Shropshire Star - May 05


It's time to go with the flow and relax

Shirley Scott follows in the footsteps of Hollywood legend Harrison Ford by taking a short break on Britain 's inland waterways

 

Taking to Britain 's waterways is becoming increasingly popular. The actor Timothy West, who presents ITV's Waterworld, and David Suchet, TV's Poirot, are long time supporters of the campaign to restore canals, but more recently canal cruising has even attracted the attention of movie star Harrison Ford.

The Indiana Jones star was famously photographed navigating the Llangollen Canal , something which we had done a few years ago. So on this weekend break, my husband and I were looking forward to travelling through the Worcestershire countryside and had suggested that my parents, who had not been on a canal break before, might like to join us.

When we arrived at Lowesmoor Wharf in Worcester and Viking Afloat, which is part of a consortium know as Drifters, my parents were totally unprepared for our lovely, comfortable and deceptively spacious narrowboat.

At just 7ft wide, a cruising narrowboat is probably the closest thing to a Tardis this side of the TV screen. Our 57ft boat, called Gustavus, boasted two double berths, each with its own toilet and washbasin. One also had a shower. Between the berths we found a well-equipped galley, with a good size fridge, plenty of cupboard space, a four-ring gas hob, grill and oven. The living area had a radio and CD player and a television set.

After we had taken in our surroundings and had stowed away our belongings, we were ready for our briefing. Brian and Mike were extremely friendly and helpful in explaining the technical side and in getting us under way. While my husband had steered a narrowboat before, he admitted to being a bit rusty and Brian was happy to help us to navigate the tricky turn out of the base. For those who have never navigated a canal, help was also offered on how to work the first lock and there is also useful information on board.

For just a weekend, the company recommends a short trip down to Diglis Basin for the first night's stop. It also gets you used to handling the locks as you have to pass through two on your way. So we duly turned around at Diglis, went back through one lock and moored up with several boats at The Commandery. From here it was a short walk in to the centre of Worcester , with numerous pubs and places to eat.

The Saturday morning was bright if a bit chilly as we set off out of Worcester , and tackled the first lock of the day. Perhaps the main thing to keep in mind about canal journeys is that you are not going anywhere in a great hurry. Locks take patience and some muscle. We learned that some old gloves not only help in getting a grip on the lock, but help keep the grease off your hands and prevent it spreading to the rest of your clothes.

Soon we were heading for the first flight of 12 locks and the open countryside. The itinerary provided by the boat company suggested heading for Tibberton, which boasts two pubs, as a lunchtime stop. As we slowly journeyed along the waterway, we were aware of the hum of traffic from the M5, but we were still a million miles from the hustle and bustle of life today.

Four hours later, we arrived at Tibberton, where after tackling the locks we enjoyed a well-earned pint and some lunch. From here it was plain sailing to our destination, Hanbury Wharf . Here we were amazed at the number of narrowboats before our eyes. Not only are there numerous moorings, but it is the base of a boat construction company, and there are rows of luxurious narrowboat homes, with a price tag to match.

Booked

On the advice of the boat company we had booked our evening meal at the Eagle and Sun and after turning around we duly moored up just by the pub.

This was a chance to try out the onboard shower. The water was heated by the engine as we went along and it was great to wash off the grime.

The pub was pretty packed and as we tucked into our carvery dinner we were glad that we had booked. On returning to the boat, we decided against the easy option of switching on the TV. Instead we settled back with a glass of wine and a few hands of cards reality would wait.

The next day it was a matter of retracing our journey back to Worcester and again we started off in the sunshine.

Unfortunately as we were almost back in the city, the rain inevitably came. While we had taken wet-weather gear, two sets were also provided on the boat. But it failed to dampen our spirits and we all agreed that it had been a thoroughly enjoyable weekend.

However, the conditions we enjoyed are a far cry from those of canal families in the past and a number of museums now offer a look at life how it used to be on our waterways.