A family narrowboat odyssey to Birmingham and back
Departing from our Tardebigge base, on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, the Daily Mail’s Guy Adams recently took his family on a canal boat holiday for the first time:
‘The weekend plans — to chug serenely through the Black Country, stopping at a few waterside pubs and overnighting in central Birmingham…
Canal trips create all sorts of happy memories, and this one would bring plenty: the kids (William, six, Megan, four, and Henry, one) hooting with excitement as we chugged into a series of long, pitch-dark tunnels; and the fisherman guffawing into his pot of maggots as yours truly managed to get stuck (yet again!) in a smelly reed bed.
The Worcester & Birmingham Canal, built at the end of the 18th century, was one of the great motorways of the Industrial Revolution. Today, it’s altogether more tranquil, meandering through 30 mostly-picturesque miles of town, suburb, and countryside.
It’s said that Birmingham has more miles of canal than Venice. But the rest of the UK is hardly short of them, either: by Victorian times, there were almost 5,000 miles of waterways, of which about 2,200 remain today.
At the helm of a narrowboat, everything moves at its own pace. Once you master the controls, everyday cares recede. It’s really quite blissful.
We arrive at Gas Street Basin, a bustling marina slap bang in the city centre, in the middle of Saturday afternoon, and tie our 70ft narrowboat ‘The Derwent’ up for the night.
Our mooring is right next to the National Sea Life Centre, a large, state-of-the-art aquarium that might have been custom designed for entertaining excitable kids who needed to let off steam.
After dark, Gas Street Basin is the centre of Birmingham’s vibrant nightlife scene, so bedtime is jollified by the succession of stag and hen parties sailing past our mooring on ‘disco boats’, several equipped with karaoke machines. Our kids think it quite the spectacle.
Fortunately, the council requires them to disappear at 9pm, at which point the mooring becomes an oasis of calm once more.
We sleep like logs, before chugging slowly home the next day, thankful that, even in the vibrant centre of Britain’s second largest metropolis, a canal is its own, peaceful world.’