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 ...

Saturday 30 October 2010

To the end of the Stort

... and almost the end of our time here in UK for 2010.  We took the car back to Enterprise Northampton this morning - what a fabulous service they provide, well recommended.  They collected us from the boat last week and today took us to the train station.  Driving on the roads in England amongst the madness and mayhem wasn't the best of experiences though, give us the slow pace of the canals, and the camaraderie of the boaters and walkers any day!

Gosh, we're now ridiculously behind with the blog, there's always an unbelievable amount of things to do in the transition from one life to another - here's some more of our journey along the Lee and Stort ...

Monday 20 September
We left Roydon mid-morning heading to Bishops Stortford, at the end of the river Stort, where there's a supermarket for some much needed supplies after leaving the boys alone for a couple of days!  All was quiet on the river, with hardly any boats or walkers about; a most peaceful idyll.  It was certainly a different feeling to when I was last on board at Tottenham Hale! 

We won't be able to stay long on this stretch as we have to be back close to the centre of London by Friday 24 September, as all four of our children will be gathering together for one amazing night on board Northern Pride on Saturday - it'll be a tight squeeze with six people on a 2+2 berth narrowboat! 


  First lock of the day at Roydon and Sandra was straight back into action after her time off 

P1370276  There appears to be a great range of services available at the lock cottage 


Not sure why Roydon Lock have a life ring from Enfield?


 The old mill at Parndon Lock ...


... makes a very attractive scene with boats moored nearby 

During the day we had a phone call from Barry's friend Freddie, who lives in Sheffield, to say that he's coming to London for a work meeting on Thursday and so he hopes to be able to get a train to the boat that evening, and stay till Friday evening.  Freddie's always very flexible so we're sure it'll be possible to find a way to meet up. 

We managed 15 locks and 11 miles of travelling today.  Although it sounds a lot, the locks along here are quite easy to work, and because it's a river we were informed we need to keep the gates open when we leave each time, whether ascending or descending, and fortuitously most of them were in our favour today which cuts down the workload considerably. 


 Tom did his fair share of locks - this being Burnt Mill Lock with automatic bottom gates


There's plentiful wildlife around here too, so the day was filled with sights of different ducks, dazzling dragonflies and the occasional Kingfisher diving in and out of sight - awesome (it's not the best shot - sadly it's a bit blurry, but they're so challenging to photograph!)




Amazing large stone sculptures along the side of the lock 

P1370316 We came to a standstill with BW workers setting up a debris controller around a burnt out boat


Not much of this cruiser was left which left the owner with serious burns according to the news


 Sandra and Tom maintain control while Barry calls takes the shots


 A tranquil day out for some elderly/disabled folk


Lovely canal side property


 No trouble for Tom to negotiate the lock gates, confident and casual just like his dad ...


... no fear either way


The unusual shaped Little Hallingbury Mill near Tednambury Lock - built around 1874 as a flour mill, it was used until 1952 and restored in 1967






The impressive Twyford Lock seems to dwarf poor little Northern Pride









 Another of the day's locks - such a beautiful setting

We arrived at Bishop's Stortford around 1800hrs, tied up and walked a short distance to the large Sainsbury's to stock up on groceries.  Barry and Tom dropped me off there (why do I get all the boring jobs?!), while they had a quick walk around the town before coming back to help carry the bags.


  The ancient Boars Head Pub, Bishop Stortford













 St Michael's Church and some high street shops P1370379A

An old building in the town, now the frontage for a chartered accountant

Back on board, we had dinner and then taught Tom how to play a Walsh family card game called 'Predictions', ready for the coming weekend so that he'd know how to play and wouldn't too disadvantaged - he soon picked up the rules and thrashed us both, lol! 

The moorings in Bishop's Stortford around the Wharf area are well-maintained with modern apartment blocks overlooking the river, but it wasn't the quietist of places to be and was very noisy at night time.  It wasn't enough to keep us awake too late, though Tom did insist on another round of cards before retiring ...

Thursday 28 October 2010

Farewell and thank you Northern Pride

It's been a busy couple of weeks as we come to the end of our travels aboard Northern Pride.  Barry has finished some painting in the bow and she looks much happier (and a bit shiny!), and today we've taken off the last of our belongings and cleaned her from top to bottom.  She's all ready for a new owner to come and take possession.

