Narrowboat AREandARE

From the 2009 & 2010 tantalising tales, traumas and stunning photographs of Barry (photographer) and Sandra (writer) from New Zealand aboard NB 'Northern Pride', to the stories of their 2013 return journey, purchase of 'AREandARE', progress on sustaining their live aboard continuous cruiser lifestyle, and Barry's quest to gain residency and 'Indefinite Leave to Remain' in UK ...

Tuesday 28 April 2009

A bit of a grey day all round…

Arriving through the trees at Llangollen
The river Dee in Llangollen

One of the back streets. Castle ruin on hill behind.

Horseshoe Falls on a very grey day!
Cute cottage along the towpath walk to Horseshoe Falls

Our mooring at Llangollen Marina

Not much exploring achieved today as the rain was fairly persistent! I managed to get a 4 mile walk to the Horseshoe Falls and back, sunny on the way there but very wet on the return journey. Hurrah for good waterproofs and my pashmina and gloves!

Barry has spent the day trying to work out why our water supply has turned brown and why the boat appears to be tilting; it could be 6 months on a leaky boat after all (Split Ends song for those who haven't heard of it!)! But he rang the lovely man at Barbridge Marina who reassured him we weren’t about to sink. I think it’s all sorted now, it’s beyond my womanly brain to figure out what on earth it all means which is why I went for a long walk! Bless Barry he had my night terrors last night and heard noises that he thought were the boat sinking and thought ‘Sandra will never get back on if anything happens…’ so got up to investigate and found that the noise was heaps of ducklings nibbling away at the boat’s bottom bless them!

I’ve looked up my train times from Chirk to Sutton Coldfield for Thursday and all seems good, I’ll stay a night with my sister Katherine and catch up with the lovely Arlene, before heading to Kerry’s for the Hen Weekend in Barcelona, not that I’m really looking forward to 3 nights in a hotel with maybe some sunshine and warmth very much!! Lol! Poor Barry, I hope Tim does manage to come and say a couple of nights or he will be all alone for 5 days…

We'll leave Llangollen in the morning, shame we didn’t get to see more of it in the sunshine. Of course we also leave the internet coverage so no more blogs for a few days I think. The next ones will be from Barry, writing and photography, not sure if he will cope with the stress of it! Anyway, I suspect it will be brief. I may even get to log on from sunny Spain and check out what's been happening in my absence !

Monday 27 April 2009

Llangollen, end of the line

We’re back on line after a few days of no internet coverage, Barry has been getting withdrawal symptoms! So what have we been up to…

Well thank goodness for UG boots I say! They’ve keeping my feet so warm and cosy, I’m so thankful I made the choice to buy them when I was in Shrewsbury! I believe the temperature is similar in NZ autumn as in UK spring at the moment, so we’re not missing anything, and at least the nights are getting lighter here and with a bit of luck we have warmer weather to come! But I’m not counting on it…

Barry at the helm

Saturday morning it poured with rain, and unfortunately that was the day we had to go to a Marina and get some diesel and a pump out (revolting I know, but a fact of life on the boat when the red light comes on above the toilet to say you’re full; we have yet to work out whether it’s like the petrol light on a car and means we have another 20kms or more to go or not!!!). We got told off (again! It’s becoming a habit, the English are very bossy aren’t they, I’d forgotten?!) by the man in the Marina for not reading the signs saying ‘don’t enter until given permission to do so’ – not just one but FOUR signs! The English have so many signs - don’t do this, don’t do that - when we were here 4 years ago we started taking photos of all the signs but soon got bored! Anyway, first pump out successfully achieved, the ‘nice’ man did let us stay in the Marina waiting until they were ready rather than sending us back to moor up on the towpath outside, but he said it was only because we had our New Zealand flag flying, thanks again Deb!

On the trip to Ellesmere

Barry has appreciated his Gortex jacket cruising along in the wind and rain, and has been heard saying quietly a couple of times ‘this isn’t what I ordered!’ A couple of men waiting in their car while I wound up and down a lift bridge (they found it highly amusing to sit and watch me working so hard the buggers!) shouted to Barry ‘thanks for bringing the weather with you’, so this is actually fantastic weather apparantly!

Ellesmere basin, where we moored for the night

Eight dentists on a stag trip. They'd stopped for a cup of tea prior to this. ????

