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 ...

Thursday 10 April 2014

We've finally moved!

Whilst blogging is important to us, we're aware of the need to be very mindful of our time - prioritising our energy towards our boating businesses. It's imperative we start to earn a sustainable income over the next 12 months or we'll be heading back down to the Southern Hemisphere in 2015 with our tails between our legs.

We're both extremely grateful to have you all watching in expectation to see how we progress!

One of the changes we've finally decided to make, after almost five years of allegiance to 'Blogspot', is to change to a new blog on 'Wordpress' specifically for 'Areandare' (and our continuing commitment to the canals of England and Wales).

This blog will remain active, and on the 'Waterways Ranking' site, but we're unlikely to write any more posts once we start there ...

Which is actually from today!

In anticipation of our first trading event at the Spring Market on Saturday, at The Bond, Digbeth, Birmingham, we've 'launched' the new blog.

There's a number of differences and similarities to Blogspot, and it's going to be a learning curve so bear with us and do feel free to comment on the change or anything we post about. It's always good to hear from you all.

Click here for the first post.

Barry steps across the Wolverhampton 21

These photos, from my iPhone, aren't up to Barry's quality, but they tell the story nonetheless.

On Tuesday I took a turn driving through the Wolverhampton 21, giving Barry the opportunity for some fresh air and exercise working the locks.

We were blessed to encounter every single lock in our favour, a rare occurrence! So though we weren't rushing, we did manage to get up the flight very swiftly - especially with Barry confidently stepping across every lock gate without fear or hesitation.

Someone commented about always having a foot or hand on one thing as you do it - Barry can manage it with a foot on each gate - he must have a wide reach!

The bottom of the flight ... 

Intermittent sun and showers during the day - and a mostly straight run

 No problem at all - look at the focus in his face!

 It gets very industrial around here ...

… ducking under the railway lines

The top lock - two hours and forty minutes later

A very pretty BW sign to offset the busy cityscape

My younger daughter Kim and her friend Sean travelled from Brighton and joined us at Cosely, just one train stop from Wolverhampton, for a couple of nights.

More family times - marvellous.

Cosely station - very convenient thank you!

Wednesday 9 April 2014

From a family wedding weekend, to our first festival!

The slow boat lane has been a little crazy and hurried of late.

Last weekend we travelled all the way to Bampton in Devon, obviously not by narrowboat! Enterprise in Cannock collected us from The Fox and Anchor at Cross Green, near Wolverhampton, and we filled in the requisite paperwork for a five-day hire car contract.

It really is a fantastic service for boaters with no other means of transport. The luxury of being picked up and dropped back at your mooring site makes not owning a car only a tiny challenge (and expense) when we have to travel distances.

We collected my elderly parents, and endured the long stretches of blandness on the M5 for two and a half hours. The obligatory service station stop is a must to keep the driver (me) alert, and bladders empty. 

Me and my dad at the service station - sunshine, hurrah!

I find motorways to be such mindless means of transport, packed full of hurried hunks of metal which all too frequently lead to accidental meetings at break-neck speed of said vehicles. I’ve been very fortunate so far not to be involved in a ‘motorway smash’, and fully intend to keep it that way!

It’s one of the reasons I love(d) New Zealand – the only ‘motorways’ are in Auckland, though in a few of the other ‘big’ cities admittedly there are highways. Throughout the remainder of the country the roads are single lane, and generally there’s hardly any traffic, so driving anywhere, for me, was always a dream. 

There were also the most delightful caf├ęs dotted along any route, serving fresh food and gorgeous coffee. Compare that to the motorway service stations of UK, serving ‘fast food’ (gross - I use the word 'food' loosely here) and mass-produced packet sandwiches – no competition. 

To put it into perspective, in Gisborne we had only two sets of traffic lights in the whole city. I know  that having to deal with horrendously packed roads is one of the prices we pay for choosing to be here, living a luscious life on the canals, and being so close to my family.

And what a beautiful family I have, scattered around England, so the rare times that we all congregate in one place are extremely precious. With great-grandchildren now amongst the generations, there are 32 members! So it takes a rather large house to accommodate the clan (how I'd love to have a Marae, a Maori family meeting house, where we could all congregate frequently). 

Sam, my niece who was getting married, and my younger sister Viv, did a sterling job in finding Duvale Priory, where they had a few different barn conversions for the wedding guests to stay. The Walsh family were gathered in one, which was very special.

The Walsh family accommodation on the left

The Walsh sisters - Vivien (mother of the bride), Linda, Sandra and Katherine

Sam and Jack's Humanist ceremony

It was also our grandson’s first birthday on the Friday, meeting all his cousins for the first time.

Returning to the boat on Monday, we didn’t quite time the schedule to fit everything in. I ended up dropping Barry off at The Fox and Anchor, with our bags and shopping (and a pint because it’s only polite when you’re sitting in their beer garden), taking the car back to Cannock, and being dropped back. I got a half pint of lager and took over the bag-sitting, while Barry walked to the boat (we had to moor it away from the 48 hour moorings, so a ten-minute walk), turned it around and moored up.

In the meantime however, the sky decided to empty itself on us in a deluge that soaked us to the skin. Barry’s Goretex waterproof was in one of the bags by my side, and whilst I had mine on, it didn’t cover my legs, which had only a leather coat for protection. The towpath quickly became a muddy stream.

I sat by the side of the canal, drenched and dismal, thinking “what on earth am I doing living on a boat?

