the voyage of friendship – early days

the voyage of friendship

early days

Hello friends and family.  

Ewan, Bunty (our puppy) and I left Newbury on Friday morning  aboard Therapy, the narrowboat that will be home for me for the  next 3 months.

Sally and Ewan Kershaw                  Bunty tiny Jack Russell puppy

Jenny and her family joined us at Thatcham in time  for lunch and we continued through to Midgham.  

Waking up next morning I realised I'd left my purse in the pub where I'd joined the youth work team for a Christmas meal on Thursday evening. By some coincidence we were only a mile or so away and I  was able to take my bike from the roof of the boat and go to collect it- relief!  

Rhona and Andy joined us at Woolhampton where they quickly  learned locks and took over the windlasses (or winder things, as Rhona called them). We moored up at Theale where I jumped on my  bike again to meet my YOT colleagues for another Christmas meal -  again it was conveniently close by great coincidence.  

On Sunday we made great progress through Reading, with the surreal experience of cruising right through the Oracle centre on a  busy Christmas shopping day.  

And then out onto the Thames and turn left towards Oxford. Going from the little canal to the big wide river was exciting (and colder),  but the locks easier as they are electronic.  

Dave Wraight and his lovely family joined us from Mapledurham to Pangbourne. The children were a little reticent to start with but then  really enjoyed  themselves. Dave used the trusty bike from the roof  of the boat to collect his car and pick them up later. You can join this trip for a very short time, just 1 lock or stay for a while.  

At dusk we moored in a sheltered spot by the trees and I said  goodbye to Ewan, Rhona and Andy. Thanks for all your help.  

Today, Sue, Joe and their little ones will join me, hoping to get to Wallingford. We hope Hannah will meet us later too.  

The adventure has started and I look forward to seeing you further  on.

Sally

albion adventure

albion adventure

I was very happy to attend the MNA Boat Club AGM in September 2022 at the little Norfolk Broads village of Neatishead. The following day I was able to take part in an event associated with the AGM – a day out on the Broads on the ‘Albion’.

Wherry Albion

The wherry 'Albion'

The ‘Albion’ is one of two surviving Norfolk Wherries, and the only one currently sailing. She is owned and operated by the Norfolk Wherry Trust who purchased her in 1949 in order to preserve her as an example of the Norfolk Wherry, the sailing barges who served the Norfolk Broads and were specifically adapted to the conditions prevailing there.

‘Albion’ is now 125 years old; some 65 feet overall and able to carry up to 40 tons of cargo. She is maintained in first class condition by the Trust and is operated by a team of volunteers and is funded mainly by passenger charters, one of which I joined.

I joined her at the Trust base at Womack near Ludham with some other Boat Club members – fortunately my Sat-Nav was able to find the location - and after a safety briefing and issue of lifejackets the ‘Albion’ got under way. We left our jackets etc. in the hold as it looked as though we were in for a warm shirt sleeves rig day, the hold also contains a toilet and a cooker and plenty of seating.

‘Albion’ is berthed in a little dock on the River Thurne. She has no engine but power is supplied by a dinghy with an outboard lashed to one quarter with a fender between. The outboard is usually operated by the Mate, who jumps into the dinghy to change the throttle setting when required. Security is maintained by a red safety line attached to the ‘Kill Cord’ and fastened on Albion’s quarter.

We set off down the River Thurne with this method and set the sail.

Perhaps a word about the ‘Albion’s unique rig might be useful at this point. The mast is unstayed, apart from a forestay, there is no other ‘Standing Rigging’. The mast is therefore a very substantial spar. It is stepped in an equally substantial Tabernacle at the fore end of the hatch and the foot is furnished with a very substantial counterweight, which rises up through the foredeck via a hatchway when the mast is lowered, by slackening the forestay purchase. The single sail is suspended from a very substantial gaff, which extends the sail such that the leach is practically vertical.

The halyard system is unique to the Norfolk Wherry. All other vessels with gaff sails have two sets of halyards, one for the Throat and one for the Peak. The wherry has one halyard which leads up from the deck through a double block at the mast head, through a single block at the throat of the gaff, back to the masthead block, down to a block with a span attached to a couple of points on the gaff, and leads up to and is finally made fast to the masthead block. The sail is then hoisted by the halyard led to a geared winch at the fore side of the mast. The sail was actually hoisted on this occasion by myself and another Boat Club member, and it was not a very heavy job.

