I’ve become a bit canal obsessed lately. The things is, during lockdown I realised that we don’t live near water. Any water. No rivers, streams, lakes or even ponds. Not close enough to walk anyway.
It was possibly the thing that drove me mad most when we weren’t able to drive anywhere and yet until then I hadn’t realised just how much I loved it. I’d become used to walking along canal tow paths with the buggy pre- lockdown as they are always flat and not too muddy, but I hadn’t realised how much I would miss life on the water when I couldn’t go there any more.
We’re lucky enough to live only a short drive from the Grand Union Canal and it is now our go to place for walks. There’s just always so much to see. The usual coming and goings of narrow boats, but also locks, plenty of wildlife and also a good number of geocaches too.
I know that as someone known for their love of trains, falling a bit in love with canals too may seem a bit weird, but I see it more like loving two children than an exclusivity thing. The relaxed pace of life on the canals is just gorgeous, and especially appealing when everyone else seems to be gearing back up to a pre-covid pace, yet I’m still feeling quite happy to continue as things were in lockdown.
Whatever my reasons for falling in love with canals is, I definitely feel I should try to expand my knowledge of canal history and life on them. As with so many subjects my first place to look was my Ladybird book collection and The story of our Canals. This title was originally published in 1975 as part of series 601, which was known as the Achievements series.
This title covers pretty much everything you could even want to know about canals in Britain. You can read about the history of the first canals and the increase in demand for them from business people of the time who saw the advantages of transporting materials or finished produce over the water. There’s also a fair amount of details about how canals actually work; how locks are used to enable boats to go up or down gradients and how engineers designing the canals dealt with needing a water supply to not only initially fill the canals but also to keep them full when locks were in use.
Canal life was obviously impacted greatly by the advance of the railways, and that is when families started living on boats more alongside the boatmen. For those who live on canals today, life is obviously very different, but some similarities in the way of life still exist. From all the canal boats that we’ve walked past recently I can tell that all of them use space ingeniously and go to great lengths to make the most of everything they have on board.
I’m not at all sure my messy family could ever cope with squeezing everything that own onto a canal boat, but that pace of life, and the closeness to the water and nature definitely appeals.
About Ladybird Tuesday
Ladybird Tuesday is a regular feature here on Penny Reads, where I delve into my Ladybird book collection and choose a title to share with my readers. The weekly series originally started on my old blog, Being Mrs C, and this post originally appeared on there. I’m now in the process of moving all those posts over to Penny Reads and also adding titles that I have acquired since then. A list is currently being compiled here of all the titles I have in my collection.