Wednesday, March 26, 2014

My Favorite Summer Vacation: A Narrow Boat Cruising Adventure in England

Now that Spring is here, you are probably starting to think about what to do this summer.

So if you are looking for a great adventure, I thought I would share one of the most wonderful summer vacations I have ever had.

If you read my blog, you probably already know how much I love England.  (If not, you can find out from my earlier blog "Why I Love England.") 

So what better way to enjoy England than to hire a narrow boat and cruise slowly up one of her beautiful canals?

So that's what we did.

Not sure where I got the idea from.  Probably from watching too many Morse mysteries or reading magazines about England ("In Britain"), but somehow we decided that was how we were going to spend our 25th Wedding Anniversary.

I gathered our "crew" - Hubby, our daughter, my older sister, and my cousin, Jane and her soon-to-be husband, Lars, who joined us from Sweden.

Our ages ran the gamut from 24-70.

I did my homework and decided the best route for us was the Oxford canal (not too many locks) and the best company the Anglo-Welsh Company.

Meet the Damselfly. 

Our home for the next four days. And we were driving it ourselves.  There were guided tours available and we saw many of those along the way, but, hey, we can do this ourselves!

We all met up in Oxford not knowing what to expect.

Wouldn't you know.  Our boat was the farthest one away.  Geez, why did I bring so much luggage?

After a brief training on what to do, we were off.

Everyone wanted to drive - in theory - but as you can see, it is driven from outside and when it started to rain, Hubby took over.  And it rained for the whole first day!  Lars tried to keep Hubby's spirits up with...well...spirits!

Keeping dry.

Our first challenge was getting through the first lock.

We were cautioned to be sure to NOT leave the "windlass" behind, which was the "key" to opening the locks.  Naturally when we got to the first lock Hubby didn't know what to do.  Uh, gee, here is this handy notebook in the boat with the DIRECTIONS!  What is it with men and directions as in not following them?

That sorted, we opened our first lock.

After more of that, we tied up to do a little sightseeing. 

the ruins of a manor house and church at Hampton Gay.
(Librarian Rosy had already done her research for activities along our route).

Over the stile, over the bridge - watch out for cow pies!

Now on to the next lock.

A bit of traffic.  We were traveling a bit off season. One can imagine what it must be like in the heart of summer.

Though Hubby did an admirable job driving the boat, we were not without mishaps.  Note the hull.  We were not responsible for all for all of those nicks and scuffs, but thank goodness the sides of the boat were reinforced with steel. 

Hubby complained that in order to steer the boat, he had to rev the engine to gain some speed and then swing it around.  The wind was also a factor.  Sure.

I can remember sitting happily inside with a lovely glass of wine looking out the front of the boat and suddenly a tree was looming and boom!  No worries.  Lars jumped out and pushed us off the shore.  Thank goodness for the handy, dandy poles provided for just such a purpose.

The first night we tied up at The Boat Inn in Thrupp.

We were having difficulty finding a space until a friendly local woman came along.  She grabbed hold of the line of one of the parked boats and moved it, making room for us.  She said that since the owners were in the pub having a few, they would never notice their boat had been moved!

So Day 1. 

We traveled about eight miles. Hey, it's not easy when you can only cruise at about 2-3 miles per hour.  Hubby cranked it up to 4 one time as we passed another boat parked on the side of the canal.  The owner of that boat came out and shook his fist at us.  We were probably rocking his boat as he was preparing his tea!

Day 2 was our 25th Wedding Anniversary.

This friendly swan seemed to be saying, "This way to the next pub!"

And here we are!

At the end of Day 2 we had to turn the boat around.  Yikes.

There are only certain places where you can turn the boat around.  Those spots are called "winding holes (pronounced "win - ding")." 

Here at Lower Heyford, our farthest point, Hubby once again didn't read the directions and after many attempts, a friendly local turned our boat around for us.

Half the fun was tying up and spending the evenings hanging out together.

Or just relaxing.

Or making new friends.

I was able to get my Inspector Morse fix as we headed back toward Oxford having lunch at the Trout Inn, one of Morse's and Lewis' haunts. 

Our last day, after traversing the Thames, we tied up just outside of Oxford as we had to return the boat early in the morning.

As we readied the boat for its return, we noticed we still had a lot of wine and spirits, er, "supplies" left. 

What to do?

What do you think we did?


On the fourth day, we said our good-byes.

Taking our happy memories with us
(can someone tell me what is going on with the hair on that redhead?)

We were a motley crew aging 24-70, but nary a cross word was spoken and a good time was had by all.

I have often thought of doing this trip again and sharing it with others.

But I can't help but worry that it just wouldn't be the same. 

Sometimes you just can't recreate magic.

So I think - next stop!  Barging in France!

What are your favorite summer vacation memories?

See you Friday for

"Why Oprah Still Matters"


The Week in Reviews

Thanks for reading!

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Photos courtesy of Rosemary DeHoog and Chuck Brewer


  1. We came across these in Rye, England in 2005 and I wondered about what life on board was like. Now I know!
    Although we will be walking our way across the UK in 2015, we're thinking European river cruise in 2016. Just a little bit bigger boat, and no steering necessary. :-)

    1. I want to follow in your footsteps, Tamara. I want to do a UK walk and I want to do a River Cruise in France or Germany. Now I just need to convince Hubby.

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