We sailed down the Thurne and then ascended the river Bure. The conditions were a mainly cloudy day with light winds, often diminished and diverted by vegetation on the banks and thus we were able to experience every point of sailing many times, and in rapid succession! ‘Albion’ tacked and gybed as necessary with little fuss, assisted by the dinghy outboard when necessary, the throttle operated by the Mate who jumped into the dinghy from his normal position by the little knee-high ‘cockpit’ at the after end of the hatch from where he also tended the mainsheet, cleated on the after end of the coaming, where necessary.

We arrived at Horning which was our lunch stop, and where some of the passengers departed and our MNA President, Vivien Foster OBE, joined us for the return trip. I had elected to stay on board ‘Albion’ for the whole day as being a unique experience, not to be missed. I was offered a spell at the helm which I enthusiastically accepted. She is steered by a very large rudder, some six feet in length, which is controlled by a substantial tiller operated from the little knee-high cockpit which also leads by a further step down into a little cuddy, crew accommodation when she was working. The only helm order I was given was ‘Keep her in the middle’, which I endeavoured to do. Not surprisingly she takes a little while to respond to her helm, and a bit of anticipation as to when to take helm off is required, she certainly is not hard to steer in those conditions.

We noticed some black rain clouds creeping across the Broads to one side of us but thought that they would probably pass astern, so we continued to sail in our shirt-sleeve rig. Most other traffic has given us right-of-way up to this point, indeed the Skipper had told us that we had precedence over most other traffic on the Broads. However, at this moment a charter sailing yacht crossed our bows and then tacked back, putting her on a collision course.

The Skipper ordered the helm over and told the Mate to let go the Mainsheet to depower the sail. As she started to respond we were suddenly engulfed in a heavy rainstorm with a heavy gust of wind; with which, with the helm already over and the mainsail running out to right-angles, ‘Albion’ headed for the reeds along the bank, where she remained pressed to the bank.

The mainsheet continued to run out and unrove and the sail, with no Standing Rigging to inhibit it, continued around to the fore side of the mast. The downpour continued and all hands, including Vivien our President sitting on the foredeck, were drenched to the skin by this time!
The Skipper suggested that I step into the Cuddy, I don’t think that this was in consideration for my welfare, because as well as himself and the Mate there was also a Trainee Skipper and a Trainee Mate on board and I am sure that he decided that he needed experienced hands at a time like that. I might therefore be slightly adrift as to the sequence of events following.

the Wherry 'Albion'

Norfolk Wherry 'Albion'

The squall had eased and the first task was to re-reeve the mainsheet and get the sail back abaft the mast, the sail was then lowered onto the deck and the task of getting her off the bank was commenced. This was accomplished by the use of the dinghy with its outboard and the use of the ‘Quants’; long poles with a fork on the bottom and a shoulder button on the top used to pole the vessel in the way that a punt is propelled by punt poles.

Once ‘Albion’ was under way, with propulsion provided by the dinghy, it was noticed that there were lightning flashes visible close by. Standing Orders are that in the event of lightning, the mast is to be lowered, so the forestay purchase was slackened off and down came the mast to join the gaff and sail on top of the hatch.

It was then time to get below and remove my sodden shirt. A kind member of the crew kindly loaned me a dry tee shirt to wear under my waterproof jacket, now perhaps a bit superfluous! When I returned it when we docked, it was sopping wet below the waist where it had been in contact with my wet trousers!

I did have the temerity to ask the Skipper, trying not to teach granny to suck eggs, whether it would not be useful to have a figure-of-eight knot on the end of the Mainsheet. He replied that they had given some consideration to this very point and had decided that; in the event of having to let go the mainsheet for any reason, it was better for the sail, unencumbered by any Standing Rigging, to go forward of the mast to de-power it. I have to admit that this made good sense.

Thus we returned under power to our dock, where we helped to turn her and back her in to her usual berth. So ended a very interesting and enjoyable day, enlivened by a bit of excitement!

I was most interested to learn more about this unique sailing craft, evolved to satisfy the local conditions on the Broads which I had only read about before. I knew something about the evolution, equipment and handling of the other classic British sailing barge, the Thames ‘Spritty’, of which there are many surviving still, but I can only applaud the efforts of the Norfolk Wherry Trust in maintaining and operating this almost unique example – there is another partly restored privately owned wherry in the Trust’s dock, but she is not rigged at present.

AGMs are boring aren’t they?

AGMs are boring aren't they?

unless you are with the MNA boat club!

Normally the only way to get club members to attend an AGM is to catch them off-guard with a comment like “well I’ll see you at the AGM then” before they’ve had time to think up a plausible excuse for not attending....

So how were we to encourage a reasonable attendance at our first proper AGM since before the Covid pandemic?

