up and danced to Reflections, announcing it’s been 20 years since such an occurrence! They were admittedly an outstanding band. Click on the link and you’ll get to hear them.

I missed the first two bands as I’d taken mum’s car back and then spent a couple of hours getting my brand new facepainting design boards ready with colourful faces for the weekend …

Face-painting design board

Spider man and Batman were a popular choice

Face-painting design board

Pretty girl designs








How fantastic are they? They wipe clean (I know they do because I’ve just done it!), so that each event I go to I can choose different designs and themes according to the place or celebration.

My next facepainting booking is Throckmorton Air Show – any ideas on what could be popular there?

The weather wasn’t terribly kind to everyone once again, though fortunately it reminded dry.

Funtastic Facepainting

Funtastic Facepainting all set up – with a brand new gazebo as well as design boards

Facepainting design boards

Here’s the new facepainting design boards hanging up – lots of thought into placement by Barry and Andy

Wild Side Jams and Chutneys

Here’s Helen on the Jam Butty selling her Wild Side Jams and Chutneys

The Cheese Boat

A new trader we hadn’t met before on the left (sorry folks, forgot to get your names!) selling recycled wooden creations and brasses, and Sue and Ade on The Cheese Boat

Cheese Boat and Home Brew Boat

Barry’s nestled in behind the Cheese Boat

Alvechurch Marina

The sun shone for some of the day on Saturday morning – the lull before the masses arrived in the afternoon …

Alvechurch Beer and Boat Festival 2015

It wasn’t so dry for Barry on Sunday though.

I’d gone for a walk early afternoon to check out the entertainment next to the beer tent. All the trading boats were at the canalside, out of sight.

Returning to my pitch this is the sight that greeted me …

Fallen in the canal

A rather drenched and dripping Barry after slipping off the gunnel into the canal

He’d walked along the gunnel between our boat and Wandr’ing Bark to retrieve some paper bags from the roof. Unfortunately when he got to the bow his foot slipped off and he dropped straight down to the bottom of the canal.

Thank goodness he didn’t have his phone in his pocket or his camera/iPad in his hand! The £5 and £10 notes were recoverable. Not so the paper bags …

Barry was still smiling thankfully. A passing woman helped him out – bless you if you’re reading this!

A hot shower and change of clothes and he was back to his amenable self – though he’s still got a problem with his hearing which is concerning.

He did manage to swallow some disgusting canal water, so we’ll be mindful of any symptoms of ‘Weil’s Disease’ over the next 2 to 30 days. It’s a horrid condition, and potentially fatal if not recognised and treated promptly. A rare hazard of our chosen ‘water gypsy’ lifestyle.

Sunday was cooler and quieter.

Apparently the Beer Festival usually takes place on a Friday and Saturday, with the Sunday being added as a special bonus for the 200th anniversary celebration of the navigation of the Worcester and Birmingham Canal. So that probably kept a few people away.

Crick Boat Show

It’s a tight itinerary to get us to Crick for the weekend, but we’re very honoured to have such an opportunity.

We even invested in new t-shirts and had The Home Brew Boat logo printed on them, so we can advertise as we walk around the showgrounds.

We have five minutes to present an overview of our why, what, when and how of running a business on a boat – actually we run THREE businesses so it’ll be an interesting concept to fine-tune the information to five minutes!

We’ve forgone a trading weekend at Burton-on-Trent with RCTA for Crick, gambling on the possibility that the exposure will bring us an increase in trade. Of course it’ll also be fun and a unique experience that we’d be foolish not to grasp.

That’s it from me – almost time to get dressed up in my waterproof gear and do some paddling!


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