We had a lovely evening in Ellesmere, and found a couple of pubs with very friendly people in. We even got a game of darts at The White Hart, great little pub, and I beat Barry much to the amusement of the barman! The next pub (can’t recall the name of it, a hotel ) there was a pool semi-final going on, all VERY serious stuff.

The White Hart pub on the right

May look impressive but didn't win the game

We moored in Chirk Saturday evening and went for a stroll then steak and chips at the local pub, The Poachers Pocket - I thought I'd treat myself to a hot shower and straighten my hair for our big night out, while Barry was cruising along (while the inverter was working), but horror of horrors (ladies will understand this part!), my straightener didn't adapt well to UK voltage and broke having not even straightened my fringe - no straight hair for me for a while then!!! Ah well, the realities of narrowboat living I suppose!

Sunday we had a ‘short’ walk (advertised as such from the towpath) to Chirk Castle which turned into a bit of a hike – short walk indeed! We decided to just stay for coffee (well OK Barry had a cider and I had a coffee!) and a few picturesque pictures and then hike back a possibly shorted way through the castle grounds to meet the lovely Lisa for a Sunday Roast at ‘The Poachers Pocket’, what an excellent pub that is. We've been to a number where the service has been atrocious, and one wonders why they are running a pub when they can't even smile at their customers - all the staff at The Poacher's were curteous and friendly and the food was good too.

Sandra and the castle. Pretty impressive

Yesterday we travelled over the 2 Aquaducts built by Thomas Telford – Chirk and Pontcysllte (how on earth do you say that?!) – what amazing structures! The Chirk one was awesome with a drop of 21.3 meters, views of meadows and sheep that were beautiful in the soft evening sunlight, and has a viaduct running alongside built after the aquaduct (1801 aquaduct & 1841 viaduct!) to show the supposed ‘supremacy’ of the railways.

Chirk aquaduct and railway bridge

View from the top

But this pales into insignificance when you meander across the Pontcysllte one at 38 meters above the River Dee, opened in 1805. The views from this one were spectacular, and the one side there was no barrier at all. So when you are steering the narrowboat you are actually right on the edge. It didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would until I was trying to go to sleep last night and I suddenly couldn’t stop myself thinking what could have happened, those night-time terrors…

Views from the top

The railway bridge from the top of the aquaduct

We moored up at a place called Trevor Sunday night, and got almost told off again as we moored ‘illegally’ on private moorings that weren’t signposted at all! But it was OK, the one person who was living there said he didn’t mind and so long as we were out of there by 10 in the morning no-one would be any the wiser.

Trevor at the end of the viaduct

Sandra and Trevor (in the background)

Today we’ve cruised to Llangollen in North Wales, following a challenging piece of the canal where there is single lane ‘traffic’ in a couple of parts, and very shallow bits in others. A very pretty run nonetheless, though I wouldn’t be so keen to cruise along in high season; it must take hours to travel the 4 miles from Trevor! It’s rained almost constantly today and I think the forecast is the same tomorrow if not worse. Temperature is now down to less than 10 degrees, and will be around 2 degrees tonight, so we have the central heating on in the boat – quite a luxury coming from NZ where we have just the log burner to rely upon! Llangollen looks like a lovely little place, though I’m sure like anywhere it would look a lot lovelier if the sun was shining instead of the clouds falling down! And we have actually found a local launderette and done a service wash (10 pounds!) - yippee, clean towels, sheets and other things!!!

Some of the 29 ducklings attacking the weed on our boat (no shortage there). They all appear to be with the one mother.

We'll be doing some more exploring of Llangollen tomorrow in the rain…

Friday 24 April 2009

Whitchurch & beyond the internet

Don't think this building would pass the earthquake inspection in Gisborne

Sandra on the internet last night, the only place with coverage at the front of the boat
After a dismal start, today looks like being quite pleasant with the sun poking his head through the clouds every now and again. I walked into Whitchurch this morning in t-shirt, sweatshirt, pashmina, waterproof jacket and gloves and returned in just my t-shirt (the other things being put in my bag not tossed out along the way!). Recent purchases include an electric toaster to save gas (an expensive commodity we have discovered!) and a couple of clothes ariers for the hand washing. Life on the narrowboat is very much back to basics!
We're now setting off from Whitchurch and are unlikely to have any internet coverage for a few days.
I'll attempt to get some photo's of Barry over the next few days as he says his mum is going to be thinking I have done away with him and traded him in for a younger model!!! As if; I wouldn't swop him for the world bless him.
My lovely daughter Lisa should be joining us sometime this weekend which will be fabulous, it's so good to be close to her.
Away we go into Wales, for the next set of adventures including 2 beautiful but apparantly very scary aquaducts...

