Saturday, November 11, 2006

We're back from our hols.

We've just come back from a mini-break on a canal boat (yep in November) and have had a fabulous time. We have been so lucky with the weather too, just one wet and windy morning that wasn't much fun for P, the driver, or for me and the kids when it came to working the locks, but the rest of the five day break we had sun. The children never seemed to be bored, seeing as how most of the time they were inside the boat. We had our first Flat Traveller with us and we all updated the travel log and kept notes of what we'd seen using a traveller's pack that the canal boat hire company kindly provided us. K and B also did lots of drawing and colouring, games playing and, for K, lots of reading and saddle making! No one said they'd missed the PC for the entire trip!

Set off last Monday morning to Nottingham to pick up the canal boat from Sawley Marina. After we'd watched a video about what to do and not to do inside the boat and on the water, we were shown how to operate the locks and fill up our water tank. We were then free to drift along the Trent and Mersey canal at our leisure. We didn't leave Sawley until 3.30 ish on the Monday afternoon, so we couldn't travel too far as we soon lost the light. We moored, after battling through our first lock (me doing the battling - I couldn't shift it!) at Shardlow for a swift couple of pints, and Fantas, in the Malt and Shovel. Then we had our second battle - which beds to claim. Somehow this ended in us being on the smallish pull out sofa (closer to the kitchen and TV) and the kids having the comfort of the fixed king sized bed (such fools are we).

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First night's stop - Shardlow - very pretty.

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Lots of pretty waterside houses - wanted them all!

Set off at 8 the next morning to travel at a speedy 5 mph past the most wonderful homes, scenery and the like up to Willington. As winter was setting in, we couldn't travel past Willington as lock and canal works were taking place. We saw kingfishers (never seen these before, so it was pretty thrilling for me), herons, cows drinking from the water's edge (even one on the towpath) and good old hardy fishermen! No problem with locks today, kids helped out and it made a huge difference. Their muscles (and mine) have grown over these last few days. We were amazed to see so many others enjoying their boats too, and many people seem to live on them. Moored at Willington for our over night stop and stayed in to watch "Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves" (quickly running the video through any "naughty" bits before the kids could work out
what was going on!).

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P turning the boat successfully at Willington
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Morning visitors looking for breakfast

Turned our boat round early next morning to head back to Sawley to enable us to travel the other stretch towards Nottingham. Weather was not good during this morning, and the rain was being driven by wind and seemed to start up every time a lock appeared! Poor P was kind of fixed to the rudder by lunch time, we thawed him out with hot soup! After lunch, it brightened up and B and I were able to sit at the front of the boat and enjoy the peaceful views and marvel at the mirror images in the water ahead of us. We hoped for a meal out once we'd moored back at Sawley, but as soon as our food had been ordered, a local powercut shut everything down and we had to turn back to the boat and arrange our own grub! TV didn't receive the best signal so we resulted to fun family games to keep us amused, and we were all too exhausted to stay up much past 8.30 anyway!

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The Power Station at Sawley was a fascination for us all
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Beautiful scenery along the River Trent

Thursday we travelled from Sawley to Nottingham along the River Trent which provided a different style of scenery, being more open with hills and the Attenborough Nature Reserve along the banks then ending up quite industrialised closer to Nottingham. We were hoping to go just past the town to a larger stretch of water to easily turn the boat round but we were told that the lock was closed. This posed a problem as the boat is naturally long and the canal is not wide. We had to back up to the entrance of Nottingham Marina to use it as a winding (as in "wind" the weather) hole (turning area) and turn ourselves around. Sounds easy, nope, took us a couple of tries, and some frustrated words before we were able to moor up the correct way! Spent the afternoon in Nottingham visiting the castle and museum, the lace shop, seeing statues of Robin Hood and his men and witnessing the spectacular views from the top of the castle. Had a quick browse around the town as the night drew in and found a wonderful shop called The Token House with all those lovely little trinkets, bits and bobs that make such lovely little gifts. Had our meal out and another zonked out early night!

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Nottingham Castle
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"Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem" - the oldest pub in England shown
here with Sabba, the Flat Traveller we took on holiday

Drifted back on Friday and moored up for lunch just past the Erewash Canal before returning to Sawley and then a rather wet and miserable drive home.

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At 5:06 pm, Blogger Nikki said...

Wow, that looks brilliant fun! I went on a narrowboat break with a friend's family when I was about 12 (think it was on the Oxford canal) and loved it. Would really, really like to go now but I'm a bit daunted by the whole steering the boat/mooring/locks thing. Was it easy enough to do? Will have to get hubby to look at your blog since it would be his job!

At 7:27 pm, Blogger Ruth said...

It looks like brilliant fun. The last time I did anything like it I was 14.

At 11:09 pm, Blogger Elaine, Ellies Treasures said...

Hi Nikki, we soon got the hang of the boat. P had navigated in the past on family holidays so he picked it up pretty quickly and I left him to do most of the navigating during the holiday. I was nervous about using the locks, especially as I couldn't budge the first one we came across, but after that it all seemed to go OK. Kids loved it all too. Elle


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