We had a family barge trip. I must admit, I was slightly dreading this beforehand – the whole family confined in a single room (albeit a floating one), not great facilities, very little sleep, not much to do….I was anticipating a rerun of some of the camping trips I recall from childhood. However, it was great. Really, it was so much fun.
We picked up the 8-man narrow boat at Trevor, near Llangollen. This entailed a long briefing session, so we knew how to use the boat. Very long. I was assured afterwards that those who had listened could now build their own boat if necessary. The boat was also very long. And very narrow (hence the name). The beds especially were narrow – this is not a good holiday for fat people.
Sailed (do you say ‘sailed’ if there is no sail? Unsure of boating terms here) across a couple of aqueducts. I should tell you, aqueducts are high. Really, really high. And they have absolutely no rail to stop you stepping over the edge. One side is the tow path (with restraining rail), the other side is a 126ft drop, straight down. It would however, be a pretty place to die. (Son 2 ranted for some time about the fact that we insist on peanuts being labelled with a warning:May contain nuts, but there is no rail on the side of the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct).
We also did a couple of tunnels. Tunnels are seriously dark. So dark that, if you are walking through them with an excited german shepherd dog, you cannot see the edge of the tow path and have to hope that she doesn’t pull you into the canal. I expect that some families, when entering a tunnel, shout a warning to other people on the boat who might be reading/in the loo/washing up. Obviously this is not essential though.
Yes, we did take the dog. She slept in my cabin, which she found very exciting. She is a very smelly dog – the air was somewhat intense after the first night. We left her in the boat while we went to find somewhere for dinner. When we left, our boat was the one that was crying. When we got back, we found her standing on husband’s bed watching the ducks out the window.
We also took our 3 adult children, a girlfriend and a boyfriend. If you hire a barge, it’s a good idea to go with people who you know well – there is no escaping the fact that you are going to hear everything that happens in the toilet.
As I said, I loved it. We were away for three nights, which were fairly sleepless (narrow bed, noisy toilets, regular licks on face from excited dog). However, the days were brilliant. I mainly walked along the tow paths – mile upon mile of beautiful scenery, no cars; and no one telling me they were tired and asking how much further I intended to walk. Then, when I was tired, there was my armchair/toilet/cup of tea, right beside me. Brilliant.
The family also had fun and proved to be an adept boat crew. The boyfriend was quickly put in charge of driving (he went through less bushes and hit fewer banks than some of the other people who steered). Daughter proved to be rather good at tugging on ropes, and the blokes seemed to enjoy the whole muscle/active thing. They also played poker – using dog food kibble as chips – which the dog enjoyed.
The only thing we never really mastered was tying the ropes when we moored. We would pass boats with these neat knots, and ours looked like they had been plaited and wound into macrame shapes. (I have an aunt who used to weave macrame plant pot holders – these were not dissimilar.)
We were also not very good at being tidy. Boats are meant to be tidy (it is where the term ‘ship shape’ comes from. Ours was more ‘sh** shape’).
At the end of the few days, I was ready to come home and have a proper shower (as in, one that actually had water coming out of it). But the holiday was so much fun. It was fairly active, but we could have just sat and read if we’d wanted to do nothing. I have already booked a week with my children each year when I am ninety (they can take it in turns to take me). Am also hoping to go again next year – though I might book a B&B for the nights…..
Thank you for reading.
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