We decided to hand her over into the capable hands of Blisworth Marina, and 'The New and Used Boat Company', having heard very favourable reports about them.  So hopefully her details will be on their website in the very near future.

We feel so fortunate to have had two summers of travelling around the canals and rivers of England and Wales over the past two years, so, although it's sad to part with her, we're just grateful to have had the amazing experiences we've had, seen the places we've seen, and met some fabulous people.

We'll finish the blog of our journeys over the coming weeks, it'll be bizarre writing about it but in a way will keep us in touch for a little while longer.

I'm sure we'll be back on the canals at some point in the future ...

In the meantime, we may partake of a drink or two tonight to celebrate/commiserate!

Tuesday 26 October 2010

A Walsh weekend away in Walkford

Don't panic, we haven't left the country yet!  We've just returned from a wonderful family weekend in the New Forest, all 29 of us from four generations, so as you can imagine it was bedlam; but a lovely, lots of fun type of madness!

Barry returns to Northern Pride this morning, she's (hopefully) moored somewhere near Blisworth bless her.  I shall remain at my parents house until I collect him on Thursday, and say goodbye to her then.  We'll be handing her over to a Marina at that point to handle the sale for us, sadly we've not been overrun with people wanting to buy her, but then we knew that the time of year wasn't the best for selling a narrowboat and are hopeful that she'll sell in the not too distant future - how could anyone resist such a gorgeous boat?

We fly back to New Zealand from Birmingham airport, just after 8pm on Sunday 31 October - there may be a few broomsticks to negotiate along the way!  We have another stopover in Sydney with Barry's brother for a couple of days, arriving back in Gisborne on Bonfire Night, 5 November, so there'll be fireworks at the welcome home party.

We will finish the blog, so please keep reading - we've another four weeks (and more) to catch up on, so don't go away just yet ...

Thursday 21 October 2010

Further up the Lee and Stort and Sandra returns to the boat

We reached Stoke Bruene yesterday, today we're heading through Blisworth Tunnel and collecting a hire car to begin taking our belongings off the boat - it's very sad ...

Sunday 19 September 

Barry & Tom ...

Feeling somewhat better today, it was a case of moving up the canal to somewhere Sandra could get to on the train this evening. 

P1370220 Pete leads the way through Waltham Common Lock




... and again manages to persuade some passers-by to help with the work







There were lots of families out and about - a very popular walking area




P1370226 Through Chestnut Lock

P1370233 Carthagena Lock with the footbridge covered in potted plants - though they were a little past their prime




We even tied together and did a couple of locks





P1370239 Dobbs Weir Lock and Pete who'd picked up a couple of helpers and their bikes for a short ride up the canal

P1370243 Sunday afternoon and a big crowd at 'The Fish and Eels' pub at Dobb's Weir


The last lock before turning up the 'Stort Navigation' arm towards Bishop Stortford








Now for some strange reason, locks on the Stort are only 13' wide therefore you can't get two narrowboats in side by side - luckily we had enough room one behind the other to fit!


P1370253 This quaint little lock cottage is on the market - a fairly hefty price tag, but comes with a bit of land and several boat moorings

We moored at Roydon as it was close to the railway station for Sandra to get to. On coming into the mooring there was a small jetty which I nudged up to for Tom to jump off.  However as he stepped onto one end, the whole thing collapsed almost putting him into the canal! He got a shoe wet, so we're not sure if that counts as our first (and hopefully only) 'man overboard' on Northern Pride?

Tom and I then went for a walk into Roydon for a look around and a quick pint at 'The White Hart'.

P1370263 The local church/grave yard

P1370261A Quaint little house in the village

P1370269 The old railway station has been converted into 'Franco's, an Italian Restaurant

P1370266A Must have been a lovely old wooden station

Sandra arrived back in Roydon at 2124hrs (and thankfully Barry made it in time to meet her!).  She'd booked to be back in Euston for 2225hrs, but Barry had called to say there were no trains to Roydon from Tottenham Hale Station at that time on a Sunday evening, which was the only place she could get to from Euston, so had to re-book a ticket and paid again about £36 - so it wasn't such a cheap weekend after all!  It had only cost £13 return when booked in advance!

Ah well, such is life.  Tomorrow we'll leave Pete behind and head to the end of the Stort - Bishop's Stortford ...