The Merchant Navy Association Boat Club has some two hundred plus members scattered throughout the UK so the first obstacle is the question of a venue that suits at least a sizeable slice of the membership and then devise a format for the event that might be of interest, hopefully enjoyable and, dare I say it, even good fun!

members who attended agm of MNA BOat CLub

The members who attended the AGM of the MNA Boat Club

If one has to travel two hours to and from a meeting it means, effectively, that it’s taking up a whole day. If you have to travel even further it probably means an overnight stay. Frankly who would want to spend the time and money for a two-day round trip simply to attend a formal meeting? Hence, our plan for the Boat Club’s 2022 AGM morphed into one for a two-day potentially interesting and enjoyable “event” with less than one hour of the two days dedicated to the formal Annual General Meeting.

Given that the MNA Boat Club has quite a high proportion of its membership living in or near to East Anglia and that we also have a very worthwhile “partnership” with the Norfolk & Suffolk Boating Association (NSBA) to promote our “WaterWatch” safety & surveillance initiative, we decided that a series of events on the Norfolk Broads would be an attractive proposition and so it proved to be, with the bonus of all-time record AGM attendance!

After much deliberation the following events were agreed:

⦁ a visit to the fascinating Museum of the Broads
⦁ a half-day cruise on the famous Norfolk Wherry the “Albion”
⦁ a further half-day cruise on several of our own local members boats

We obviously needed to make sure that there would be enough accommodation available near the venue at what, in early September, would still be a busy time with many holidaymakers around. We were very fortunate in making contact with three very pleasant and comfortable guest houses within 50 metres of the venue for the AGM in the village of Neatishead, where we had booked the mezzanine floor of the White Horse Inn for the meeting and an evening meal afterwards.

white horse inn, Neatished

White Horse Inn at Neatishead

Our programme kicked off at 11.00 am on the morning of Tuesday 6th September with the visit to the Museum of the Broads. This proved hugely interesting and enjoyable, especially thanks to our being given a fascinating tour conducted by Bob a very knowledgeable and enthusiastic member of the museum volunteer team.

CLive Edwards with Bob the guide to Museum of the Broads

Clive Edwards with Bob, museum guide

Given that many of our members attending are former professional seafarers, we were particularly interested in the old WW2 airborne lifeboat on display (one of the very few still in existence). One of our members was even able to provide a hitherto unrecorded local story about one of them.

Members looking at Airborne Lifeboat at the Museum of the Broads

Members looking at Airborne Lifeboat

Moving on to the late afternoon and evening, having got through the AGM in good time, our members and guests proceeded to enjoy some excellent food from the White Horse’s extensive menu, including their own local “pie of the day”.

The following morning dawned fine but storms were forecast for the afternoon. Most of the members had elected to spend the morning (or in a few cases the whole day) on the wherry “Albion” sailing from her base at Womack Water on the River Thurne to Horning on the River Bure.

The afternoon was to be spent on one of our local members' boats exploring the River Ant and Barton Broad. Hence, everyone was aboard either the “Albion”, Richard Card’s “Ness Nomad” or Clive Edwards’ “Elsa II” by 09.00 at the start of what was to be an enjoyable and for some a surprisingly eventful day on the water!

Wherry Albion on the Norfolk Broads

The famous wherry Albion on the Norfolk Broads

Those aboard Ness Nomad and Elsa II were able to get a good view of Barton Broad and the River Ant as well as a short side-trip to Malthouse Broad with views of Ranworth Church known locally as the “Cathedral of The Broads”.

We had planned to all rendezvous at the Swan Hotel at Horning but unfortunately the mooring for the Albion was already occupied so she had to moor alongside the opposite bank whilst Ness Nomad and Elsa II were able to moor at Horning Sailing Club where Clive is a member. With the aid of Albion’s tender, we then had to ferry members back and forth during a brief break for a sandwich lunch so that those who had spent the morning on Ness Nomad and Elsa II, including MNA President Vivien Foster OBE, were able to make the homeward passage on the Albion whilst some of those who’d been on the Albion during the morning transferred to Ness Nomad and Elsa II for the homeward leg via the River Ant and Barton Broad.

wherry Albion

Members on board the wherry Albion

So far so good, although sadly our Vice Commodore Paul and his wife Tracey had to depart by taxi and car to attend a medical emergency back in Essex (happily turning out not to be as serious as first thought).

