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 ...

Monday, 31 March 2014

Lock gate step-over disclaimer!

You have to be a little cautious when putting your words out into the world.

And I know this.

Every so often I write something that touches a nerve for someone, and yesterday's post was one of those.

While writing the story I recall thinking it would be a good idea to write some sort of disclaimer - I didn't want people to start stepping over lock gates willy nilly and then coming back and suggesting it was all my fault for encouraging such foolishness if something went awry!

But I forgot.

So thank you Martin, for commenting, and raising awareness of the fact that actually, the step-over, if you don't make it to the other side, can indeed be catastrophic. My imaginary 'catastrophising' was not out of context! Luckily when his wife didn't make it, she didn't damage herself too much - and it didn't stop her from boating in the future (but then they're 'can-do kiwis', whose resilience never fails to amaze me).

Whether you step-over the lock gates, or walk around the other end each time, is entirely your choice and responsibility - but you all know this of course ;-)

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Stepping confidently over lock gates - when you think you can ...

You must know the saying by Henry Ford? "Whether you think you can, or think you can't, you're right."?

Well last Wednesday I proved it's correct - once again.

Many (I'd go as far as to say most) things we do, or don't do in life, depend on your chosen or conditioned mind-set. We can look at life as a struggle, and see the world as a 'scary place' (especially if you read the newspapers too much or watch the TV/news!). Or we can make a commitment to perceive it as an amazing adventure.

Often challenging, occasionally painful, usually interesting, frequently fulfilling and wrapped in wonder.

I'd decided to 'let' Barry off the stern to do a few locks - well we did have 17 to ascend to get to Market Drayton!

Knowing how Barry likes to step over the one open lock gate, rather than walk all the way around the opposite ones, to open the paired one (are you still with me?!), that morning my mind began playing all sorts of silly tricks on me.

I saw this picture of Barry stepping over the gate, but missing or slipping and ending up dropping with a splash into the canal below. He'd likely be holding his camera (where it normally resides when he's locking!), and didn't quite balance well enough.

The next scene in my made-up mind-movie was Areandare moving towards him, me trying with all my might to reverse or stop her, but not being able to and driving right over him.

Talk about catastrophising! (I know, it's not a word, but I think it should be!).

We laughed about it, but I knew it was something I'd feared in the past, which was why it was coming back to haunt me.

Sure enough, at every lock Barry gaily and confidently stepped across the gates. It certainly saves time. I just averted my gaze and focussed on the steering which was a challenge at times in the narrow locks, but I didn't scrape the new bottom too much ...

The lovely lock-side cottage in Audlem

Oo-er Sandra, you're a bit close to the side there (they're rather a snug fit along here)

Lining up for the lock - with the pressure of the side overflows, you have to over compensate. Not as easy as it looks ...

An arty shot!

Some of the locks are very close together - and I had to pass other boats mid-way between which was interesting!

No problem - though why is he looking at me in amazement? Is it because women are rarely at the tiller? Or is he eyeing up Barry's top boxes?

A training boat along the route - an ideal place to learn the intricacies of locking!

And another one safely passed

Evidence of bygone days - markings under bridges from ropes attached to the horses, which used to pull the working boats along the cut

Almost time to swap roles ...

Yet another half dosey doe (for the barn dancers amongst you!)

Another female in charge of the driving - good to see

Just enough room for a 'narrow' boat!

There's a lotta locks Cilla!

Having some fun in the water

Yet another lock - but who'd complain when you're out in the countryside seeing sights like this?

And this - home baking to tempt worn out boaters at the lock-side - Barry had a sample but we rested temptation to purchase (as we already had some ginger cake on board!)

After the first 11 locks were completed, I'd had enough of standing still at the back of the boat, so suggested a swap. 

I'd sort of gingerly attempted the 'step across' last year, but hadn't felt terribly enamoured at the prospect, and my fearful thoughts scared me out of it.  This time I'd decided it couldn't really be that difficult. Could it?

So on the first lock, safely out of Barry's view behind a bridge, I stepped onto the walking platform of the open lock gate. Looking over at the other platform, it suddenly didn't seem too far. So I said to myself loudly "Yes you can, yes you can, yes you can!" And yes, you've guessed it - I DID IT! Barry was right (he generally is!), it was just a step. A big step admittedly, but definitely a step and not a jump.

It wasn't a one-off, I did it a few more times, just to prove to myself I could.

Oh, and Barry caught me on camera on the third lock step while I wasn't looking …

One small step for Sandra ...

But a giant leap for womankind!

We arrived at Market Drayton in the early evening, 17 locks completed, of which I displayed my fearlessness 7 times!

One of the five Adderley locks 

A calm and peaceful canal - reflections from a line of moored boats

Someone loves their Susan

Waterside developments at Market Drayton

Safely moored up for the night, Wednesday 19th March, after hours of driving to travel six miles!

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Milling around the dead centre of Audlem - and the best chips!

It's 11 days now since we were in Audlem, but I've only just got the rest of the photos from Barry of our walk into the village!

They're so impressive, showcasing such a smashing canal side Shropshire venue, I felt we had to share them with you.

Right next to The Shroppie Fly is Audlem Mill, where you'll find an immense selection of crafts to suit most tastes - rag rugging kits, knitting needles and wool, embroidery, and an array of canal-related literature.

The impressive building of Audlem Mill

We visited the Mill during our first boating trip in 2009, and I purchased a cross-stitch 'lace plate' for those idle evenings of quietness (which surprisingly are few and far between!). 

