When one of my sisters invited the entire family on a narrowboating trip this summer I was the first to say yes. I've always marvelled at canals and canal boats, but a week before, fear set in. We've never been on an extended family holiday and 11 of us were about to live in eachother's pockets in the most squashed conditions imaginable and hey this is Britain, rain was inevitable. All of a sudden I wanted to abandon ship before I'd even boarded - was this going to be the worst holiday ever?
With scenes this stunning...NEVER!
The week we picked was one of those magical summer weeks where England really is a green and pleasant land (unlike the conditions under which I am writing this - grey skies and it's tipping it down!)
I felt at home straight away. Ok it was a bit rustic (we ran out of water twice, electricity also had a tendency to reduce in the evenings and the bed reserved for me was the kitchen table (which converted rather impressively)...but that stuff was minor when the rest of the experience was so much fun.
For a start I never knew cows drank canal water.....something you'd only know if you were living the canal life.
Other than having to moor up frequently as locks approached,
and having to open and close locks,
....there was nothing much to do other than relax.
Here's what we got up to whilst doing just that ...
|Lots and lots of geocaching|
|(Finding treasures like this)|
|Picking blackberries directly off the the canal route - (our version of foraging)|
|Which we turned into yummy dessert (ok, one of my sisters did - not me, I just ate it!)|
|I thought I'd knit more but actually the views were so incredible I was occupied just looking out and taking it all in.|
|We went on duck watch and duck count...|
|...make that dog watch too - there are so many dogs aboard canal boats.|
|On one of our stop off day trips we met a mini pig.|
|Charlie our family monkey felt at home too and we encountering quite a few of his relatives on route - turns out monkeys love canal holidays.|
|We also saw a few knitted Rosie & Jims - the ultimate canal mascot.|
|Played board games aplenty.|
|Found a secret garden,|
|and managed some outdoor fitness.|
I also lay on top of the boat one midnight and watched meteor showers - a seriously cosmic experience and something I'd never be able to do in London.
By the end of the week no one has killed eachother - (obviously there was the odd bits of annoyance but no major arguments.) It wasn't exactly 'family bonding' but it was nice to spend time together and not just the few hours at birthday parties, which we normally manage. I had a chance to talk to everyone - nieces, nephews, brother-in-laws, sisters....that in itself made the experience one to treasure.
As for how I feel about canals and narrowboating now...I love them even more. Not sure if I'll have the opportunity again (apart from holidaying in Kerala's backwaters which is on my bucket list), but it truly was a worthwhile experience and a fun summer holiday.
We picked up the boat (from a company called Anglo Welsh) from Great Harwood and spent a week exploring the East Midlands, a part of the UK I've not been to before. We did the 'Out & Back' route, which meant we travelled a certain distance and then travelled back on ourselves, this was recommended for beginners (no one had driven a narrow boat before). It was a learning experience; the first thing you learn is that you won't get as far as you think you will - canal life is slow but that's something to embrace rather than stress about.
There were several bedrooms on board, two toilets, a shower, fully equipped kitchen, two areas that converted into beds, a TV, DVD and CD player, even towels so it's easy to feel at home. We cooked on board every evening and took picnics out at lunch .
It was a holiday of simple pleasures but then simple things are usually the best.
Fancy trying a narrow boat holiday? I'm happy to answer any questions, leave me a comment or check out the company -we got our boat from here.
Happy August Bank Holiday everyone!