I have had a very busy fortnight or so, getting ready for my husband’s ’40th birthday surprise holiday’, going on said surprise holiday and then getting over the holiday!
As we’ve ‘owned’ our two lovely whippets for over 12 years now (to be honest I think they own us) we have really got to know many beautiful areas of Britain and in particular the Kennett and Avon Canal, which I am pretty sure we’ve walked almost all of. Whenever we walk along the canal my husband waxes lyrical about how we should buy a barge when we retire, or I should move to the country now and he’ll buy a barge to live on during the week whilst he’s at work (he has an active imagination my husband). Therefore, I thought the perfect surprise for his 40th would be a few nights on a narrowboat so he could see what it was really like.
The original plan was to take the whippets with us, but after discussions with my Mum and Dad (who were in on the plan) it was agreed that a motorised boat was not the best place for two water phobic dogs with extreme travel sickness and therefore they kindly offered to look after them for us.
We headed to Bradford-on-Avon to pick up the barge on Tuesday afternoon. We were given a brief tour of the boat and instructions on how to drive before we entered the lock at Bradford-on-Avon. We were told that Bradford-on-Avon lock is one of the busiest in the country and I didn’t doubt it as we were stared at by tens of onlookers out for a post Bank Holiday Monday day trip. Thankfully, the lock had volunteers to help so it went quite smoothly. After this though we were on our own as we chugged towards Bath, our destination for the following day (Ian’s birthday).
I won’t lie, I didn’t find the experience hugely relaxing, I was constantly worrying about not hitting anything (which we almost did on a few occasions, one of which ended with a very angry ‘live-in’ boater shouting at us – a lot!) or I was hopping off the barge to open swing bridges. I had taken some sketching materials and a book with me, but it remained unopened for the whole 4 days.
The Bradford-on-Avon to Bath stretch was incredibly busy and although I’m glad we did it, as we had a couple of nice birthday meals in Bath and Avoncliff, I much preferred the quieter stretches of canal after Bradford-on-Avon heading to Devizes, which we tackled on the second half of the holiday.
- The narrowboat was incredibly spacious and well equipped, we were both surprised. The bed in particular was really comfy, I can see how people live on boats.
- There are some lovely pubs on route which served these hungry (and thirsty) vegans very well (how times have changed). Not to mention an amazing Thai meal when we got back to Bradford-on-Avon on our final night.
- The birdlife on the canal was lovely, ducks, geese, swans, coots, moorhens, herons, kingfishers, cormorants.
- A cracking walk on our last day from Semington to Devizes (8.5miles) with a vegan pasty at the end.
- My husband loved it, which really was what it was all about.
- Tackling Bradford-on-Avon lock on my own on the return leg, it really was terrifying climbing across the narrow gate with tourists staring at me and willing me to fall in (in my mind!). However, having seen the locks higher up the canal they are not all like this, a quieter lock would be better I’m sure.
- It didn’t feel hugely like a holiday at times, I at least found it quite stressful at times especially with only two people to act as crew.
- Bradford-on-Avon on our last night was hideously busy, it was a Friday night and many groups of lads had hired boats, were quite tipsy and were making the most of the onboard sound system. It was quite entertaining to watch but not the country idyll I had in mind when booking and probably a bit annoying for the people who live on the canal side.
- Perhaps inevitably I got vertigo whilst on the boat and still have it now, a week after our return. I shouldn’t be surprised by this as I get it every time I fly recently too.
We returned home on Saturday to pick up the dogs and more birthday celebrations with my family.
Needless to say, after all this partying, I’m not really looking forward to weigh-in at Slimming World in half an hour.
Wish me luck!