Our first introduction with a local Brit was when I accidentally bumped into a group of “young tuffs” while we were trying to find our hotel. Marty and I both laughed out loud when we heard his cheerful, accented response as he reached out to make sure I wasn’t going to tip over and said; “Sorry, love!” That became the quote of our trip, but not because it was a sorry trip; it was a month of England and Wales adventures to remember!
After arriving in London we hopped on a train to Worcester where we planned to spend a few days recovering from jet lag and getting our travel legs under us. We wandered the streets of Worcester for three days enjoying the great walking streets, shops, exhibits, river views, swans, rugby matches, local music, history, and of course, pubs! Our Airbnb was located above (way above..) a central walking street, allowing us to come and go easily as we headed off in a different direction each day.
Pretty soon it was time for week one of the big British escapade, and what this trip was really planned around. So, what’s blue, 50′ long, 8′ wide, goes 4-mph, and floats? You guessed it; our cute little canal boat, named the Swindon Grange. Being that we were celebrating my birthday, it was only right that our boat was blue!
We checked out of our flat, stopped to pick up Welsh cakes and wine, Cumberland sausages, and some makings for a good mash (we love the local food!), then walked to the marina to move onto our floating home. After an overview of the systems from the friendly service guys at the marina, including how to clean the prop each day (Marty’s job), we were ready…maybe? There’s no test driving involved, just a quick how-to video about the locks, and the walk-through onboard. Casey, our instructor, kept saying, it’s no problem, you’ll be fine; then why do I have butterflies in my tummy?…argh! This was as almost as scary as leaving the dock in Ketchikan headed for San Francisco!
To give me even a few more jitters, as we were completing our walk-through we watched another couple depart the dock in their boat heading for the first challenge; a 90-degree turn to exit the marina and enter the narrow canal. We heard a loud thud as they drove their boat up onto the far side bank of the canal, followed by the engine screaming as they put it in full reverse to get back off! Great…we’re next! Maybe our boating experience actually did help us though, because we just treated this like leaving any tiny marina in Happy Dance; Marty on the bow giving the all clear, me on the helm slowly doing a three or four point turn – phew we made it! Sorry, love!
After leaving the marina we were now in the canal leading to the River Severn and about to arrive at our next challenge; the first lock! Marty was the designated “lock labourer” (he got a special button and everything), so we pulled over to the side to tie up while Marty walked up to investigate the lock workings. Pretty soon he was signaling me through, so I pulled into the tiny space, and watched as the water disappeared beneath me! When Marty opened the gates, I drove out and picked him up on the other side and we were off to the next set of locks. We repeated this process many more times over the next week, for a total of about 50 locks. Marty got his exercise and I took lots of photos!
Our first night on the river, we pulled up to a cute pub (redundant?) named The Camp House and tied up to their dock. We headed up to join the Sunday afternoon gathering and we were soon chatting merrily with the locals, sharing stories and learning about their easy lifestyles. There were as many dogs in the pub as there were people, but amazingly enough they were all very well behaved and I even had a cute little guy named Georgie on my lap for most of the evening. Anyone who knows me is laughing now…go ahead, it was a magical night among new friends.
The rest of the week followed much the same pattern; we’d get up and have our coffee on the aft deck, then we’d head off for more wetland adventures. The weather was perfect for us all week, with puffy clouds and intermittent sunshine and only one rainy day, so all was well on that score. We’d explore whatever town or village or countryside we ended up in, and find somewhere for a tasty meal.
Some of the channels were crazy narrow, so tight that we’d have to drive through the reeds in order to pass a boat heading the other direction. A few spots were called “pinch points” where you had to plan ahead because if you did meet another boat one of you had to back up to let the other through! There were lots of old arched bridges, a few tiny tunnels where we had to duck to make it through, and lots of different types of locks. It was beautiful in a green leafy way, with plenty of swans, grebes, and ducks all around.
So how did we like our boat away from boat you ask? We loved it (don’t tell Happy Dance!). It was definitely a different type of boat living than we’re used to, but there are some similarities. The peaceful, slow, quiet mode of travel is wonderful, as is the coziness of the boat itself. Just like on Happy Dance we had all the comforts we needed, and our view changed daily. People in other boats were always friendly and helpful, and we were surprised at how the locals were so interested in our adventures as well! It’s a great way to travel and explore the rolling countryside and quaint villages of England.
“Sorry, Love”, our next canal boat trip is going to have to be longer!