Up to now the weather had been perfect and seemed set fair for the afternoon despite the previous warning of storms. Everyone set off from Horning in ideal conditions for what was mostly a leisurely and peaceful sail home - I say “mostly” because two-thirds of the way into the return journey all three vessels (and Paul & Tracey’s open-top car!) were hit by a series of seriously violent squalls, thunder and lightning and absolutely torrential rain that reduced visibility to about 50 metres! As both Ness Nomad and Elsa II are motor cruisers all we had to do was reduce speed for about fifteen minutes until the storm had gone through, but the situation on the Albion was significantly more dramatic and is the subject of a separate report by one of our members, David Cornes, who was on-board at the time, along with others including our President Vivien.

Clive Edwards, Commodore MNA Boat Club

steve haywood

featured author of the season - autumn 22

steve haywood

Steve Haywood wrote his first canal book against the strong advice of his agent. She didn't think there was enough interest in canals to make it worthwhile. Harper Collins had just published his first novel as part of their renowned Crime Club imprint. She thought he should stop messing around and write another.

Steve disagreed and in 2001 his first canal book was released to an indifferent audience. "It flopped," Steve said. "It's a great book but it needed promoting. Instead they gave it the rubbish title of 'Fruit Flies like a Banana' and gave it an incomprehensible cover, which wouldn't even have attracted me."

steve haywood - fruit flies like a banana

steve haywood - narrowboat dreams

steve haywood one man and a narrowboat

However, 20 years ago so few books were published about canals that his - with his characteristic brand of humour - soon found its audience. His second about a single handed trip across the Huddersfield Narrow Canal shortly after its opening when it wasn't really navigable at all, struck a similiar humorous note, though it touched on darker topics too.

"My mother was dying at the time, and I think a lot of the feelings I had during that difficult time were reflected in the book," Steve explains. "People responded to it on a different level. It wasn't just a canal book, but a book written by someone who was facing difficulties way beyond those normally associated with canal cruising."

The book sold far more than anyone had predicted and it still sells well today. However, the problem was that the publishers hadn't commissioned Steve to write another. Their response was to repackage 'Fruit Flies' with a new cover under another title: 'One Man and a Narrowboat'. Even with that questionably sexist title it flew off the shelves.

Other canal books followed including 'Too Narrow to Swing a Cat' about a summer spent with his cat Kit visiting canal festivals, and 'Narrowboat Nomads' based on the four years he and his wife spent as continuous cruisers exploring outlying parts of the canal system they hadn't visited before.

steve haywood - too narrow to swing a cat

steve haywood - narrowboat nomads

His latest book 'Tales from the Tillerman', published by new publishers Bloomsbury, is a different kettle of fish altogether, being a sort of overview of the canals and the changes he's seen in them over the nearly 50 years he's been cruising them. Still characterised by his idiosyncratic humour, it's neverthess a very different book to his usual offerings.

steve haywood - tales from the tillerman

steve haywood - 101 wonders of the waterways

Mind you, if you want different, then Steve's next book, scheduled for publication in spring 2023, is a total change of direction. "It's a lavishly illustrated book which I've written with my wife, Moira Haynes," he explains. "It's called '101 Wonders of the Waterways' and it's an evocation of the best the British canals have to offer, everything from THAT aqueduct to the grooves in cast iron bridge protectors, from its unique wildlife to Tim and Pru.

"It's been a lovely experience putting it together. It contains pictures of our own we've taken over our years on the cut, as well as some contributions by friends, not to mention some stunning images from professionals."

steve haywoodSteve's books are available from all good bookshops, Amazon and other Internet bookshops.

You can also follow him on Facebook and on Twitter

 

control

control

If there's one thing I am learning from boating life, it is that I am not in control! OK, in a superficial way I am. I get up most mornings with a vague plan of where we are headed and what chores need to be done. I don't know how it is for you, but I can happily waste time if I am not focused. Perhaps that isn't even wasting time - boating life is meant to be about slowing down, escaping the rat race and working out what's important in life. To 'be' rather than to 'do'.

So to a certain extent I do have control but what I am really thinking about is the lack of control in my circumstances. For example, Richard and I have a route plan of the direction we are headed and ideally a  framework of time in which to get from A to B but that's when the problems start.

Our first was realising our 'new' boat batteries (less than two years old) were flat and in fact dangerous because one had actually blown. Awaiting replacements and taking the opportunity to install a more powerful invertor delayed us by a week or more.  A bout of Covid unexpectedly stopped us in our tracks and then just as we were on the move again, a swing bridge failed to open and then a lock gate refused to shut!! All these little annoyances remind me of how little control I really have over what I want to do.

