It's becoming a bit of an annual tradition that Charles takes a group of friends on his parent's canal boat for a Summer holiday every year. I've been fortunate enough to be part of the crew for the last two years.
I joined the boat a little later than everyone else as I was playing in a roller derby game in Swindon on the Sunday. My parents very kindly offered to drop me off at the boat in Market Drayton on their way home after my game.
From Market Drayton we boated through Nantwich, Wrenbury, Whitchurch, Ellesmere and Chirk before our final stop in Llangollen. Charles was very organised and planned our stops to coincide with bathroom facilities, pubs and train stations (so we could pick up and drop off crew members). We even had time to visit a 'secret' nuclear bunker.
I steered the boat for some of the trip and managed to avoid hitting anything, although we did get beached at one point in shallow water. The weather was a bit interchangeable, but nothing could dampen my spirit - drinking lots of tea helped!
Being on the boat is a really lovely experience. Everyone chips in and helps out with the jobs so the trip is never stressful. There is time to relax, sleep, eat, drink and catch up with friends and read. My weaving (one of my 25 before 26) benefited from some dedicated time I spent sitting at the front of the boat with a glass of wine.
We crossed Pontcysyllte aquaduct on our last day of the trip. I think I managed the 126ft high crossing very well for someone that doesn't like heights (despite what the photo may show). My heart did skip a beat though when I saw Charles trying to take a photo over the unguarded edge of the water! I later discovered that this wasn't my first time across the aquaduct - I had been over it with my grandparents and sister some time ago. I think I'm around 11 in the photo below.
Everyone on board becomes a lot closer during the trip. After all, when you must ask where the next pub en route is not because you fancy a midday pint, but because you must use the conveniences, nothing becomes difficult to discuss. The number of crew on board fluctuated through the week - four of us made it the whole way to Llangollen.
It was sad to say goodbye to the boat, but Charles has promised me a weekend away on it sometime early next year - so we hopefully won't be parted for long.