Blisworth to Birmingham with The Doggie Boat

We had a second brilliant weekend at the Blisworth Canal Festival last weekend. The people of the village and surrounding areas, who arrive in their throngs, are extremely friendly and jovial.

It didn’t begin too well when Barry and I took my gazebo to the festival field to erect it on the Friday evening. The wind was howling and it was soon obvious that putting it up would be a challenge, never mind leaving it overnight without it blowing away!

So we returned on Saturday morning. To a similar problem. There were tears of stress as I saw that in the position I’d been given (which ordinarily would be perfectly fine as it was right where everyone could see me), there was literally a gale driving up the field and threatening to destroy the gazebo whilst I was painting someone’s face. Memories of the conditions in Bugsworth Basin at Easter resurfaced …

Barry, being the calm, grounded kiwi half of our partnership, suggested we ask the organisers if it would be okay to change my pitch to one adjacent to the Blisworth Canal Partnership stand, so we had some shelter. Thankfully this was agreed to and was much more sheltered.

It helped too that Barry pegged down the sides so they didn’t come loose as they occasionally have in the past when the wind has been strong.

Once we’d found a solution, the rest of the weekend went smoothly. I’d invested in a couple of new things to help to keep the queue moving better, and they worked (I still had a queue from 12 till 5.30pm each day, but it moved faster and I didn’t hear any arguments!). I’d also put a sign asking people to share photos on my Facebook page, as I hardly ever take shots to save time. Eight pictures were generously posted – I was very touched that people loved their facepainting so much. It’s truly humbling to be feel I’ve brought happiness to people and brightened their day.

Sitting snugly next to the Blisworth Canal Partnership stall

Sitting snugly next to the Blisworth Canal Partnership stall – and my board with ‘how to keep the queue moving’

With my new 'Take a Photo Here' section

With my new ‘Take a Photo Here’ section

Barry also had a busy weekend, though he talked so much to people about Home Brewing that he lost his voice by Sunday evening! The house that backed onto the canal, where we were moored, had a large gathering on the Saturday evening. Apparently they do this each year. When I returned to the boat laden with facepainting things on Sunday, there were two plates of BBQ food covered in foil, that the generous, lovely people from the house had gifted to us.

As is normal at these festivals, live music, a bar, and some food was available Friday through to Sunday evening, but by the time we’d tidied and cleaned up our respective businesses for the day, it was gone 7pm and all the food was gone. Even without that knowledge I’d chosen some quick and easy food to cook when I got a Tescos on-line delivery to the nearby bridge on Thursday afternoon. How fantastic is that, even though we hadn’t been able to get to a supermarket for days and weren’t likely to, we could get provisions delivered to us? Thank you to Sue and her amazingly informative and popular No Problem Blog, for the helpful advice. It’s the first time we’ve remembered such a thing is possible wherever we are …

You can maybe get a feel for how enthusiastically everyone in Blisworth embraces the canal and its history, supporting their annual festival, and are so open to boaters and traders. It’s so wonderful to see and experience – thank you Blisworth.

Long days of boating

One of our good trading friends, who runs ‘The Doggie Boat‘, had a bit of bother with her engine over the weekend. She needed to get to Birmingham by the weekend for an important social event. As she’s a solo boater, and we were heading in the same direction, we said we’d travel with her, in case she needed any help along the way.

It’s only a short distance by car, probably an hour or so (albeit dependant on the amount traffic and roadworks). By narrowboat though, with the hills and valleys along the way, it’s a different story.

From Monday to Thursday we travelled around nine hours each day, with more locks than I care to count! I’ve consulted with The Captain, and it seems that all in all we’ve voyaged 63 miles, worked 79 locks, and three drawbridges.


It’s certainly not what we’re used to – but it does mean we arrived in the second city by Friday evening, so Barry can trade over the weekend, and I can hop onto a train to mum’s from Saturday to Monday. I’ve had a midwifery text-book delivered there that I want to read before my course, and I’ve got a tooth problem so I’ve got a dentist appointment on Monday. I also love spending time with mum while I have the chance.

It’s been the most glorious week weather-wise, blue skies, warmth and sunshine, and we’ve been in our summer clothes – quite a rare occurrence in UK this summer in particular. Lots of lovely folk have been excited to see The Home Brew Boat as we’ve driven by, and Barry made a few sales en route. It’s felt a little like a drive by Home Brew shop at times!