Yet, should it matter? Perhaps it  reminds us that in fact we are not in control of our life. At any moment something can happen that totally alters our path. For me, I learnt this when Richard, my husband, had a serious, near fatal bike accident, taking months of rehabilitation. It changed everything but in fact not for the worse, because it taught me what's important in life and not to 'sweat the small stuff'. From it, I learnt just how precious and precarious life is and that what matters is kindness. We received so much love and support following Richard's accident that it made me understand how kind gestures, however small, can make someone else's life so much better. The commandment of God to 'love thy neighbour' came alive as I realised I was vulnerable and in need of help.

I know that an argument against God is that if he exists, why does he allow bad things to happen?  My understanding is that God is not Father Christmas. Just because I believe in him, doesn't mean I am going to have an easy and charmed life. What I do believe though, is that God wants to come alongside us in all that is happening in our lives, good and bad. There's a saying that, because God is invisible, he needs to use our hands and feet to do his work here in earth. That is what I saw, experienced and understood in the aftermath of Richard's accident. I saw God's love in the actions of those around me.

I often feel we are sent to help certain people and that certain people are sent to help us. To my mind that is God at work. I appreciate that for those who don't believe in God this may sound far fetched but with or without belief, we can all show love and kindness to one another. We may not have control over the circumstances we find ourselves in but we can have control over how we respond to them and how consequently we treat one another and how we live out our lives to make the world around us a better place to be.

making new memories

making new memories

Hello!

jan & tony lacey making new memoriesWe’re Jan and Tony and in January 2021 we bought a 60ft narrowboat and made it our new home! Previously we’d hired boats for over 20 years and owned a share in one for a while which cemented our love of all things narrowboating.

We both come from the world of showbiz – Tony a musical director and Jan a singer and dancer. We’d both had successful careers in entertainment and television so perhaps it’s no surprise that we took to vlogging (the video version of blogging) although we’d been used to working behind the scenes and not usually in front of the camera.

Like most people, we’d always taken videos of our family holidays and that included our many narrowboat trips, but, our family had never seen them!

In the days during lock down, we decided to share those early videos on YouTube and before long they’d attracted a wider audience. We called our channel, MAKING NEW MEMORIES, because that’s what we were doing, every day!

When we were doing our research into buying our current boat, we went to YouTube to see if there were any helpful vlogs. It was there that we watched David Johns (Cruising The Cut) and Kevin Shelley (Countryhouse Gent) to get an idea of the lifestyle.

At that time we weren’t cruising but put down in video form our thoughts, our visits to nearby waterways and then to looking at potential boats, to eventually moving aboard. Our vlogs now feature a mix of cruising, local history and our life onboard.

So, what can you expect to see here?

Well, there’s the daily routine of how we film, what we see, exploring new waters, meeting people, the kit we use and the tech involved, some helpful tips and advice if you want to start vlogging yourself, plus the situations we find ourselves in – it’s never a dull moment, and we’ll share these with you here with a sprinkling of pictures.

We hope you enjoy reading about our adventures!

the pig place, adderbury

our pub of the season - summer 2022

the pig place, Adderbury

The Pig Place has to be one of the most delightfully different pubs we have ever come across, and I wouldn't be surprised if it were one of very few truly 'outdoor' pubs in Britain. Most of the seating is outdoors, with an abundance of sofas centred around fire pits. Talk about bringing all the comfort of your living room into the great outdoors! The views are amazing, and it's great to sit and watch life pass you by on the canal.

Trotters Bar

Everything at The Pig Place has a pig theme, so it's not surprising to find the bar (a converted livestock trailer) is named Trotters Bar.  It is only here that you can come across seemingly decapitated bar staff. The trailer is not very high, and the staff seem to be universally pretty tall, with the result that when they are not bending low to serve you, you can only see the body up to the neck.

Trotters Bar has a very good range of bottled beers and ciders. Plus the usual range of stronger stuff. The wine that stood out for us was of course 'Shy Pig'.

The Pig Place Trotters Bar

The Trough

You cannot visit The Pig Place without sampling the food - served at The Trough of course! We had a full English Breakfast on more than one occasion, and it was superb every time. The bacon is particularly good, and the sausages were the best ever. Of course The Trough also caters for those amongst us who do not eat meat, and there are even some Vegan options.

The Trough

The Farm Shop

The Farm Shop sells everything from kindling and logs (buy these to burn on the fire pits) to some rather special ice cream from a dairy in Worcester, plus a good range of beers and wines at very reasonable prices, essential groceries, vegetables and of course meat. There is always plenty of bacon, and if you are very lucky you might be able to buy home-produced sausages before they sell out. If you fall in love with the whole concept of The Pig Place, you can even buy yourself a Pig Place T Shirt.

