Picture my face when the in-laws suggested a three day 60th birthday trip on a narrow boat. Just us, the river and a long, thin boat. “With absolutely nothing to do and nowhere to go in any hurry and no internet or any of that kind of thing going on.” chuckled my wide eyed MIL… I think she might have added “With no escape. Ever.”, but it’s all a bit hazy.
On Friday we headed up to a boat yard in Oxfordshire and were handed the keys to a 65 foot narrow boat on the River Thames and were waved on our merry way. “There’s a 25 minute DVD for you to watch that could be useful.”, said the 16 year old boy who showed us round the boat before we set off without any background checks, training, a license, or known river safety. Madness.
Fortunately, in the manner of Rainman, my husband turned out to be a very good driver (steerer?) and we only ran aground once (thank you Reg and Maureen for the tow), got buffeted in a lock when someone (rogue woman with an Elnett helmet and brown slacks – beware) opened the wrong gate and flooded us with raging torrents of water and scraped the sides of the boat along the concrete wall just a tiny little bit.
With Dustin at the helm and two extremely excited and happy children we settled into our trip down the river and I have to say, between locks which have very nice planting schemes but are a little stressful at times, it was the most beautiful and relaxing scenery I’ve ever had the pleasure of immersing myself in. We were all mesmerised. We saw Kingfishers (3 times!), Herons, and pretty riverside cottages, goslings, moo cows… It was proper Wind in the Willows stuff and I would highly recommend it for a long weekend with children over the age of 3. The kids loved how miniature everything was including the tiny bath and the snug little bunks and there were plenty of ye olde inns to stop at for refreshments that weren’t made in the Bluebird A la Carte Toy Kitchen (80’s reference). Although saying that, we did manage to roast a chicken and make pancakes on board and my new speciality Pecan, peanut butter and banana bonbons. Yes, we forgot to pack chocolate.
The Trout Inn at Tadpole Bridge, was particularly lovely for lunch. Great staff and fantastic food.
The first evening was a little bit sticky. It was a hot and humid night and the captain said to me “we’re going to get eaten alive if we don’t close ALL the windows.” Sitting snugly round the dining table, sweating copiously (sweat was literally pouring off my husband and his father) we ate our evening meal in what felt like a polished pine coffin. Can’t we just use lots of mossie spray I piped up so we can get some air in here? “No.” said all my non-blood relatives in unison. Right then. The close atmosphere was exacerbated by regular, low squirting noises that I presumed to be a bi-product of someone’s bad river tummy. The squirting noises always seemed to coincide with someone shifting in their armchair. I have to say I was feeling quite uninspired by river life at this point. Fortunately before dinner was over we discovered that the boat had been fitted out with industrial sized automatic air-fresheners that were responsible for all the emissions. Things felt a lot better once the Airwicks had been disabled.
Not an ugly duckling! A gosling with its mummy and daddy.
Granny sweet-talks a pirate .
If you fancy a trip up the river – we were on the Thames in Oxfordshire – I would definitely recommend the Anglo Welsh Narrow Boat holiday company. Do watch the DVD and the staff will accompany you to the first lock to show you the ropes if you’ve never done it before. My mother in law had done a couple of narrow boat trips before (not that they knew that) so we did have someone on board with a bit of knowledge. Apparently she saw Calista Flockheart and Harrison Ford on a narrow boat once.
Thank you for a lovely weekend Granny and Papa xxx