Moving on…

18 Sep

Comes a time when the right thing to do is to move on. And that’s where I found myself earlier this year. Not only had I been at my mooring for eight years – a long, long time for a dedicated liveaboard water gypsy – but I felt I needed a physical move to take me to a better place.

In April, I was at rock bottom. I don’t want to get into all that here, but suffice to say that four months of hospital/rehab/care home all took their toll. I had a lot of time to think during this period and set the wheels in motion to find a new home for Hobo, Foxy and me.

I’ve always thought I’d return to the Great Ouse system at some point. I love the Fens, the big skies, big rivers and good people. Some years back, I’d visited a friend at a super marina on the River Lark where he had a wonderful river mooring. This came to mind again now and I knew that this was where I wanted to be.

You got to get lucky sometimes, and a quick phone call confirmed a similar spot was available. And, by all accounts, this is rare. People tend to stay put and spare berths are like rocking horse shit.

After a visit to confirm all was as I remembered, it was affordable for me, and agreement from the management to take me on, I verbally agreed the terms and had transferred the required deposit by the end of the day.

Now I had something to plan for and look forward to. But could I really make this happen? Whilst my health has improved considerably, I’m still not 100% nor ever so strong, and no way could I take on this cruise by myself. I needed someone to take over when I was flagging, possibly doing the bulk of the driving and certainly working the locks.

There really was only one candidate of course – John. I can count the people who I’d trust to skipper Hobo on the fingers of one thumb. Would he be willing/able?

I’m delighted to say he was.

So, on the late August bank holiday weekend, we embarked on this cruise of 233 miles, 2 furlongs and 170 locks. Some of which we shared with the locals…IMG-20190915-WA0010.jpgIMG_20190829_141452.jpgHere is how they work. In you go…

Close the gates, wind the paddles and fill/empty…IMG-20190917-WA0002.jpgIMG-20190917-WA0004.jpgAnd up comes Hobo…IMG-20190917-WA0003.jpgLock keepers take pride in their gardens…IMG-20190917-WA0024.jpg

But out on the river it’s also delightful…

With foraging aplenty.

There was the odd swing bridge…IMG-20190915-WA0017.jpgAnd tunnel…IMG-20190917-WA0007.jpgIMG-20190917-WA0006.jpgIMG-20190917-WA0008.jpgAnd yes, there really is light at the end.

Locks on the Nene and Ouse have guillotine gates, usually electrified but some…IMG-20190915-WA0013.jpgStill aren’t, meaning that wheel has to be turned around and around and around forever, to raise or lower the gate. And that’s why I drive the boat!

Our route took us down the rivers Stort and Lea, along the Hertford Union and Regents Canal through London and up the Grand Union to the Northampton arm. Then it’s on to the River Nene, through the Middle Levels, the tidal crossing from Salter’s Lode to Denver Sluice, onto the Great Ouse and finally the Lark.

Hobo loves the big rivers…IMG-20190915-WA0003.jpgIMG_20190910_123524~2.jpg As do we. You can almost feel her joy at being in deep water…IMG-20190915-WA0006.jpgNot to say she didn’t perform well when ditch crawling…IMG-20190915-WA0001.jpgShe most certainly did – but couldn’t really get up a head of steam, so progress feels slow.

But clearly it wasn’t. It took us just twelve days, which is no mean feat. Dawn to dusk cruising largely, often not mooring up till last light…IMG-20190915-WA0008.jpg IMG-20190915-WA0009.jpgHobo’s engine never missed a beat…IMG-20190915-WA0018.jpg With no mechanical issues/stoppages/disasters. Extraordinary really, as she doesn’t get a lot of attention – apart from when John is around. He checks the levels and tightens/dresses the belts as necessary, as well as all the other tasks like greasing etc. One day I’ll have her shone up/painted to look like those engines that belong to the real enthusiasts.

We managed 27 locks in one day! Luckily, we often managed to lock through with another boat…IMG-20190915-WA0020.jpg Really lightens the load – me on the tiller holding her in the lock, while John and at least one other set of muscles set to; winding the paddles and pushing the balance beams. It’s also a great opportunity for the drivers to have a natter – I learned of a choice mooring on the Nene this way, one we’d never have found. It was up a little cut, which opened into a basin and (you guessed it) was next to a pub.

We fed the swans there…IMG-20190915-WA0005.jpgJohn and I both hugely enjoyed the journey. As each day passed, I was improving physically and emotionally as I mentally moved on from the bad place I was in during the first half of the year. The cruise itself was doing me good.