The Sty

The Sty is the only really indoor part of the establishment. Hand built by Dean from recycled building materials, (mainly old doors...) it is a delightfully quirky and cosy area for when the weather is being less than kind. Many events take place here (either inside or just outside): There are fairly regular themed weekends, and always plenty of live music. This might be staff members Greg or Tom playing guitar and singing, customers jamming, or invited guests. There is also the occasional opportunity for very young musicians to have the chance to shine in front of an afternoon audience.

The Sty at The Pig Place

Campsite and Mooring

The Pig Place has a lovely grass pitch for all sizes of tents, plus room for campervans and motorhomes, caravans and trailer tents. Interestingly, the site is on English Heritage Ridge and Furrow land, but as the pitches are not marked out, campers can find their own suitable spot.

There is such a friendly atmosphere at The Pig Place, that a good proportion of campers tend to join in with any festivities, and of course all are encouraged to partake of food and drinks at the Trough and Trotters Bar. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on which way you look at it, children are not allowed to stay. Under 18s are welcome to visit The Pig Place up until 6pm, but then the entire site is child free. Dogs, on the other hand, are most warmly welcomed at any time!

The Pig Place is right on the Oxford Canal, just north of Bridge 187. There are some mooring spots available on the opposite side (towpath side), but The Pig Place has its own visitor moorings. These are free for visitors during the day, but when it is busy you may well have to double up on a mooring. Overnight mooring is available, with electric hook up if you want it, but this comes at a reasonable cost. The management do ask you not to run engines or generators while you are there, as this would impinge on the peaceful enjoyment of others.

The Pig Place, Adderbury - campsite and moorings

The Pig Farm

For some, the main attraction of 'The Pig Place' is the presence of the pig farm. The idea of a pig farm can sometimes conjure up the thought of something dirty or smelly, but here, nothing could be further from the truth. Happy, clean, contented and friendly pigs play and roll and trundle about in their pens and there is absolutely no smell at all.  They scarper inside their wooden huts as soon as the first drops of rain fall, and come out again with the sunshine. They have a very good life, and it is lovely to simply sit and watch their antics.

pigs at The Pig Place

Behind the scenes

The people behind The Pig Place are Dean and his wife Sara. They live in a Narrowboat on The Pig Place moorings, and have several dogs as well as the pigs. They also have a few ducks, and you can't buy fresher duck eggs anywhere. Dean and Sara have spent their lives being that little bit different - from the very beginning when they ran off to Gretna Green to take their marriage vows. When they eventually decided to live on a boat, Dean built one for them as at that time they had plenty of time on their hands but little money. And while he was doing this, he was taken on by a boatyard and became an official boat builder. Dean's creative streak is visible all around The Pig Place, and a member of his staff told us he always had to have a project on the go. The couple also have a love of motorbikes and vintage cars - there are a few classics dotted around. Hence the motorbike night which is held every Thursday - bikers come from all over to eat, meet and have a quick drink.

I asked Dean how they came to be running The Pig Place, and he told me they had been looking everywhere for a bit of land to buy and were incredibly fortunate to be able to buy what they have named 'Narrowboat Acres'.  They have never looked back, and although they say it is hard work, especially in the winter, they love the farm, the pigs, the lifestyle and the people who work for and with them. They were both well and truly hooked from the day they sold their very first packet of sausages from one of their very own pigs.

Dean with his Pig Place van - and a couple of porkers

Summary

We had a wonderful few days at The Pig Place. The staff were universally very friendly and welcoming, and Sara and Dean always had time for a chat. We have absolutely no hesitation in recommending this pub as our 'pub of the season', and we shall definitely be returning when we are next in the region. Remember - it is just north of Nell Bridge (187) and Nell Bridge Lock (32) between Kings Sutton and Aynho on the Oxford Canal. Don't miss it!

Dean - owner of the Pig PlaceThe Pig Place is open from early April to the end of October. Dogs are welcomed, but under 18s only allowed up until 6pm. Food is served daily from 8am, and the bar is open from lunchtime.

0789 287 9447
stay@thepigplace.co.uk
https://thepigplace.co.uk/
https://www.facebook.com/thepigplaceNBAcres/

waternav

waternav

funded and developed by river canal rescue

WaterNav is the UK’s only free mapping and route planning tool that works offline – giving peace of mind to thousands of boaters who have been reliant on an internet connection, via wifi or mobile data, to arrange and track journeys across the inland waterway network.

