We didn't get to visit the US in 2016 but that didn't stop us hitting the road (and water) here in the UK. So I thought I would share a little of what we got up to to keep ourselves amused this side of the pond. The first Roadtrip report is actually more a Boat trip report, but it was a lot of fun.
Trip one was a journey to Wales where we would navigate the 'Mon and Brec' canal through the Brecon Beacons NP on a Narrow boat.
The trip idea was actually 'born' about 10 months earlier when we visited Stratford upon Avon,( home of renowned poet William Shakespeare) and admired the boats upon the Avon canal. There were 6 of us and we decided there and then it would be fun to give it a go some day. From that point on we had a couple of discussions and the planning was left to 'Yours truly', as I usually organise trips for us and enjoy doing it. I decided on the Brecon and Monmouthshire canal as it is described as one of the prettiest of the UK's waterways and I liked the fact it was a closed waterway, which meant that it was fairly quiet and you didn't have a sudden surge of boats entering from another waterway. Another plus was that it had everything a canal has to offer, Locks, lift bridges, an Aqueduct and a tunnel, but not too many. (Wanna relax !) Some stretches of canal in the UK have 20 plus locks to negotiate one after the other which sounds more like work. So I got us a reasonable deal on a 52ft Narrow boat for a week and then all that was left to do was to study the canal and nearby villages [Pubs !)and wait for the date to come around and depart.
It was 7am when we hit the road, 6 of us and all our luggage fitted easily into our Nissan Elgrand and by mid morning we were entering Wales via the Severn crossing.
As we could not collect the boat until 2pm I had chosen a scenic route through the welsh countryside alongside the River Wye where we stopped at Tintern Abbey for brunch and to stretch the legs.
Having full stomachs we walked by the river and admired the Abbey before heading to the Market town of Abergavenny where we picked up some supplies for the boat. We then made our way to the boat yard in the small town of Gilwern where we were introduced to our home for the next week and given a tour and shown how to operate it.
The Kidwelly Castle.
I had planned to get to a certain spot for the night that would set us up for the goal of travelling the canal from end to end in the week we had, this was about 70 miles in distance. Not much you might think, but at 2.5mph and obstacles along the way, it was a challenge that not many took on. On the water we chugged along this very narrow canal with it's tight turns and narrow bridges to navigate and slowly, after a few scrapes and bumps got to grips with it. [Well some of us] We moored up for the night on a quiet bank and after a long day we were happy to sit down to an evening meal and a bottle (or two) of wine.
[IMG]DSCF4060 by David Gomm, on Flickr[/IMG]
I was up quite early so I got ready and went for a little walk along the canal bank, it was so peaceful and the only sound to be heard came from the wildlife. Once everyone had got ready it was anchors away and we were off. Being more familiar with the boat and how it handled it was a lot more relaxing and when you nailed a turn or a bridge, it was very rewarding. At times you only had inches to spare either side and steering from the rear with a pivot point 26ft ahead of you [half way up the boat] it was a neat challenge, it's like trying to turn in a narrow passage with a very long piece of wood on your shoulder. The boat would not always steer as you thought it would either, for example when you are approaching a sharp bend from a sheltered spot in the valley to open land where the wind is blowing through. The wind would catch the front of the boat before you knew it was there and try to push it in the opposite direction. It was soon apparent that if you suddenly saw ripples on the water ahead you had to steer earlier and harder, great fun !
Our first stop of the day for lunch was at Goytre Wharf, a 200 year old Industrial Heritage site. It has a boat yard and café as well as the canal trust visitor centre with lots of info on this historic canal and there are the old Limekilns remaining from days gone by with statues of those that used to work here. The canal was originally built as a corridor for the transport of coal and iron over 200 years ago and is steeped in history with old iron works, limekilns and tram roads to be found along it's length. Long after it had 'passed it's sell by date' the canal was reopened to tourism and continues to be worked on to this day. A new section of canal was opened up by the canal trust and they are encouraging users of the canal to use it to help keep it open so we thought we would do our bit. We entered this section of canal and soon learnt how few bothered, it only had a narrow channel with both sides being overrun with plant life and the boat was bottoming out on numerous occasions as the silt had settled underneath. It took quite a bit of 'poling' to free ourselves at time and were frequently stopping to clear the prop from reeds and a couple of locals even assisted by grabbing ropes and giving us a pull. They said it was unusual to see such a large boat this far down the canal, but hey ho, we had done our bit ! We were within a mile of this end of the canal, but it was getting late and we had a mooring by a canal side pub with our name on it and the canal was putting up an even bigger fight, so we did the sensible thing and turned around while we could and grabbed a pint and settled down for the night.
The following morning we started to head north back up the canal. This section doesn't have any of the challenges that lay ahead [Locks, Tunnels etc] so we made steady progress and continued to improve with the handling characteristics of the boat. We stopped in a small village for a pub lunch and had a lovely walk into the surrounding hills for a couple of hours before continuing to our overnight stop.
Will have to conclude this another time, gotta run.