A three-part series – Jane Boyd’s narrative of planning a Narrowboat adventure will be familiar to many of us who have tried so hard to organise the perfect getaway. A funny and idyllic adventure read Jane’s story and escape the current cold weather.
I guess my perfectionism was kicking in when I spent hours working out a route plan for our narrow boat weekend. It read like some military manoeuvres, with columns for where we would be, what time we will get there, what time we would leave, how long it would take. This was all in a desperate attempt to save my dream of having a fun birthday weekend with the teenagers in tow before one of them goes off to university.
Or should I say, reluctant teenagers? When I booked, no one said they couldn’t come, but since then the list of reasons they can’t come has got longer and longer. All their reasons are perfectly valid and unavoidable so I made my plan so that they could be on the boat for as much of the weekend as possible, thinking they’d be pleased.
You should have seen me sitting at my desk into the early hours trying to work out how far we would get each day using a map and an online canal route planner then Google Street view to find suitable parking places. Then searching for an affordable dog-friendly pub within walking distance to book a table at was hours. It was the work of a determined rational mind and I so enjoyed doing it. I put it all on a spreadsheet and printed it out a copy each so we knew what was happening and when we had to be where on what form of transport.
I’m smiling about it now because it all went wrong within the first two minutes of the holiday which is probably not surprising to any of you who have been on a narrowboat before, but I’m a newbie. That plan will come in handy though, I’m low on toilet paper.
He and I set off for the boat feeling excited about our adventure. It turns out the rest of our crew were wishing they could stay at home and watch incessant reruns or the big bang theory, go to parties and not have to spend their weekend doing boring stuff like chug slowly with their parents along a peaceful stretch of sunlit waterway in a boat that is so narrow they have to walk sideways through it. I kid you not, even Ruby, the Labrador, can’t turn round and has to walk backward, deftly negotiating the dog-leg by the cupboard without looking around. So, we arrive at the boatyard at 3 pm to pick up the boat and take us to our overnight stop at the Shady Oak Pub – eight minutes by car, two hours by narrow boat.
I expected that we would have about an hour of setting the boat up and getting our tuition before we set off. Pffff!
On arrival at the boatyard, we realize that our boat, the Anderton, is pointing towards Nantwich when we need it to point towards Chester. How do you turn a 60-foot long boat in a canal that is less than 60 feet wide? The answer, you go to the nearest winding hole and turn it there.
We finally turn the boat and leave the boatyard at 6 pm. Rob, one of the boat company’s members of staff, says it will take about an hour to get to the pub. Which is good because our table is booked for 7 pm. Then Steve, another boat company man, tells us he reckons it is about three hours to the pub. Our online planner reckons it is about two hours to the pub. The plan is right and we arrive at the pub about 8 pm. Too late for our table booking and we still have cars to juggle.
Despite feeling a little stressed about how we are going to eat tonight, the journey has really calmed me down. There is something so wonderful about the stillness of the water in front of us and the sounds of the countryside around us. Every so often A duck or a moorhen will fly out from under the overhanging hedges at the edge of the water and chatter on its way across the water into another bush. The reflections of the sky, the greenery and, every so often, a bridge in the water are so perfect. Birds argue in the hedgerows and the sun filtering through the trees casts stripes onto the water.
I’m starting to really enjoy the slower pace of life on the canal. I can see why people fall in love with it. Surely this is at least as good for the soul as meditation.
When I have a moment, I decide to unpack. Note to self: next time remember that the fridge is not even as big as one of the two we’ve got at home. Don’t shop for England.
By the time we’ve juggled the cars and managed to grab a quick bite to eat in the pub, he and I are completely exhausted. The double bunk on board is more like a three-quarter width bed so I sleep in the single, giving him the space to sleep diagonally. I’m surprisingly comfortable given the width of the bed and the depth of the mattress. Goodnight.