My partner and I both work hard, so decided on a quiet and peaceful holiday this year with plenty of English countryside and a narrow boat! I think one of the most difficult decisions with a UK vacation is packing! It was May, so I knew the weather could throw all four seasons at us during the ten days we were gone.
I took a huge suitcase and packed in the summer clothes, shorts, t-shirts etc. The autumn/winter clothes, jeans, jumpers, sweaters, I drew a line at snow boots though! We were going to be staying in a country barn for one night, then a week on a narrow boat and two days in a studio room.
With the car packed, we set off to our first destination, a converted barn at Pear Tree Farm, Tarporley, called the Jockey Room.
Below is of a poster just outside the door of our room.
Huge bed and lovely porthole window overlooking the garden at the farm house.
The field at the back of the farm.
The other porthole window is quite high, giving a fabulous view of the night sky on a clear night.
Everything about this place was cute, quaint, idyllic and very English. We were greeted by the owner, a lovely lady, who was very welcoming and once assured we knew what we were doing left us to enjoy our stay.
The room was on a self catering basis and had all the refreshments we required for an overnight stay. With fabulous views of beautiful horses, chickens, cows and dogs along with a gorgeous night sky view from the very well placed windows it was a visual delight!
After getting lost about three times, despite only being three minutes away, we finally arrived at the venue recommended for our evening meal at the Yew Tree Inn, Tarporley, a lovely little pub in the village. The atmosphere was calm and friendly and the food was amazing! As you can see from the picture, I had the fish and chips and the portions were overly generous! I didn’t eat all that honest!
We had a fabulous nights sleep, helped by a healthy dose of clean country air. Craig cooked our breakfast with the food that had been provided by the farm owners. Fresh, free range eggs, bread, butter, cereal and of course a big mug of tea with fresh milk.
We repacked the car, bid goodbye to the owner, the horses, chickens, dogs and cat. We were off again and on our way to Bunbury.
I love travelling through UK country roads. Everywhere you look it’s green! Fields, farmland, cottages, cows, sheep and the odd pheasant trying to beat the car across the road. If I came into money, the very first thing I would do is take up residence in the countryside!
Our first stop was a small Coop supermarket to stock up on supplies suitable for a week’s stay on a boat. Of course tea bags were top priority along with milk and sugar. I would have been happy with tinned foods, ideal for easy eating but Craig’s a fussy eater. We got some basics from here, fresh soups, butter, snacks including crisps and biscuits. Craig’s favourites, Rich Tea Fingers (why??) and mine, good old bourbons! We finished with a slab of Budweiser and a bottle of lemonade so that I could have my shandy.
We had spotted the Bunbury Village Butchers next door to the Coop so popped in there next. The smell of the freshly baked bread just called us in. The meat was from local farms and we had sausage, bacon along with a few slices of cooked ham and chicken. We chose a couple of pasties and a jar of caramelized onion chutney. The cost was very reasonable. We were finally on our way!
As we drove over the hump bridge into the Anglo Welsh Waterways Holiday Basin in Bunbury, I could see the narrow boats and was so excited! I have a long history with canals and narrow boats. As a young child my grandparents owned one and my Aunt and Uncle lived on one. We spent our summer’s travelling up and down the canals, going out from Gas Street Basin, Birmingham. In fact my Aunt and Uncle were instrumental in the setting up and development of some of the touring/party boats that run from there. Most of my favourite childhood memories come from those times, so you can imagine how eager I was to get back on board!
Below, Gas Street Basin 60s/70s.
After a bit of a wait because in our eagerness, we had arrived early, we were shown to our boat ‘The Merlin’.
Very comfortable double bed with sink basin, running hot and cold water. Plenty of storage space here.
Fully equipped kitchen with gas cooker/oven, microwave, fridge freezer, sink and drainer with hot/cold running water. All pots, utensils and cutlery you could need.
The living room, sofas that transform into a double or two single beds. Small TV, radio, log fire and very comfy chairs!
I didn’t get a picture of the bathroom, for no other reason than I forgot. I can tell you though that it’s very impressive! Inside was a flushing loo, a surprisingly good shower and sink basin. Of course again, hot and cold running water. Gone are the days of arguing about whose turn it is to do the vile job of running as fast as you can to empty the toilet cassette, with a scarf wrapped round your nose to hide the stench! No! The loos now flush and are emptied in a sophisticated manner via pipes, directly, so no more stress! Also, it’s done by the employees and not by yourself anymore so phew! There is central heating now too, not that we needed it on our holiday but more on that in a little while.
