26.07.2002 - 29.07.2002
In the early 60's I started reading books by Emily Kimbrough. Several of her books dealth with canal boats, one in France, one on the Thames, and one was about a narrowboat hire in England and Wales. Ever since I read her books, I've wanted to do that. So when we decided to visit our daughter who is on a 3 year job exchange, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to have a narrowboat holiday. My son-in-law could help us with the boat, and could
Initially I wanted to go across the big aqueduct in Wales, but since my son-in-law couldn't spare a whole week, there was no way we could do that in a long weekend. So I hired a boat through Hoseasons through a hire company called Brook Line in Dunhampstead. It had the advantage of being fairly close to our daughter's house in Cheltenham. We hired a small boat of about 43 feet that slept 5.
At the bow, there were small seats on each side. The folding doors to access the bow can be folded shut and locked. The doors have shades on the windows for privacy. Inside on the portside of the boat is a hanging closet, and next to that is a bench and a window over it. There is a red hatch on the bow which gives access to stored equipment, and the water fill is there also. On top of the boat there is a boat hook and a mop in addition to the orange life preserver.
The steering platform is on the stern. Past the controls are a hanging area with a set of foulies (supplied with the boat) which we didn't need because we had excellent weather. They also supplied our grandson with a life preserver. The stern of our boat did not have a place to sit, nor did it have any protective railing to keep you from falling off the back. There was enough place for two people to stand provided the helmsman didn't need to move the tiller too far to the side.
There are two big steps down from the stern platform. One of the waste baskets is in this area. Our double bunk was just past the stern steering station. This fixed double was pretty narrow. Bob and I almost had space to lie flat next to each other without overlapping. The person next to the wall (Bob) had to crawl over the other person to get up. The door between the bunk and the steering platform can be slide-locked shut so that someone can't come in via the stern (or to shut out cold air), or can be hooked open on the edge of the sink. The cupboards over the sink have the exhaust pipe from the engine going through them which keeps it warm in there, and on the stern side there are shelves, and a mirror on the inside of the door. There are storage drawers under the bunk
Next is the galley area
There was a 3 ring notebook of instructions in case we forgot what we were supposed to be doing. Past the table are the windows with curtains which are across from the double bunk. On the left is the head (toilet - fresh water flush) and on the right is the shower and sink. This whole area can be closed off by securing doors across the central passageway, or there is a door closing off the head separately which leaves the passageway open.
Getting underway - Friday July 26, 2002
Friday - July 26: Both our daughter and son-in-law went in to work. Our daughter came home about 10 and we packed food for breakfast, lunch and snacks. When her husband got home we had lunch and loaded the boys in the USA car, and our daughter and I went in her car (a Rover), to Dunhampstead where the boat hire place was
We parked in the last two places (free) in the lot, and had the boat tour including important lock information (don't leave the paddle winder in the lock mechanism - it will jump out and drown, as it doesn't swim worth a darn), boat running information (check the sump every day, don't let the rudder catch on the lock sill or the sill will damage the rudder - and cost big £££), stove running information(hold the stove knob on for 30 seconds), and toilet running information (don't put anything down the toilet except human produced waste and toilet paper).
Then we loaded the stuff we had brought. We brought towels, although overseas visitors have them provided. We weren't sure, since we were coming from a local house if we counted as overseas. We decided to go down to Worcester and come back instead of going to Birmingham because the route to Birmingham included among other things the Tardebigge Locks - 30 locks in a row, and we didn't want to expend that much effort. Plus, Birmingham isn't exactly a prime tourist destination.
But there were no tunnels on the route, and I wanted to do at least one tunnel, so we went up toward Hanbury Wharf first, and went through the Dunhampstead Tunnel (236 yards long), through Shernal Green, and turned around at the Droitwich Junction where there is a defunct canal. The canals are too narrow to turn except at junctions or turning points. We could have had dinner at the Eagle and Sun pub, but it is apparently so popular that we'd have to have reservations and besides it was too early for dinner and too late for lunch.
Bob steered, and turned us around (the boat is 43 feet long, not quite 7 feet wide, and doesn't steer well in reverse) without any apparent problems. There were several boats moored on one side of the canal there, and the people on them appeared completely blase about his prowess to handle the boat, and that he wouldn't run into them, but I noticed that one apparently relaxed man was really only pretending to read. Then we went back down through the tunnel again, past the hire office.
The tunnels do not have tow paths along side the canal. So the horses that pulled the boats in the old days before engines, were unhitched and led over the tunnel to the other side. In order to get the boat through the tunnel, the boat operator(s) would lie on the cabin top on their backs, and 'leg' the boat through the tunnel. That is they'd walk along the roof of the tunnel to pull the boat through
After we passed Dunhampstead for the second time, we went past Oddingly with its ancient half-timbered manor house and tiny church and several murders to its credit. The Firs Inn headlines these murders in its advertising board by the side of the canal.
The story about Oddingly goes that the new minister at the church (some years ago) was going to require increased tithes, and had built a large building to keep the tithes in. Several of the farmers did not wish to tithe, and two of them hired a man to murder the minister. When one of the farmers would not pay the hit man, he murdered the farmer also, and then escaped into the woods.
His skeleton was discovered many years later - so much later that the other farmer in the plot (presumed to have murdered him), had also died by that time.
We tied up at the free public moorings below the bridge and went up to eat dinner there at a pub.
We actually had a choice of two pubs. We ate outside overlooking the canal.
We've gone a distance of perhaps 7 miles in all. Several swans came up to the boat, perhaps expecting a handout. This swan came up to the boat and hissed threateningly at us. Whether she was angry at not getting something to eat, or upset that we were too close to her babies, I don't know.
After we ate, we had a peaceful night. There is a heater, but we didn't need it.
Our son-in-law got up and ran (he works out every day) to the tunnel and back (he was surprised at how short the distance was and how quickly he got there), then he got a local paper and a national paper and showered.
When you shower, you have to manually pump out the water that collects from the shower. After Bob figured out how we could get away from the moorings without hitting anyone, we were off before 9.
(Son-inlaw managing the mooring line.