A-wey from home

Published April 26, 2009

Over Easter, I took a well-deserved break and disappeared into the depths of the country for a narrowboating mini-break. My parents invited me to join them, as we journeyed a short distance along the Wey river, starting at Guildford.

Now, my mother could tell you all kinds of fascinating facts about where we were, and what we saw, but I mostly basked in the serenity of no cars, very few people, and… I want to say sunshine, but in fact, it rained. A lot.

Canal swan

On the first day, I arrived suitably prepared. Nice big jumper, waterproof coat, gloves with grippy bits in for steering and lock-opening duty. By the end of the first day, my gloves were so wet they didn’t dry until three days after we got back.

Nevertheless, there was one way of keeping warm, and that was helping out with the locks. There are three scenarios that can happen when you approach a lock:

  1. There is no one else around and you can leisurely open and shut, gawp at the water, and slip around in the mud to your heart’s content.
  2. There’s another boat behind you or waiting to enter, and some kind soul takes one side of the canal, saving you jogging over the bridge numerous times.
  3. There are annoying men who assume that you would rather they did all the manual labour, despite the fact that the lock opening process is part of the reason one takes a narrowboat holiday.

No need to say which of the above I prefer.

For a while, on the second day, I jumped ashore and walked along the towpath whilst my dad steered the boat along it’s path. They go just a little bit faster than comfortable walking pace, so it was a good workout.

Canal towpath

The only time we hit civilisation was when we cruised underneath the massive concrete structure of a motorway, laden with artistic graffiti on every strut. It did amuse me that all the art stopped at a certain height, presumably because you can only spray as far as your arm can reach.

Of course, we started and finished in the land of the living - Guildford. It always amazes me to see the town from the canal point of view, as you get to see a side of buildings that you wouldn’t as a pedestrian.

Canal Guildford

It was a good trip, and I enjoyed every minute - despite the cold, the damp, and the fact we spent one night at a slight angle thanks to a mudbank. The weather could have been better, but this is what you get for holidaying on the water in April.

Canal clouds

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