We stored all of our belongings on board and was joined by one of the crew members to begin our induction. He was a very friendly, down to earth guy who ran through the Health and Safety and instruction of navigating this sixty foot beauty through the canal.
Craig and I agreed that during the training session, I would steer the boat and he was being shown how to operate the locks. I started the engine, the familiar chugging sound and the smell of the diesel just filled my mind with fond childhood memories.
Heading toward the lock the trainer seemed to think I was doing ok. I could see Craig unwinding the paddles at the top of the lock and despite feeling nervous, I was so excited to just crack on!
The lock doors opened and I steered us in. Craig closed the gates and I could feel the boat swaying as the water gushed in, lifting us higher so that we could enter the next one. The locks really weren’t as bad as I had imagined. As a child, we either stayed inside the boat or played at the side of the canal so this was a real experience for me. The trainer jumped off the boat and Craig joined me on-board. Finally we were off!
It wasn’t too long before I realised that my 5ft height wasn’t going to make navigating the boat very easy. High heels, a step or a change in roles was necessary! As the first two options were probably going to lead to some sort of accident we opted for the third, after about 2 hours of craning my neck lol.
This was a video we made for Facebook for our families.
Our plan was to head in the direction of Llangolen. We didn’t want to make the eight hour a day travel it would take to get there but we knew that would be a scenic route, however far we got.
Our first mooring was a lovely canal side pub called ‘The Barbridge Inn’. Very quaint and quirky, with lots of reference to it’s heratige and lovely staff. We had chicken with daphenois potatoes and it tasted divine!
We continued on beyond the pub and moored just before the next set of locks that we had decided to tackle the next day.
Little ducklings heading our way.
It was my turn to do the locks and Craig was steering. I have to say turning those paddles is hard work! Seriously, I don’t why I haven’t come back with huge biceps because some of them nearly had me weeping lol! So much fun though and I would absolutely do it time and time again!
We moored again not so far up from here because I wanted to watch the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Megan. Craig tied off the front and I tied the back. After messing with the television for a while I managed to get a decent enough reception. Craig began cooking brunch, bacon, sausage and eggs with buttered toast, although we settled for buttered bread because he couldn’t work out the grill ….
Coming up to the end of the wedding I mentioned to Craig that there seemed to be a lot of banging and swaying and he went up deck. My rope had come untied …. We were actually straight across the canal cutting off anyone trying to pass by! Oops!! I had to use the pole to push us back!
Our next challenge was the lift bridge, which again turned out to be quite simple. It was operated by the lock key with added help of hydraulics so doesn’t take too long.
We moored here for a couple of nights. It’s in a very nice little village called Wrenbury. There are two lovely Inns to eat and drink at, a descent little supermarket, a small Marina belonging to ABC Narrow boats and a small camping site. We went into both the pubs here and they were lovely! Very friendly and relaxed atmosphere. The Dusty Miller was the first and then The Cotton Arms.
When I say we had good weather, for England that’s an understatement. It was way up there in the late twenties and for May that’s incredible! We decided we needed hats and here they are. We embraced our roles to the max as you can see ha ha ha!
We continued on from here through more locks and moored in a more secluded and quiet spot to fully appreciate the quietness, just before Marbury.
Me working the locks, while Craig steers through.
Just before Marbury, we had to turn the boat around ready to head back to the basin. We had travelled for three and half days, so knew that it was time to make our return. Turning a sixty odd foot boat around in short space is no easy task and took far more thought than our first attempt! After getting stuck in the shallows and using two boating poles with sheer strength I didn’t know I had, we managed to manoeuvre our way out lol! So funny looking back now, the screaming and shouting back and forth! Our second attempt was done like professionals! The trick is to point the nose of the boat into the turn and with the engine running allow the boat to turn itself, with a little nudge from the pole now and again.
I could talk about this trip forever, it really was one of the best holidays that we have had! Is outdoors, active, yet peaceful, scenic and one of the most wonderful ways to travel! I will leave you with some photos that will give you a taste of the sights that will intice you into travelling the British Waterways for yourself!