Monday 18 October 2010

An explosive day at Royal Gunpowder Mills

We reached Milton Keynes on Sunday night and stayed moored up while we did a bit of boat work and sorting and packing on Monday; not long left on the boat now ...

Saturday 18 September

Barry and Tom ...

It was a bit of a late start this morning, getting close to 11am before emerging into a bright and sunny day. Pete hadn't long been up and was going for a bike ride, so Tom and I made the decision to go to the 'Royal Gunpowder Mills' at Waltham Abbey. We'd been past a sign last night that said it was free entry, but on getting there we found it was £7.50 each. Not sure now what we'd been reading.

The gunpowder mills have been on this site for 300 years, owned and controlled by the government who bought it from a private gunpowder supplier. Apparently privately supplied gunpowder wasn't reliable enough to kill all the indigenous people of the conquered colonial countries, so the military got involved and purchased it in 1787. The site has been 'Top Secret' and closed to the public since. From the 1850s on it was used to develop nitro based explosives and rocket propellants.

During the first world war they had a staff of 6230, mostly local women, they were more expendable who tended to be more efficient and careful with handling armaments.

During the second world war it was used to develop the explosive RDX used in 'The Bouncing Bomb' which destroyed the hydro dams in the Ruhr Valley by 'The Dam Busters'.

Once inside the grounds some old lady gave us a hard sell on the 'Land Train' trip around the park for £2 each, and as we had very little resistance left (after last night's frivolities!) handed over the cash. The grounds and buildings around the site are very overgrown and derelict looking, though with the help of the commentator we could visualise what it was all about.

The interesting thing is that all the explosives, etc, were transported around the site by canals on special barges. Being extremely dangerous, the gunpowder needed a calmer form of transport.

A lot of the tools and equipment used were made out of brass to stop any sparks. The employees were checked each day on arrival for anything that might cause an ignition, and had to wear wooden clogs and special clothing that wouldn't cause static electricity. 


 The unusual foot bridges over the canal - you weren't allowed on the bridge if a boat was coming under because of the possibility of sparks or dropping something on it











 One of the restored gunpowder barges, and a model of the system


Part of the canal system for The Gunpowder Mill. Not sure how this all works or what it did! It doesn't look like a lock setup








 A later form of transporting - I'd have thought a coal fired engine would have been a No No!


 There's a varied array of buildings scattered around the site


At 175 acres it covers quite an area - they didn't want gunpowder production areas too close together in case one blew up and took out others


The gunpowder pressing building - the blast walls between sections was in case of an explosion it wouldn't blow out into the other side










 The local railway enthusiasts have restored this little engine


Not sure what these building were, but they looked highly secretive















 Still bits of the canal in water, and the bridges are surprisingly in good condition





Some of the research buildings and one of the many fire alarm points around the site








Tom and I had thought we'd seen everything and were the last people left in the museum when the curator said we had to leave. Tom had been looking forward to seeing some Lee Enfield rifles as I'd told him they came from this area, and so we asked this bloke where we could find them. He looked at us puzzled and said "Didn't you see our collection?". He told us to make our way to the main building and he'd meet us there. On opening the room Tom's eyes lit up, the room was full of guns of all shapes and sizes. The curator said we've got about 15 minutes while he continued locking the rest of the complex up.

The collection is vast and all belonged to one collector who'd loaned it to the museum because his wife had had enough of them all around the house. As this was his retirement fund, when the time came the museum bought the lot. The curator said the bloke has now started collecting more guns.


 What a great collection from all parts of the world


Rambo! Not quite, just Tom posing with a Bren gun

After being tossed out it was a short walk back to the boat, dinner and a quiet night. Pete wasn't up for much either, so nothing more to report!

 Meanwhile, Sandra went to a friend's 50th birthday party ...

... which was sort of a surprise, but Mandy had had an inkling that something was going on - you don't reach the age of 50 without being intuitive enough to pick up clues from friends and family trying very hard to evade the truth!  I've known Mandy and her family since I was five years old when we moved to Walmley, Sutton Coldfield - 46 years to be precise!  She now lives in Edinburgh and I live in New Zealand, so it's always wonderful to get together on rare occasions, and of course all my sisters came to the celebration too - awesome ...

IMG_1525 Viv, Kath, Mandy, Sandra & Linda


I think these are crocus flowers