Funded and developed by River Canal Rescue (RCR), the breakdown company is committed to making the app completely FREE for its lifetime; there are no catches or gimmicks, sign up or hidden charges, and its full functionality is open to everyone.  All users need to do is create an account.

Other routing planning providers only function using the internet (problematic for boaters in areas where signal is traditionally an issue), so RCR’s dedicated programmers looked to NASA to develop an offline solution.

Lead software developer, Brandon Briggs, comments: “NASA uses certain software and algorithms to direct and monitor its robots on internet-free Mars, so we thought why not develop a similar system for the UK inland waterway system.  We adopted a route planning algorithm, which uses a dot matrix system, to reference all the canals and rivers in the UK, and we will not stop there.”

waternav rcr

Launched last year, WaterNav’s new updates now enable users to plan and specify their journey length/time or preferred routes etc, taking into account locks, points of interest and canal/river information etc, and be directed to the nearest available mooring/marina at journey’s end.

Brandon continues: “We are continually developing the app and taking onboard feedback from users, so don’t be surprised if we regularly ask users to update their version.”

 All UK waterways, mapping and route planning are incorporated into a single app and there’s also a help/SOS function linked to RCR HQ, for boaters who require assistance. Plotting the user’s position within a 5m radius has proved invaluable in emergency situations or when cruising on rivers with no access.

WaterNav has around 10,000 users and the figure is growing because it’s simple to set up and use. Access via Google Play or the App Store, register as a user and download the maps. After this, the app can be used offline.

Moving forward, additional community features are being developed for online users. “Boaters will be able to flag up any problems or issues they come across, such as debris in the waterways, lock closures, busy hot spots or pubs that may have closed down etc,” explains Brandon.  “This information, together with CRT notifications, will be shared on the app once verified, and to do this, we’re working on an automated moderating system.”

RCR managing director, Stephanie Horton, adds: “We’re planning to add some really exciting features to WaterNav over the coming year, to encourage new interest from the younger generation, help share some of the amazing features on our canals and rivers and build the community spirit our UK waterways are synonymous with. Funding this app means we are giving something back too, and helping reconnect the community.”

angel community canal boat trust

angel community canal boat trust

angel II of islington

Angel Community Canal Boat Trust, a charity based in Islington, has been providing day and residential boat trips for community groups on its boat Angel II of Islington for over 40 years.

Recently we provided free trips for an especially deserving group. After hearing of their work in raising funds to supply trauma kits to send to their countrymen on the front line we were proud to be joined by the 1st London Plast, a Ukrainian scout group.

Over a very warm and pleasant weekend in June we were joined by 48 cubs, scouts and leaders who took to the canal like the proverbial ducks to water, of which we saw many during our trip.
Split into 4 groups each enjoyed a 3-hour trip between Islington and Little Venice, learning about our historic canal system and how to operate the canal locks, as well as enjoying the wildlife along the route.

Their voices rang out with song throughout the trip bringing smiles and cheers of encouragement from passers-by on the tow path and they made particular use of the acoustics in Islington Tunnel.

After a combined picnic and games session our return journeys were just as tuneful with several enthusiastic renditions of Ukraine’s winning Eurovision hit.

Skipper Phil Gavigan said “the strength to carry on through adversity should be an example to us all. Several of these young people have had to flee their war-torn homeland leaving family and friends behind”.

One of the leaders said “We loved everything. Thank you for making the children smile - the children said it was such a happy day, ‘the best day ever’ “.

Angel II of Islington - Ukranian scouts trip

1. It's not hard work when it is fun. 2. The signed flag presented to Angel II of Islington by some very happy scouts.

To find out what funding may be available for your community group visit our website  or contact our skipper.

the hippie boat

featured roving canal traders

jules and pete - the hippie boat

We are husband and wife team Pete and Jules and we live aboard NB Molly with our dogs Polly, Milly and young Eric. We continuously cruise the river and canal network, setting up our extensive outdoor display of Fair Trade Festival Style Clothing, Bags, Accessories, Incense and other ethically sourced merchandise at Events, Festivals and various towpath locations.

our story

pete and julesWe moved onto our first narrowboat in June 2009 after 2 years living on wild & wonderful Anglesey. Initially, we both took a year out in order to fully embrace our plan to cruise here, there and everywhere, but by the end of that year, we had both fallen completely in love with the cut, the people on the cut and boat life, so I took on various freelance drama coaching jobs and Pete became a boat husband!

​Three and a half years later, we realised that all good things come to an end and if we wanted to stay living afloat, then plans needed to be thought out and made, so we sold the boat and returned to our house with the sole purpose of making improvements and selling it. One new kitchen, bathroom and loft conversion later we did just that, waved goodbye to the house that we had actually only lived in for 3 of the 9 years it was ours and bought our next boat.

