Thursday, 26 May 2011

Quiet trip along the canal...

I went upstairs for a last check before we set off on our holiday. Jemima was just coming out of her bedroom, flowers round her hat and Rosie and Jim piled on her suitcase

At 3pm we took charge of Sir Belin, our canal boat for the next 4 days.
Our plan was to sail from Brewood to Market Drayton and back again.
Life jackets on ready to cruise along the Shropshire union canal.
Testing out the whistles (or sissle as Rosanna liked to call it!)
daily engine check
and ready to go
with John Bull on the tiller.

Off we go...

Four days of cruising saw us pass through areas busy with other canal boats.
The kids loved collecting the names of the other boats.
Permanant moorings, some with smallholdings next to the canal. Our new dream...
And our favourite part: sailing through the cuttings. Our favourite Tyrley cutting - "perhaps the darkest and most dripping of 'Shroppie' cuttings, is the haunt of KIngfishers, wagtails and bats. Ferns and mosses thrive in the shadowery, damp environment."

and on through tunnels

The first day we had one lock to go down and then later in the week a set of four. Imogen and Jemima controlled the locks, by the end of the week they had become so confident, adept at quickly nipping across the gates to open and shut the paddles.

The girls also became very confident at steering the boat. I had a couple of goes but it's really quite difficult to steer, the boat pivots from the middle, so it's so easy to oversteer. Steering a canal boat is a bit like playing on mario cart, which the kids also beat me at mastering!
Mima getting ready to go through a bridge where the canal narrows to a boat's width.

The girls always ask "Will we be doing work on holiday.?" We are not at all formal in our learning at home, so it makes me laugh when they ask. (They also ask it at Christmas!). But soon the notepads and books came out on their initiative.
And Reuben wanted to write a story about Sir Belin and Sea Sprout, another boat we'd spotted along the way.
Reuben enjoying his favourite Julia Donaldson books.

And Immy can't miss a chapter a day of Harry Potter!

Each day we stopped off at little villages

But before long we were already to head back to the boat.
We quickly had adjusted to the new pace
As soon as we got on the boat it felt completlely relaxing. I had thought I might be stressed having a 20 month old toddler on board, but both Reuben and Rosanna were happy to sit at the front and watch the world go by, and so was I.

We had one near miss when another boat suddenly tried to turn in front of us, Geoff 'braked' as quick as he could but at a cruising speed of 2-3 mph we didn't suffer any whiplash.

Reuben in his "boat jumper".
This is the old wharf built next to Cadbury's dried milk factory. The last cargo left here in the sixties. The factory is now operated by Premier foods and makes drinking chocolate and Marvel, and sadly the shipments of cargo all go by lorry.
I was busy when I heard a hissing sound, two swans wanting to be fed.
mooring up
Time to explore, Rosanna learnt so many new words, cow parsley, moor hen, heron, locks and 'love you'.

The kids loved spotting the highest groves on the iron bridge protectors. These were to protect the bridges form the continual rubbing of the horse towing lines.
We all had fun with the playful calfs

Time for bed, we were all exhausted by about 9.30 each night. Geoff started reading The Plague Dogs, by Richad Adams with the girls.
Early misty mornings.
On our travels we saw kingfishers, herons, moor hens, swallows and loads of baby ducklings.

play time

Refilling the 100 gallon water tanks
Mooring up for the last time in a secluded spot.
Checking the route back.
Our final lock on Friday morning.
and back to Brewood.

Back in the car driving at 20 mph seemd far too fast - why so much rush!!

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Feel the fear and do it anyway - Canal locks!

Reuben's birthday fell on Easter Monday this year. He had his party on the Saturday and the next day was Easter Sunday. By his birthday we were tired and felt a bit flat. A quick look on the internet and I came up with the idea of a canal boat ride. A thirty minute drive from our house would get us to Marsden in West Yorkshire, through which runs the Huddersfield Narrow Canal.

A wrong turn found us heading out over the moors, completely lost. We don't have Sat Nav and Geoff hadn't bothered to put the map in the car. It was a nice wrong turn as the scenery was breath taking. Then we saw the sign 'Saddleworth Moor' and a cold shiver ran down my spine.

Just as we were passing over the moors a news story came on the radio: the ill mother of a moors murder victim wanted to find where her son was buried before she died. It felt very eerie and I was glad when we found direction and got back on the right track.

I love the West Yorkshire mill towns. They are full of character and history.
This is the real reason I wanted to visit a canal: to see the locks. A few weeks earlier we had booked a canal boat holiday. But I had been lying in bed worrying about it all.

Face the fear and do it any way!

Gulp, it looks deep doesn't it. Just looking at the photo is giving me butterflies!
The girls had a go at opening the gates.
Then we took a stroll up the tow path, looking, thinking and chatting about everything we saw. Gradually my apprehension was overcome but our mounting excitement.
Such a tranquil way to travel, 4mph!
We walked along the tow to path to Standedge tunnel. This is the highest, longest and deepest canal tunnel in the UK. It stretches for 5,029 metres (3.25 miles) through hard millstone grit. An engineering marvel worked on by Thomas Telford, the tunnel runs from Marsden in Yorkshire through to Diggle in Lancashire.
And we got a ride back in a canal boat . Yeah! I got to talk more about the locks (and how deep they are) with the volunteers crewing the boat. I realise now that they are deep in the Pennines because the gradients are so extreme. We are going to the Shrophshire Union canal which is relatively flat and so the locks will be much shallower (I hope!). We are looking forward to more creations by Thomas Telford.
Tomorrow we are setting of for five days on the 63 foot narrowboat 'Sir Belin'.

See you soon x


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