At least it wasn’t too cold – though we did need to undress completely and change into dry clothes as soon as possible.

Our First Festival

Now we’re on our way to the first trading festival of The Home Brew Boat, at The Spring Market, The Bond, Digbeth, Birmingham. It’s on Saturday 12th April, from 12 midday to 6pm. We’re very aware it’s going to be a work in progress discovering the vagaries of towpath/canal-side selling.

Do come along if you're in the area. Our fabulous friends Helen and Andy will be there too, selling their 'Wild Side' Jams and chutneys as well as another 60 or so traders.

Exciting times ahead!

Tuesday 1 April 2014

Catching up - more steps and more power!

We're fast forwarding 13 days from our last published location, to get the blog up to date. To be fair, we've not travelled far from Market Drayton during that period, for various of reasons.

Last week I spent a few days on land in London with my eldest sister - staying in a four-star hotel near Regents Park. A luxurious temporary contrast to living in a confined space! We even had a bath in the room. Bliss! Conversely, witnessing hoards of people speeding around in their everyday busyness, reminded me once more why we've chosen to live slowly on a narrowboat.

Piccadilly Circus at night - busy, busy

Then on Sunday I left Barry again - to join my three sisters for lunch, and spend 24 hours with my mum and dad for Mother's Day, and my father's 94th birthday. Wow! Parents still living, together, and mostly healthy and happy. Miraculous.

Family celebration of a Sunday carvery, at The Leaking Well, Dunhampton

Barry gives the impression he loves being left alone occasionally, and manages perfectly fine without me - well apart from the kitchen/cooking challenge! I believe it's healthy to spend time apart. Living  together 24/7, however much you love someone, has its frustrations and challenges. The theory is we'll appreciate each other more too.

We're currently in Penkridge, having spent time moored at Cheswardine, Norbury Junction, Wheaton Aston, Brewood, Coven and Acton Trussell.

Here's a pictorial representation of our journey, with accompanying captions from Barry (as most of these journeys I've been 'working' indoors, or locking) ...

The wharf at Market Drayton

The happiest fishermen we've seen for a while!

Tyrley Locks looking a bit bare without all the foliage

Sandra taking it in her stride

Interesting to see cut hay this early in the season

Tyrley Top Lock

Through Woodseaves Cutting and the first of the high bridges, No 58 'Holling's Bridge'

Then 'High Bridge' with a fallen tree across the cutting

The winds and storms have done some damage to the trees through here

CRT workers were busy clearing it up and offered us as much wood as we wanted

It's an impressive cutting considering it was all done by hand

'The Wharf' tavern at Cheswardine, our mooring for a night

The sun came out in the morning making for very pleasant cruising

An old stable at Fox Bridge near Little Soudley

Past Cadbury Wharf at Knighton

Across the almost mile-long Shebdon Embankment (I guess this is where all the spoil came to from the cuttings)

The Anchor at High Offley, where we were recommended to visit - sadly we were a bit early and they were closed, next time we'll time it better!

Through Grub Street Cutting ...

… and under the famous High Bridge (yes, there's more than one called 'High Bridge'!) ...

… and another mooring at Norbury Junction

They were about to lighten our bank account considerably here!

So close to you Sue and Vic - another time …

As you can see, I managed some more stepping-over the lock gates - but admittedly I've also found myself unable to on another day. So I'm just going to play it by ear and not be too hard on myself. I know I CAN, and I'm fine if at times I can't, for whatever reason.

We were sad not to meet up with Sue and Vic from No Problem whilst at Norbury Junction, as they'd left their boat for the weekend. We haven't seen them since 2010 - maybe this year sometime?

The remainder of the canal arm to Newport, though it's currently under restoration

A panorama shot as we left Norbury the next morning

Travelling through Gnosall Heath

The picturesque canal-side Boat Inn

A very slow passage through Gnosall as there was a fishing competition stretched from one end of town to the other

Under the short Cowley Tunnel (81yds)

More high bridges unique to the Shropshire Union Canal (though they're not all called 'High Bridge'!)

We had a few days of no internet signal - so took the opportunity to watch the remaining episodes of Homelands Series One on the DVDs Helen and Andy had lent us. Goodness, that's gripping drama isn't it? We're hoping they have series two waiting for us …

We're still on the 'Fast diet', though with me being away, and we've both had a bit of a cold, it's gone down to one day a week for a couple of weeks. But that's okay.

Daylight saving has been and gone, so the nights are increasingly lighter and longer. The weather is definitely milder, and there's a definite promise of sunshine and blue skies - mostly! The trees are sprouting their vibrant new growth, daffodils are blooming their yellowness all along the towpaths, and the birds are tweeting away merrily.

Sadly the midges are also waking up as the temperature increases, and pestering us from time-to-time!

More power

Whilst at Norbury Junction, we decided to bite the bullet and buy new batteries. When we purchased Areandare almost 12 months ago, the previous owner had purchased one new-ish battery out of five. But their power, on the cut, just wasn't lasting. It's likely the 'new' one wouldn't have enough power to support the others. We figure that having to have the engine on so much to boost the batteries, when we're not moving, costs in diesel. So new ones should pay for themselves over a period of time. At least that's the theory ...

Barry managed to work it out so we have six domestic batteries now, which is even better. Since then, we haven't heard the alarm going off in the evening to say the power's run out.

So now we're up to date - hurrah!

Happy April everyone - one quarter of the way through 2014 already - amazing.