2013 UK Canal Boat Adventure

In July, 2013 we embarked on a one week self drive cruise aboard a narrow boat along the canals of England and Wales. Joan's sister Liz who lives near Cambridge joined us on our cruise. What follows is a photo record of our adventure.
Pictured below from top to bottom are Liz, Joan and Jim.

 Old photo - to make us look like a bunch of kids!
The 2000 miles of canals in England and Wales are a major part of the network of inland waterways that meander throughout the United Kingdom. They have a colorful history starting with their beginnings for irrigation and transportation to their present use for recreational boating.

Most of Britain's canals were built with locks just over 7 ft wide and 70 ft long. This meant that a particular style of boat was developed to navigate along them. These boats are known as narrow-boats, however over the years they have also been incorrectly described as barges. Barges are generally wider and therefore cannot cruise on the narrow canals.

The above map details many but not all of the extensive canal waterways found in the United Kingdom.

The map below shows our route along the Shropshire Union and Llangollen canals from Middlewich, England to Llangollen in Wales. A look at Google map will give you a better idea of where we were.

Construction of the canals was started in the late 1700’s and completed sometime in the early 1800’s. Crossing from England into Wales, the Llangollen canal travels over two magnificent aqueducts and through 3 tunnels before entering the town of Llangollen. Llangollen is famous for its international Eisteddfod which is a Welsh festival of literature, music and dance with participants from countries throughout the world.
Our boat, the Middlewich Navigator is 7 feet wide and 57 feet long. It has 2 state rooms, a galley, 2 heads (nautical talk for bathrooms) and is powered by a small diesel engine. We rented our boat from the Middlewich Narrow-boat Company of Middlewich, England. They can be found at the following website: http://www.middlewichboats.co.uk/navigator-whitchurch.html
We were well satisfied with this rental company and would use them again in the future.

Top speed is approximately 3 knots or about the same speed a person will walk.


When picking up our boat, the rental representative handed Joan and LIz what is known as a "galvanized crank type windlass handle." The crank came with lessons on how to use it to open and close the locks as well as how to raise and lower the occasional lift bridge. This left me the responsibilities of helmsman, engineer and last off the boat in case of an an emergency.

The crank 


British Common Law contains the rule of Royal Prerogative to the monarchy. This rule grants such important powers to the Queen as the dissolution of Parliament, calling an election, declaration of war and - ownership of all wild swans in the kingdom.


We brought plenty of foul weather gear along but not much intended for the fair weather we encountered throughout our time in the UK. Please note the absence of a hat.

Operating the lock gates.

Joan's sister Liz.

Liz's sister Joan.

Waiting for the bridge to be cranked up.


Although we thought we would be floating through or near many towns and villages, there were very few along our route. Most of our voyage was through dense forests and farmland.

Although fishing appeared to be a popular pastime along the canal, it is all catch and release.

Finally bought a hat.

Constructed between 1796 and 1801, the Chirk Aqueduct is 70 feet high and 710 feet long. The bridge in the background is called a viaduct and carries trains across the valley.

One of three tunnels which we encountered.

The 1000 foot long Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is listed as a World Heritage site and carries the Llangollen Canal in an 11 foot wide iron trough over the Iver valley lying 125 feet below.

UNESCO image.

At last we arrive at Llangollen.

Image from Llangollen.com

Llangollen along with eleven miles of the Llangollen Canal and the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The canal is seen off to the right of the picture while the River Dee meanders through the middle of the village. 


The boat yard moorage area.

An interesting conclusion to our voyage was that our arrival coincided with the closing days of the annual Llangollen International Eisteddfod. The Eisteddfod is a celebration of music, dance, costume and culture with participants from nations around the world. Although we did not get to attend any of the competitions we did get to watch the parade of entertainers. We could also sit around the deck of our boat and listen to the sounds of music drifting across the canal from the competition area.

The Grand Marshal of the parade was Terry Waite.

In 1987 the Archbishop of Canterbury sent Terry to Lebanon as a special envoy to negotiate the release of Western hostages. However, Mr Waite himself was kidnapped by Hezbollah who accused him of being a spy. He was held hostage and tortured for nearly five years during which time he was deprived of contact with the outside world with his family not knowing whether he was alive or dead.

Mr. Waite is president of the the YMCA's international development and relief agency, patron of Able Child Africa, Habitat for Humanity for Great Britain and president of Emmaus UK, a charity for former homeless people.


Joan and Liz listening to Eisteddfod singers at the Llangollen boat yard.

The boat yard with Eisteddfod bagpipes in the background.

Welsh folk dancers in the parade.

Eisteddfod website.

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