And so the next chapter of our boat life began: Pete set himself up in business with a friend and I continued freelancing. But, we hardly saw each other and our cruising pattern was of course restricted by having to be within a reasonably commutable distance of work. So, we went back to the drawing board and began to investigate the possibility of becoming roving traders.

In May 2015, we took a Summer out and cruised from the Kennet & Avon to Manchester and back on a 'Reccy' – we met roving traders, we went to festivals and we looked for a Pete & Jules style gap in the market!

the hippie boat

By December 1st 2015, The Hippie Boat was a reality, we were officially licenced traders, we had joined the RCTA and booked our first season of markets, events & festivals – eek!!​ We left our mooring at Radcot in March 2016, armed with abundant enthusiasm and lots of lovely fair trade stock – our trading journey had begun in earnest and we were finally, truly free spirits. We travelled over 1000 miles in our boat in that first year, from London, to Cheshire and Wales, returning to the K&A for our final market of the year, the Christmas market in Bradford-On-Avon.

It was shortly after this, whilst walking the doggies beside the Caen Hill Flight one frosty morning, that we made the decision to look for another boat; the stock kept on board was in desperate need of a room of its own as Pete could no longer stretch his legs out – not so much of a problem for me at 5’2″, but it had become an equal test negotiating the piled up bags and boxes, stacked pretty much everywhere there was a space. So in March 2017, we parted company with the first Hippie Boat, Tkal Kah O Nel and moved onboard our current boat. Molly already had a suitable layout, having two bedrooms. With a few tweaks to the accommodation and the addition of another side hatch, enabling us to trade from both sides of the boat, we embarked on our second year of trading, with the luxury of a large and accessible stock room and comfortable living quarters that work perfectly for the crew.

but why the hippie boat?

Both of us have always embraced the hippie culture, but Pete was lucky enough to experience some of the best of the festivals of the 1970’s before they became more commercialised and mainstream such as Glastonbury, Knebworth, The Elephant Fayre, Womad, Glastonbury Greenfields, Blackbush and Stonehenge. One of these was the Watchfield Free Festival in 1975, which replaced the Windsor Free Festival, where you could get a free meal in return for helping to serve food & wash up and watch bands such as 'Gong' and 'Hawkwind'. Supposed to last for 9 days, it was eventually wound up 16 days later as nobody wanted it to end - well, except for the locals and the police!!!


My own festival initiation and first proper Hippie gathering was at age 14, when I and my friend persuaded my friend's very liberal mum to drive us to the Stonehenge festival and my friend's mum waited in the car for us until we were ready to leave as the sun rose! “

building our own brand

In March 2020 we went to India with the intention of sourcing stock. We had reached a point where we wanted to directly connect with and create relationships with supply partners. The style of clothes & bags that the Hippie Boat sells are made in India, Nepal, Thailand and Tibet and we had been buying wholesale, since we started up in 2015 from small UK Fair Trade registered companies, all of whom have their own supply partners.

However, lots of other small UK businesses selling festival and ethnic style clothing, also buy from these companies and due to the fair trade & handmade nature of the items, popular lines sell out quickly and we couldn’t always source more when we wanted them. We knew that the choice of clothing available in India would be huge, enabling us to diversify and work directly with small manufacturers and suppliers ourselves.

It was a very successful trip and we are really happy and excited to have formed ongoing and mutually beneficial relationships as well as friendships with with small family run manufacturing businesses & sole traders who share our ethics. These are based in Goa, Pushkar and Delhi. It is definitely a good feeling to be able to put a face to the products that we have sourced, to know that everything is handmade to order, that we have paid a fair price to the people doing the hard work and also know that we can take some active responsibility, in a small way, for the human and environmental cost of clothing by choosing cleaner and longer lasting fabrics such as Organic Cotton, rayon, hemp, bamboo and recycled sari fabrics.

We do still buy stock from the UK wholesale partners that we started out with, but we are also developing more and more of our own lines of clothing, working with designers and expert pattern cutters (mainly via WhatsApp) and we now have our own ‘Hippie Boat - Free Spirited Fashion since 2016’ label and have registered our trademark.

The Hippie Boat

hippie boat badge and logoPlease visit our Website, and follow our Facebook page or Instagram account for up to date location information. If we are not going to be in your area in the near future, we are always very happy to post out to you on Wednesday or Thursday of each week.

We look forward to providing you with a customer focussed shopping experience
Jules & Pete