It has been a strange few months for everyone. At the start of lockdown liveaboard boaters who continually cruise were told to stay in one place unless we needed water or for safety reasons. This was the sensible thing to do and everyone complied. For narrowboat traders however this meant the loss of income and inability to trade presented a worrying problem.
The towpaths became extremely busy which was a worry for some boaters with several hundred people a day walking past in some areas. We were told to go back in our boats if someone walked past which was not practical, especially if you work outside or are escaping the heat and many boaters became fearful and anxious for their safety. We were told by many on social media to sit inside our boats and close the windows on the towpath side which is neither comfortable or practical with the high temperatures we were experiencing. I found that many people were dishing out advice with absolutely no grasp of how it actually is to live in a boat.
Emotions were running high, we spoke to a walker who had been abused by a boater for walking with his son. There were tales of some boaters on another stretch barricading access to the towpath. I also heard stories of walkers shouting at liveaboard boaters and telling them to “go home” or being told to moor on the opposite side which is usually private land and inaccessible. It was a tense situation made harder by the fear of the unknown.
Escaping into nature is the best remedy for us all. ( even if a just over 1m path isn’t the most sensible option!)
However, we were fortunate to be in a beautiful area full of bluebells, birdsong and cool shade next to privately owned woodland. Surrounded by amazing views our lockdown was a happy one despite the added stresses and worries, which of course the whole world was going through.
We had space to sit back off the towpath and it was a haven from the hordes of people using the towpath to no doubt escape from their homes for a few hours a day.
We met some amazing people, free spirits, and kind souls. One man had set up camp in the woods because he lived with his elderly parents and was scared that he would pass Covid-19 on to them. Some were locals, landowners, boaters, and van dwellers. We all kept our distance but managed to have a great deal more social contact than many so it was not a lonely isolation.
We also met the owners of the woods we had set up camp in. They are Druids and are kind enough to let members of the public use the clearings that have been made next to the towpath. This enabled us to set up a camp with a fire for cooking, a hammock to relax on in the heat of the day, and a workbench to use as we are renovating one of the boats.
We had brought plenty of wood with us from Hawkesbury Junction where CRT had removed several large Poplars so we were set up with fuel for the duration. Walking through the woods we found lots of toppled trees and branches to use as well so this was an added bonus. There is nothing like cooking dinner over a campfire at the end of the day.
I spent most of my time crocheting, I think the added stress of what was going on in the outside world did affect my creative mojo but kept busy all the same and found some amazing walks nearby to clear my head. There is a beautiful Greenway that runs above the canal with views, blossoms, bees, and rabbits. It provided me with a sense of calmness in the moments where I felt overwhelmed and soothed my soul in a way that only nature can.
We used the canoe to ferry supplies from the car and also to go into Leamington Spa, although it is actually very hard work canoeing with no current to help push you along so it was not always the best transport method!
f you have never visited Leamington spa it is definitely worth a visit. There are beautiful parks, lots of quirky little shops and cafes, (although closed while we were there this time) and some fantastic artwork along the canal, if that floats your boat!
Whether you choose to walk or cycle there are plenty of paths and sights to see. We have always found it to be a wonderful place to moor with friendly locals and beautiful surroundings.
We obviously didn’t have the use of local businesses during lockdown but in the past, we have found it to be a thriving town centre with less of the ubiquitous chain stores than many towns. I like to see small businesses in a shopping centre, towns seem so homogenised these days!
Upon receiving the go-ahead to move again we have resumed our travels and have decided to head up the Shropshire Canal. We have already traveled through Warwick, going up the Hatton flight, an exhausting day rewarded by delicious ice cream from the little cafe situated at the top of the flight, and spent a week or so at Kingswood junction which is a picturesque spot near Lapworth.
We will be moving on through Knowle, Birmingham, and Wolverhampton to get onto ” the Shroppie” so it will be an interesting journey with a variety of urban and rural surroundings. It is always a great adventure when we are heading to new pastures and makes the long winters worthwhile. I am so glad to be free again!