Friday, 6 March 2015

A cruise down the waterways - our canal boat holiday on the Llangollen Canal

Do you dream of a holiday waking up with nature - bird song, fresh air, country walks and breakfasting by the riverbank?  Add to that a warm summer day and the gentle sound of water lapping against a boat and you have the perfect canal boat holiday. Last summer my family did just this and we had one of the best holidays ever.

We live in a peaceful rural Oxfordshire village - away from big cities and heavy traffic which was once the norm so it maybe surprising to hear we wanted a holiday "away from it all" - surely that's our current status quo?  But even a quiet village is not immune from everyday life trying to steal your every second of the day. The physical doorstep maybe quieter and true there are black spots of reception in the countryside but mobile calls and emails and social media pervade our lives here as much as anywhere.

So the thought of a week where we would travel the canals that meander through the northwest English and Welsh counties without computers, phones or TV's had much appeal.  As we started our journey northwards my heart sank -  the heavens opened with rain. The sort of rain that normally has you running for shelter and not venturing out again without wellies, considerable waterproofs and a jolly good reason for not remaining indoors. It may have been the first week in August but I was starting to wonder if we were facing a week of being continually soaked by the elements and destined to feel miserably damp all week. And had I packed enough warm and waterproof clothing?  I can even confess to feeling slightly smug that we had booked the following week in Greece for guaranteed back-to-back sunshine to recover from what was increasingly looking like a once in a lifetime experience - not to be repeated under any circumstances!

Travelling up the M6 is not my favourite route on the best of days but 5 hours later we arrived at the marina to pick up our canal boat from Pea Green Boats.  One day we will learn to stick to the plan and set off early! Already the sun was now breaking through and it turned out to be a glorious week of summer weather. Our boat - The Owl - was perfectly proportioned for our family of three with a comfy double bed, a pull out bed for our son and best of all a hot shower and flushable loo onboard!  After some basic instruction and hands-on guidance through the first lock we were off on our week's adventure.  The peace and quiet was immediate and as the sun began to fall lower in the sky, the sounds of birdsong and the gentle, rhythmic motion of The Owl making its way down the canal we could feel our bodies physically relax.  The red wine on board probably helped a bit too.

Mooring up for our first night - we made our own dinner on the boat and played a few board games.  There was a TV on board but no reception - perfect;  a week oblivious to anything happening in the world at large. We watched a DVD before turning in for the night - Wind in the Willows with the wonderful and sadly departed Rik Mayall as the charming Mr Toad. We slept well all week and thoroughly enjoyed our week on the boat. The slow pace of life was just what we needed and the scenery was beautiful - of course I had packed my camera to capture it all.  Would we do it again?  Absolutely - not least as we didn't make it to the Viaduct at the end of the canal so we have a challenge to return to see that.  If you are looking for  holiday with a difference then look no further than a week on a canal boat.

While a strong arm is required for some of the locks it well worth the effort and our son thoroughly enjoyed helping out (do make sure children wear their life jackets at all times when out in the open).  I took on steering the boat through the locks and was quite proud to find I mastered it with ease, once I'd worked out which way to steer the tiller. There is the hydraulic lock at Wrenbury (which also has a great little shop for provisions if you run short just 5 mins from the canal) as well as the little village of Marlbury with its church, pub and lake if you want to stretch your legs off the boat.  The tow paths are also right there for a walk along the canal and in late summer/Autumn provide an abundance of brambles for crumble pies and custard!

A good sprinkle of pubs offer meals and a pleasant place to sit out on a summer evening if you want a change of scene from your boat, and if your lucky you'll also capture a sunset or two.

Essential items to pack - games, books and custard!  Leave the mobile at home…. you won't get a call all week!

Canal boats holidays are available on the all the canal waterways in England and Wales.  We booked our trip along the Llangollen canal through Pea Green Boats where you are assured a warm welcome from Nic and Mike

Judi x

Judi is a wedding and lifestyle photographer based near Oxford working mainly in Oxfordshire,  Wiltshire, Berkshire, Gloucestershire and the Cotswolds but will consider commissions throughout the UK.  Working on location using natural light and countryside landscapes, Judi focuses on capturing beautiful relaxed images of you and your family using a mix of reportage and fine art style photography. Using an artistic eye Judi will not just capture your memories but create a work of art which can be presented in luxury fine art albums or as framed art or canvases to hang in your homes. 

Judi also provides services for commercial businesses including headshots, nursery and pre-school portraits as well as special events such as birthdays and christenings etc. She is a member of both The Society for Wedding & Portrait Photographers and The Guild of Professional Photographers.

More information is available on the website or contact Judi via email