We did take a break for a couple of days, conveniently moored at the Ship Inn on Brandon Creek…IMG-20190915-WA0000.jpg John had managed to hurt his back and needed to rest it. Ironically, it was doing a good deed by helping out a 70 footer when its inexperienced crew got themselves into a bit of a pickle.

Some random pics along the way.

Little Venice I think…IMG-20190917-WA0015.jpgHorrors of duckweed on the London canals…IMG-20190917-WA0011.jpgLooks so walkable on.

Moored on a towpath somewhere…IMG-20190915-WA0019.jpgHobo nose in as we manoeuvre her to tie to that tree for a brief stop on the Nene…IMG-20190915-WA0002.jpgThe beautiful church at Fotheringhay…IMG-20190915-WA0012.jpgWhere we moored for the night and met a dear friend for a pie and a pint at the village pub. Has to be done.

Come Tuesday, we pushed on, making it to my new home a little before sunset…IMG_20190914_193537.jpgSo, here we are in situ…

Where Foxy walked the plank…IMG_20190915_121606.jpgThe views are to die for…IMG_20190913_180735.jpgIMG_20190913_180726.jpgHow’s that..!

My garden is private, perfect and full of potential…IMG_20190915_140316.jpgIMG_20190915_140309.jpgIMG_20190915_140135.jpgThough it needs a little work – I’ve much I want to do here but all in good time. Boarding by plank isn’t ideal but there’s a maintenance man here, who I’m told will build me a platform/small jetty.

I’m full of ideas and inspiration and can see how I want it in my mind’s eye. I’ll update you as it all comes together. But it already feels like home (Foxy thinks so too) and I shall enjoy adding those little touches that will make it truly mine.

First step is to collect all my shoreside paraphernalia from the old mooring. My brother, who is now a lot closer geographically, plus his mate with a van,  helped me with this on Monday.

I love new beginnings. And I love my new home.

Cruising with a cat certainly added another dimension, Foxy delighting in his new-found boat cat status…IMG_20190825_133730.jpgWorrying us at times with his innate curiosity and exploring spirit, but always entertaining and returning to his boat home.

But I think that’s another post…

PS: I didn’t get to say goodbye to all my old friends and neighbours, so if you’re among those I missed…goodbye and good luck!

Also huge thanks to those who were there for me during my darkest hours this year. It meant a lot xx

 

7 Responses to “Moving on…”

  1. sharonelaine1 September 18, 2019 at 10:33 pm #

    My goodness, I really must stop believing that no news is good news! So sorry you have been unwell, but fabulous move! Onward and upward! May you have nothing but happy times from now on in your new home💕

    • Boatbird September 19, 2019 at 4:23 pm #

      Oh Sharon, it’s been a bloody nightmare BUT the cruise and move to this lovely place is a real tonic and everything feels like it’s on the up again…thank goodness.
      It always takes something to give me the kick up the bum I need to change things that need changing – and boy it was some kick!
      If ever you’re this way, or feel like a drive, do come and visit. Would love to see you .both. Much love, Annie xx

  2. sharonelaine1 September 19, 2019 at 8:59 am #

    PS. Fantastic photography as usual, I almost feel I’m there with you.💕

  3. Reena September 19, 2019 at 4:36 pm #

    Hi Ann, I have been following your blog for a while now. My name is Reena. Probably you may remember me from CHSW in the same year as all the girls who have met up with you from time to time. Moreena Hart?? Just wanted to make contact and say hi to everyone from myself and Joy Allibone! She and I meet frequently. Please let me know if you have another get together as we would love to join up with the gang. I now live in Desborough. I love your boat life. Also South Africa. I lived there for 3 years in the eighties, so good to hear about it again! Anyway, lots of love for now xxxxxxxxx Reena xxxx

    >

    • Boatbird September 19, 2019 at 4:44 pm #

      Hi Reena, of course I remember you! It’s good to hear from you and I’m so pleased you got in touch.
      I’m flattered you are following ‘boatbird’ (you never know who is reading and what they think unless they leave a comment.) Glad you like my lifestyle – I wouldn’t have it any other way.
      Say hi to Joy for me and I’ll be sure to let you know of any get-togethers. Facebook has its uses!
      Annie xx

      • Boatbird September 19, 2019 at 4:47 pm #

        I love SA – whereabouts were you?

    • sharonelaine1 September 19, 2019 at 10:54 pm #

      Well, blow me away… Reena Hart, I remember you from school. Hope your’e doing OK . Hoping we can all meet up , now wouldn’t that be grand?

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