The fine weather unfortunately turned to custard yesterday, and Barry and Sandra got rather wet and cold on the remaining miles into Birmingham. Ah well, you take the rough with the smooth when you live and trade on the cut …

9 thoughts on “Blisworth to Birmingham with The Doggie Boat

  1. What a lovely, warm account of your adventures, Sandra, thank you for sharing! I moved to my canal town eight years ago and have found that everyone embraces the festival atmosphere whenever we have the opportunity. It’s one of the reasons we are raising our children here 🙂

    • Hi again, lovely to hear from you and thanks for the positive feedback, much appreciated.

      There’s some delightful canal-side villages, towns and cities in UK, you’re very fortunate to live in one that’s embraced ‘the cut’.


  2. Hi Sandra, thanks for the reply, it sounds horrible. Though we don’t plan to stay on board all year, my wife hates the cold so we thought that 5 months a year would probably be enough for us. Summer over there then summer over here.

    Maybe I should make a few more enquiries though. 5 months should be covered by a visitors visa but I wonder how many times we can do that. If we do it every year they might throw a wobbly at that. Hmmmm

    I do know what you mean by the websites, I have looked and ended up none the wiser and with square eyes, hence I thought I’d ask someone who’s already doing it!

    Thanks again, cheers

    • Hi again Peter

      It’s frustrating and takes a lot of energy to be sure, but we understand the reasons why it’s been made so challenging (doesn’t mean we agree lol!)

      I can totally empathise with your wife, the British winters aren’t in the least appealing to me. I’ve been told the three we’ve had to date have been mild – hopefully that doesn’t mean this year will make up for it …

      As far we’re aware, there’s heaps of Aussies and kiwis who do what you’re proposing – they spend half the year in the southern hemisphere and half up here. If that’s your plan I’d rest easy, simple enough to get a visitor’s visa. They have a marina they’d pay for a year’s mooring for, then come and go. Maybe changing the marina every couple of year’s to get different cruising routes.


      • I like the idea of changing marinas. We planned on mooring at a marina but changing from time to time to vary routes is a good idea.

        The visitors visa should do us then. Thanks for the advice, nice to talk to someone who’s already doing it. We’re hiring till it’s better to buy, should be a couple of years, just bought our air tickets to the UK this morning for next years hire, 3 weeks this time.

        Thanks Sandra and happy cruising.

        • No worries Peter, hope it all works well for you both. Maybe our paths will cross next year? Keep in touch and let us know where you’ll be and when and we’ll look out for you 😉

          • Will do, we pick the boat up on 24th June at Mercia Marina near Willington. We’re going down through Birmingham to Stratford and back. If you’re around the area it would be nice to catch up.

  3. Hi Barry and Sandra, loving following your NB travels. We’re Australian and have just finished a month on the cut courtesy of a hire boat. We plan to buy once our kids are fully independent and we can spend longer than a month at a time.

    A question to narrowboaters from NZ who have obviously been on the water for some time.

    What do you do about visa’s? I don’t know if a visitor visa lasts for all that long and I wonder if you have been NBing there on some other type of visa, or if you are doing so on visitors visas.

    I know Sandra was originally from the UK, my wife is as well. Is there some form of visa that you have organised related to that?

    Something I need to figure out before we start seriously looking to buy.

    Cheers and enjoy your travels, wish we were there.

    • Hi Peter
      Thanks for your comment and questions. One month on the cut sounds fantastic, a great way of discovering more about your future options.

      I’d love to give you the answer that it’s simple to get a UK visa when you’re a kiwi married to a British born spouse.

      Unfortunately that is not the case. You’ll need to apply for a ‘Spousal Sponsored UK Visa’. Currently this is a complex, convoluted, five-year process. You basically have to show evidence of your relationship/marriage, and finances. The finances are either employment, regular income, or savings (£62,500 for 6 months prior to first and second application).

      A visitor visa will only last for 6 months – Barry had one for our two trips in 2009 and 2010. When we decided to come back ‘indefinitely’, the process for applying for his visa was a two-year route – 8 months before we returned the process was increased to five years.

      We’re currently patiently waiting to hear if we’ve successfully met all the requirements for his second round. We employed an immigration specialist solicitor here in UK to help us, as the whole process is so complicated and made even more so when you live on board a narrowboat as continuous cruisers, and are self-employed!

      We also engaged an immigration specialist in NZ for round one, as to actually discover what the process is via the websites is a minefield!

      Do email if we can help any further – there’s a form you can complete on the ‘contact us’ page.

      Good luck!
      Sandra 😉

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