The Observer Mag - Aug 2011





It’s not exactly white water rafting, but there’s gentler, more contemplative adventuring to be had pottering along on a narrowboat on Britain’s 3,000-mile-long system of waterways.

You’re on a voyage of discovery – a journey to lost parts of England through landscapes unchanged for centuries. But should you yearn for the comforts of civilisation, there’s terrifi c traditional pubs and restaurants along the way
serving a surprisingly varied cuisine.

Rent a boat for the weekend from the pretty Warwickshire village of Napton-on-the-Hill and experience that unique combination of frenetic hard labour and indolence which characterises canal travel.

You start with a stiff ascent of the nine attractive locks to Priors Hardwick, the windmill at Napton your backdrop. Afterwards the going gets easier as you navigate the 12 twisting miles which is the summit of the Oxford Canal. It’s a winding, tortuous route through a hauntingly beautiful countryside characterised by glorious views on all sides.

Assuming you haven’t spent too long at the beginning of the cruise in The Folly in Napton (home-cooked pies and local faggots on the menu) or detoured at Priors Hardwick for Portuguese cooking at the 14thcentury Butchers Arms, then you’ll make Fenny Compton before nightfall.

There – what a surprise! – you’ll find the Wharf Inn serving a full menu in its landscaped garden. Unless you can
resist the temptation to chuck in the job and turn water gypsy, head back to base and do the whole thing again.