Thursday 23 April 2009

On our way at last!

Hurrah! We are away at last on our journeys and my cold is improving – man cold indeed! For someone who is rarely unwell and hasn’t had a day off work sick in years, being struck down with painful ears, throat and blocked nose and sinus is not pleasant and yes I have been feeling very sorry for myself!

We don’t have much internet coverage at the moment, out in the sticks of Cheshire on our way into Wales so our blogs may be a little sporadic.

We left Barbridge Marina yesterday; the boat safety man couldn’t get to us until Sunday so we are going to meet with him on the way to Llangollen somewhere. Luckily the boat is already covered until July so it’s not a problem.

A number of locks later and I’m starting to get the hang of them, I got a bit of a ticking off from a British Waterways lock-man after the first few, as I left the last lock gate open because we thought we saw another boat was on its way!

The original plan of Barry doing the locks hasn’t worked out, as that would mean I’d have to steer the boat into the locks and as the first ones were only just wide enough for the boat I decided the locks may be the simpler option! Also I get more exercise this way, so I’m hoping I shall soon be a sliver of the woman I was, lol.

We lost a fender (the things that stop the boat from bouncing on the side of the canals when you moor up) in one of the locks even though we thought we’d put them all out of the way (only just bought them!) and Barry managed to get one of the central mooring ropes chopped off as he skipped off the boat at one stage to get an amazing photo of a bleak landscape and forgot to tie the rope back up after her returned to the boat! He also foolishly wore his jandals while driving initially, and almost lost one when it fell off into the lock - typical man, I’d told him the ‘towpath tips’ book said not to wear jandals (well they said flip flops actually in English speak!) but would he listen…

Talking of skipping off, that’s what he keeps doing on the locks too; he is giving me heart failure! Before the lock has filled up he’s jumping up on the roof of the boat and onto the side to give me a hand, he just can’t help himself!

Last night we moored at a place called Wenbury along the Llangollen canal. Barry went for a sunset walk and got chatting to other boat owners and took some lovely bridge and pub photos. No drinking in the pubs though, I was feeling pretty yuck still so stayed on the boat in the ‘warm’.

Talking of warmth, the weather is sporadically sunny, but mostly overcast and about 16 degrees, typically English really. Barry almost put his shorts on this morning, but soon came to his senses again! We got quite excited earlier by the weather forecast over the next few days being between 21 and 30 degrees until we found we’d put in Shrewsbury in America rather than Shropshire where it is going to be between 13 and 18! Ah well, you can’t have it all.

It’s been our first full day cruising today and we are now moored up at Whitchurch. It’s St George’s Day today so we were hoping for a decent English pub to have a few beers in tonight, but unfortunately the moorings are a 15 minute walk away from the town, so it’ll be beers on the boat and a couple of glasses of wine for me. I can’t recall ever celebrating St George’s Day previously so it’s fine by me. Tomorrow we’ll be heading for Ellesmere.

Overall we are just loving cruising along, making the dream a reality, no rush to be anywhere or do anything, bliss…

Tuesday 21 April 2009

Sick Day

Oh dear

Sandra has a man cold, so isn't up to writing. This may be brief then....
Still here at Barbridge Marina. Had the welding man working on the boat fixing a hole in the gas compartment, and Nigel from marina fixed a couple of minor engine compartment problems. Now just have to get inspector to check it tomorrow then we're off.

View from Pub

Had lunch at Barbridge Inn which is a short walk along the towpath. Put up with Sandra wheezing and grumbling!!! (She didn't want her photo taken)

Took boat for a short trip (about 2 miles) up canal to winding hole (turning point) then back so now facing the right way for tomorrow's exit.

Got New Zealand flag up today (Thanks Deb), so guess people will try and avoid us from now on!

Monday 20 April 2009

Still in the marina...

