The Robinson family from Scunthorpe, comprises Dad Phil, Mum Natalia and their three children – Theo, aged four, Hannah seven and Holly nine. They took a short break last April on a five berth boat from Drifters’ base at Anderton in Cheshire, on the junction of the River Weaver Navigation and Trent & Mersey Canal.
Describing their trip, Phil Robinson said: After travelling for just over two hours from our home in Scunthorpe, we were greeted at the Anderton boat yard by a very professional and friendly receptionist and helpful members of staff. As we had previously taken a canal boat holiday (from Drifters’ Sowerby Bridge base last summer), we did not need the boat steering free tuition offered.
So we put the life jackets straight on the children, hopped on board and it was ships ahoy! We left around 3.30pm on the Friday and decided to take the left canal route, as recommended by the hire boat company (UK Boat Hire).
The first feeling was one of relief to have made it to the boat yard and to be back on board a five-tonne steel narrowboat, travelling at walking speed and surrounded by all aspects of our English life and scenery. We didn’t have a plan for our journey, nor did we know what’s round the corner, but the not knowing is part of the fun!
The kids are all behaving – and this was not due to the latest iPod, TV or DVD player – it was due to the scenery and the feeling we are all in this together.
As a family, we have spent thousands upon thousands on holidays to Spain, Greece, Cuba, turkey etc, yet we have never experienced anything quite like this. OK, the weather wasn’t great, but canal boat holidays have something special no other holiday has given us.
It’s now around 5.30pm and the decision is made to find a restaurant. As we proceed along the canal, we start looking for a suitable watering hole. It’s not that hard to find, just look for a built up area! We found a suitable mooring and off we went to find our tea in a nice little restaurant about five minutes walk away from the boat.
We all enjoyed our meals and set off back to the boat. We then showered the kids and put them to bed. Natalia and I sat outside with a bottle of red and enjoyed the peace around us.
The next morning, its breakfast and off we go! The boat is equipped with everything we need – cooker, plates, cutlery, etc. As with the day before, we had no plan for our destination. I checked the boat – grease, oil and propeller – and off we went.
The weather was overcast and the temperature was around 8 to 10 degrees, but this didn’t bother us, as we all had smiles on our faces.
Locks ahead, the wife steers the boat and I do the manual task! The locks are a feat of British engineering we should all be proud off. Yes, it takes an element of fitness to operate the various winding mechanisms so this task will not suit everyone (including my wife), but if you are a ‘slightly active’ individual as I am, it’s a pleasure. And working the locks is not rocket science, it’s just plain common sense.
It’s also a great pleasure to discover that people on the canals will actually say “hello” as they pass and will offer to help with the locks or catch a rope. And it’s all ages. It reminds you that people are generally nice, even in today’s society.
We had many choices regarding destinations. We had a map on board and we bought the very helpful guidebook from the boat yard. At the beginning of our trip, the boat yard staff gave us a choice: take the right canal and its lots of tunnels; or take the left canal and its locks. We chose the locks.
As we had hired the boat for three nights, the plan was to travel as far as we could in one direction in one-and-a-half days, stopping off as we wished. Once we reached the half-way point of our hire time, we turned round at the next suitable winding hole and set off back again.
Although we didn’t have a destination plan, we did use the map as each of the bridges we passed under had a unique number which we could check off on the map.
The total cost of the weekend was around £850.00. This included all hire expenses and I am pleased to say no airport taxes, supplements, transfer fees, taxis, ferry charges, etc, etc! It also included all meals out (plus a bottle or two of red), and our fuel charge of £48.
Ok, so it’s not the cheapest weekend you can have with three kids, but not only does a canal boat holiday satisfy life’s quest for adventure, it also helps our economy, by keeping the pounds we spent on British soil!