Cruising the canals for a leisurely weekend away
Sharon Walters laps up life in the slow lane on an Easter trip on a narrowboat
When you take a break and it pours down, yet you still really enjoy yourself – imagine what it would have been like if the sun had shone?
Well I took a narrowboat for Easter weekend, possibly the wettest one we’ve had in recent years, and did come back all smiles.
Good Friday could well have been St Swithun’s Day with the rain lashing down as I headed towards the Gailey Marina to board for my first narrowboat cruise. It was also cold.
But with waterproofs provided with the hire boat keeping out the rain and central heating down below deck we certainly did not suffer from the adverse weather.
A tour of the boat’s facilities was followed by tuition on how to start up, look after the engine and steer, and we were off down the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal for our overnight stop, a gentle cruise to Hatherton conveniently next to a pub for a small libation before cooking supper in the cosy cabin.
Our narrowboat was a small one that can take four but is ideal for a couple or a couple with two children as it has one bedroom with doors that open onto a sitting area in the bow and a seating area in the main cabin that can be made into a bed. The seating area is comfortable with a table that can be folded away, a TV and radio. The shower is full size (not a wet room!) with plenty of space for ablutions. And also storage areas, in fact the boat had plenty of storage to stow away all your stuff.
Now back to cooking supper. The kitchen is a fair size with a full-size cooker equipped with four gas rings, a grill and oven. There’s also a full-size fridge and microwave and there’s plenty of kitchen utensils. No problem to cook a family meal here. There’s also a welcome tray with tea, coffee, sugar and milk.
After a very comfortable sleep, we had a leisurely breakfast and gently went on our way south to Autherley Junction and a turn onto the Shropshire Union – known amongst narrowboaters as the Shroppie. Here we had our first lock – just a drop of one inch, so not really a drop at all but it did involve lock gates. It was built purely for financial motives which are worth discovering more about if you do go to the area.
And here we really began our journey through beautiful countryside – although I would quite like to take a narrowboat trip further down the Staffordshire through the Black Country and into the Gas Street Basin in Birmingham.
The joy of being on a narrowboat is that you have to slow down, you can’t rush, there is plenty of time to take in your surroundings, stop and moor up if you see something interesting ashore or fancy a walk, or enjoy one of those canalside pubs.
We went up almost to Norbury Junction, with a proper lock involved this time, before turning round and mooring up at Wheaton Aston for the night and another supper on board. Most narrowboats are dog–friendly and my hound Jack, while not enjoying water very much, did rather like the views. And speaking of friendly, you meet such lovely people on the canals.
This year the Canal & River Trust is celebrating 50 years of canal renaissance and holidays on the inland waterways. So if you’re looking for a restful break, maybe this is the year to try a narrowboat.
If you want to find out more visit the 2018 Crick Boat Show, Britain’s biggest inland waterways event, from May 26 to 28, at Crick Marina, near Daventry in Northamptonshire, NN6 7SQ. Advance tickets are now on sale, saving 15 per cent on the entry price.
Showcasing 300 exhibitors from across the canal world, the annual event is organised by Waterways World in partnership with the Canal & River Trust and Crick Marina, and is expected to attract over 26,000 visitors across the three show days.
The show also offers a fantastic day out for all the family with dozens of boats to look round, free boat trips, live music, children’s activities, a real ale marquee, and a large variety of food and drink stalls.
For more information and to book tickets, camping pitches and moorings, visit www.crickboatshow.com or call 01283 742970.