First night on the boat last night, Barry slept like a log, unfortunately I didn't but hopefully I will get used to feeling like I am sleeping in a floating coffin along with the strange noises that the boat makes. Barry assures me that the canal isn't deep and even if the boat sank we wouldn't be in enough water for it to drown me, I think I may have to invest in an axe under the bed so that I could cut my way out if necessary, but maybe I'm just being overly dramatic as usual!

The hire car has been returned which took up most of my day, so now we've just the narrowboat and public transport to rely on. Unfortunately the welding still hasn't been sorted, so it looks like we are in the marina for another day but hopefully no more. Barry kept himself busy doing more sorting and cleaning and purchasing maps and sundries from the local boating shop. The boat is certainly starting to look like ours now, and happily no longer smells of mothballs.

We had our first visitor for tea, my daughter Lisa came and joined us, how fabulous that we bought a boat so close to her. While she was here we were treated to a bit of a show from 2 of the local swans - they seem very tame and Barry fed them bread from his hand and took some cool shots of them. Last time we were on a narrowboat he fed swans mashed potato off a spoon! Maybe they're not so dangerous after all...

Tomorrow it'll be planting seeds for me, maybe a bit of sketching, enjoying the sunshine, just chilling waiting for the men to weld, it's a tough life...

Sunday 19 April 2009

The dream is finally alive!!

Finally we are on our boat having travelled up from Worcestershire at lunchtime, stopping on the way at Sainsburys for lots of staples (including lots of sugar for you know what!), as our future shopping will be by foot or bus! A rather nice microwave curry and a bottle of Montana Pinot Noir, hurrah we can still get NZ wine! Spookily enough we are moored next to a couple from Australia who are here for 6 months also, unfortuantely their boat has broken down so fingers crossed we don't suffer the same fate...

Our boat didn't quite pass it's BSC (not Bachelor of Science but Boat Safety Certificate), though it only needs a new fire blanket and spot of welding somewhere - Barry can help to sort that out tomorrow while I drive back south to take the hire car back to Birmingham Airport.

Already Barry has banged his head twice (see gash on his forehead!) and set off the burglar alarm, it's gonna take a bit of getting used to living in a hallway!
We've almost unpacked, and cleaned the boat from top to bottom, thankfully discovered the 3 bags of mothballs stragetically placed in the wardrobes and chucked them onto the towpath - what a revolting smell they make, let's hope we won't now be overrun with moths!
Note the nice 'Next cushions, but the chintzy, flowery curtains that really have to go, just need to get some material and someone to run up some curtains for us!
Tuesday we hope to set off for Llangollen hopefully to begin the adventure, who knows what will happen. We may decide after 5 and a half months that we never want to see another narrowboat as long as we live, or we may be so in love with it we never want to leave...

Saturday 18 April 2009

Steaming along

Today, we've been on the Severn Valley Steam train from Kidderminster to Bridgnorth ( Lots of lovely English scenery along the way, with quaint stations well kept by a team of paid and voluntary workers dressed in authentic costumes. Barry took tons of photo's. Here's just a few to show everyone some of the delights of the journey!

Authentic staff at Kidderminster Station
Even more authentic steam train!!
Arley Station

Funnily enough, the bridge at Bridgnorth

Bridgnorth, random but very quaint

Bewdley on the river Severn

Bewdley Town Centre, a little prone to flooding

The weather is certainly changeable here, not sure what the temperature has been, probably around 12 degrees, flipping freezing still! I bought a cheap, cherry red pashmina in Bridgnorth to match the red leather gloves I found for £5 in a sale on Thursday. And there was me thinking I wouldn't need such things, how soon I forget what it's like here - I haven't worn the thermal vest I brought from New Zealand yet, but it may be coming out once we're on the boat! The sun did shine on us this afternoon though. Managed to catch a bit of Morris dancing, then we spent a very pleasant half an hour with a cone of chips, curry sauce and a beer by the river at bewdiful Bewdley.

Sandra and her new scarf
One of the Morris Dancers' musicians

Tonight we'll be packing up ready to head north tomorrow and hopefully take possession of our cosy, compact new home. No news yet from the Finnmaster about the boat safety certificate, so fingers crossed that all's well otherwise I feel there may be a mutiny before we've even boarded!