Admittedly I completed most of it during that trip, but now, almost five years later, I've yet to finish it! As you can see below, the interesting part is done, it's the beige around the outside and the pattern on the edges that has ground my motivation to a standstill!

One day, I hope, I'll commit the time to finishing and framing it!

Barry nipped across the water to shoot another angle of the Shroppie Fly - and fortuitously captured a boat passing by which adds to the ambience ...

And we popped briefly into the bar again - not for a drink mind you, but to get a photo of the BCN butty bar ...

The church is set on a slight hill. We've never ventured inside for some reason, maybe it's pleasant enough just gazing at it's exterior? And what a pleasure it'd be to wait for a bus here - shelter, seating and sufficient waste bins to keep the village smart.

Last time we were in Audlem we'd been recommended to visit The Bridge Inn for their apparently outstanding fish and chips. They were indeed delicious, though the mushy peas didn't go down so well!

On this occasion we'd been told there was now an amazing fish and chip shop at the top end of the village - 'The Village Chippy'. After a stroll around the nearby graveyard, we thought it'd be rude not to check out the chips - and we weren't disappointed. They were quite possibly the best we've had in England.

Thanks George and Ali!

A very well-kept graveyard. In the distance you can see the canal - this'd be a great spot for Barry to rest in peace at some (very) distant point in the future!

To end the current Audlem posts, here's a few more angles of the famous pub and Mill ...

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Meandering to Audlem - festina lente

Last time we meandered along this route in 2009, we felt ourselves rushing through, on a mission to meet up with Barry's daughter Jamie. We'd only been on the canals for a month, after buying Northern Pride and experiencing the Llangollen Canal for our first 'live-aboard' journey. And we hadn't quite got the hang of taking it slowly and understanding that meeting people by predicting where you'd be on a certain day in the future, wasn't as simple as it sounded!

I recall feeling that sense of needing to speed up to get somewhere fast - then having a sudden flash of realisation - by doing so we'd totally negated the reason we were on a narrowboat. The idea is it's the fastest way to slow down, to marvel and be inspired by the time you have at our disposal to smell the roses, to have oodles of time to stand and stare. Otherwise, what's the point? You may as well be in a car, rushing here and there with blinkers on, looking straight ahead!

For this experience of the Shroppie, we made a completely conscious choice to really take the chance to relish being on one of the most rural routes on the network. We did have to be somewhere my sister can pick me up from by Sunday (and as you're reading this on said Sunday, I can report we got there just fine), and then Barry needs to get to a location I can get public transport back to the boat the following Thursday. But neither of those places were far away.

So we do have a bit of a schedule, but it's a loose one.

Until Saturday 12th April of course, which is our first ever trading festival at The Spring Market in Birmingham. If you're in the area, do come and see us! We can't promise we'll be able to chat much, depending on the number of customers we have, but we'll certainly do our best to be convivial.

Festina lente (make haste slowly) is definitely a vital component of our agenda, but we do also do to earn a living. There'll be times when we must go at a faster pace - and we're ok with that.

A bolt from the blue on the journey!

A vision of calm and serenity

A scene of timelessness on the waterways

Single locks now


We wanted to stay overnight in Audlem, and go inside the famous 'Shroppie Fly', and were pleasantly surprised to find moorings between the Audlem flight of locks, just a few yards from said establishment.

A hire boater moored next to us chatted to Barry, regaling tales of food shortages from the pub - among other things, they'd run out of burgers and chips apparently! That wouldn't encourage you to spend your money if you'd been locking all day and been looking forward to such a meal.

We rarely eat out, so it wasn't a problem for us. After dinner though, we went for a drink in the hope of meeting other boaters and chatting amiably about the historic building.

 The Shroppie Fly - approaching and then safely moored for the night

We were out of luck. The only other customers were a couple of local young men, who seemed to have an exuberant relationship with the very attractive and friendly blonde barmaid. Definitely not looking to hold a conversation with a couple of old boaters - apart from discussing the extortionate price of a blackcurrant cider and lager mix!

Ah well, it was a Tuesday night after all. Most establishments are quiet early in the week. Lunchtimes are the busiest period we were reliably informed, as passing trade takes a break after descending the previous eleven locks, or before tackling the ascent!

They had the latest copy of Waterways World available, and a Daily Mail - so we sat like a couple of old codgers drinking our pints (mine was a mango and raspberry cider, I'm not keen on beer) and reading. To be honest, we rarely do such a thing so it was a real treat. Though once we'd read much of the bad news in the paper, we remembered why we avoid them …

We hadn't realised the pub had recently re-opened after a refurbishment. There was a couple of letters in the WW about it which was fortuitous. One was of interest discussing the sad loss of previous memorabilia:

"… Measham teapots, lace plates, brasses, narrowboat fittings, etc, were subsequently sold as the business went through various financial traumas …" And:
"… a rare wall-size, original, historic waterway map, reputed to have belonged to Thomas Telford …"

The interior now contains bright and modern furnishings, though with some interesting photography by a local professional. And luckily they saw fit to retain the front of BCN 'Joey' boat at the bar, which lends it an air of authenticity.

With lots of tables outside, it must be veritably buzzing during high season here. We wish the new owners good luck with their venture.

The next morning we took the opportunity to experience the beauty of Audlem once again, it's such a pretty little village ..

The delightful St James Church, Audlem, dating from the 13th century

Audlum cemetery, what a majestic entranceway 

An array of patterns and colours - beautiful