Author Topic: A Fantastic Canal Holiday  (Read 1050 times)

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A Fantastic Canal Holiday
« July 15, 2018, 04:06:53 »
We are now back at home after one of the most enjoyable holidays we have had together. We had a week with two old friends of similar ages, cruising part of the Brecon and Monmouth Canal in Wales – which is generally recognised as one of the most scenic and tranquil in the UK. The canal was designed and built over the period 1792 to 1812 to enable coal, iron ore, iron, limestone and agricultural products to be moved between the mines, factories, farms and Monmouth port through the mountainous region by horse dawn barges.  It is unusual in being a contour canal which follows a mainly constant elevation through the various valleys on the sides of the mountains alongside the river Usk. It has many viaducts, one tunnel and only 6 locks, during its 33 mile overall length. We travelled only 15 miles of this in two directions, making our cruise a total of 30 miles in the 7 days. The weather for the whole week was fantastic with almost constant sunshine and 25C by day without any rain or wind.

Libby had been dreading the holiday – unlike me and my mate Gareth and Sue, she has not done a canal holiday before and was concerned that me and Gareth – both 81 years old – would either get drunk and fall into the canal – or have a heart attack working the locks. The locks are hard work – but we took our time and managed them easily.

However – she and Sue really enjoyed it. They sat at the front of the boat as we gently cruised through beautiful countryside knitting and nattering – the hardest work for them was to keep us guys well provided with drinks and nibbles.

We picked up the boat at Llangatock – the base for Beacon Park Boats who are rightfully recognised as having the best boats on the canal. Truly 5 star, but you pay 5 star prices. Our boat cost us £2,200 split between us.

Osprey, our boat, is 18.4 metres long and 2.3 metres wide weighing about 11 tons. It has a 50 hp diesel engine, bow thrusters, a fully fitted galley, lounge area and two en-suite bedrooms with king size beds.   







The beds are across the boat and with a fold down extension mounted on the side of the boat to make a full length bed and provide a clear corridor the full length of the boat by day.





These photos were taken on our first day where we cruised down to and moored at a place called LLanfoist which had spectacular views across the Usk Valley.







I awoke the following morning at 4:30 and decided to have a walk along the canal towpath.  After walking about half a mile, I came across a canal blockage – a tree had fallen across the canal. It would be impossible to continue the journey until it was removed – you can’t turn an 18 metre long boat in an 8 metre wide canal. I phoned the Canal & River Trust emergency line to summon their action team based 50 miles away in the Forest of Dean, who were significantly delayed getting to the canal because in was Sunday, there was a bicycle race in the Llanfoist area, and the main road in was closed with no diversion possible. They didn’t reach us until about 4:00 pm and it took 3 hours to clear the blockage, hence we were not able to travel further the whole day.



The bridges along the canal are very narrow and most are quite low. Some are on a sharp bend making it very difficult – boats without bow thrusters have to be “poled” around the bends by the boat crew who push the bow and stern sideways with long poles. Our crew were too old and decrepit to push an 11 ton 18 metre boat sideways which is why I chose a boat fitted with bow thrusters.



The boats has a large fresh water storage tank mounted in the bow. Four people having a daily shower, plus the other water used in the toilets and kitchen will virtually empty it in a day and we had to stop at a canal side water tap and fill it each evening. It took about 45 minutes to fill the tank each time.



We travelled through 5 locks to our destination turning point and through the same locks on the return journey. The locks are only 19.8 metres long and 2.7 metres wide and elevate the canal a total of 21 metres. When the lock paddles are opened to let water in or out the water in the lock surges under the boat and moves it fore and aft constantly. The helmsman has to keep the boat clear of the gates at each end and it proved to be a battle because our boat virtually filled the lock and you were constantly moving the throttle forward and aft  to try and keep it clear at both ends.










The maximum speed allowed on the canal is 4 kph – but we were in no hurry and cruised at half that, stopping off at canal-side pubs along the way for a drink or three and a snack at lunch time.

We only had restaurant meals twice – one being on the Wednesday evening so my mate could watch the footie and see England lose (again). It was worth it though, the meals were superb.
On the other evenings the catering was done on the boat by the ladies – except for one night when we had a barbecue which is a man’s job. We had taken with us a couple of the instant charcoal barbecues and a wire stand which performed quite well – I had never used one before.

It was a fascinating trip and we met many lovely people. It’s strange – you say hello and have a brief chat with all the people on passing boats or who are walking the towpath, whom you would walk past and ignore if you met them elsewhere. The canal seems to be a catalyst for relaxing people and making them more sociable.

I would love to do a canal trip again – but time marches on and I recognise that as aging bites deeper – it is time to enjoy holidays where we are waited on and do nothing but chill out.


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Re: A Fantastic Canal Holiday
« Reply #1 : July 15, 2018, 04:47:02 »
Looks fantastic Alan although there was a grey haired old dodderer kept getting into the snaps  :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

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Re: A Fantastic Canal Holiday
« Reply #2 : July 15, 2018, 04:50:45 »
Thanks for sharing, and , you're looking very well indeed.

 :goodjob2: :goodjob:

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Re: A Fantastic Canal Holiday
« Reply #3 : July 15, 2018, 04:58:44 »
What an amazing fella you are :goodjob:

If I'd spotted that fallen tree I'd just call an Uber and be done wiith it. But not you.. ;)
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Re: A Fantastic Canal Holiday
« Reply #4 : July 15, 2018, 05:27:33 »
Another great report thanks Alan.
I've always been fascinated by English canals and canal boats.
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Re: A Fantastic Canal Holiday
« Reply #5 : July 15, 2018, 05:39:58 »
Thanks for the photos and  great report Alan. :goodjob2: I would love to do that trip. Shame you had the problem with the tree, perhaps if you reported it to Beacon Park Boats they might include a chain saw on board for future customers. :snigger:
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Re: A Fantastic Canal Holiday
« Reply #6 : July 15, 2018, 05:54:45 »
 :wts: They pinched all my lines. Great photos and fun was had by all.  :brilliant:
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Re: A Fantastic Canal Holiday
« Reply #7 : July 15, 2018, 07:10:44 »
Thanks for the photos and  great report Alan. :goodjob2: I would love to do that trip. Shame you had the problem with the tree, perhaps if you reported it to Beacon Park Boats they might include a chain saw on board for future customers. :snigger:
And their Public Liability Insurance would  quadruple. 😀
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Re: A Fantastic Canal Holiday
« Reply #8 : July 15, 2018, 08:01:57 »
The problem with the trees along  the canal is that because the canal has been cut from the hillside - one side slopes steeply up and the other side is an embankment on the hill sloping down.

On the side of the canal where it slopes up the trees tend to lean over the canal and get watered permanently from the canal, hence their roots are not deep on the side away from the canal. We have now had 5 weeks of dry hot weather and the ground has dried out.  Because the soil on the hillside  beside the canal is 200 years of mainly rotted leaves - it has little strength and the trees are coming out of the ground with just the root ball. We have not had any strong winds - so they have not been blown over. The centre of gravity is over the canal and has been the only motivation.
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Re: A Fantastic Canal Holiday
« Reply #9 : July 15, 2018, 10:53:30 »
Interesting holiday Alan, and nice photos  :goodjob:

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Re: A Fantastic Canal Holiday
« Reply #10 : July 15, 2018, 11:16:39 »
Great to hear you all enjoyed the canal experience.

And thanks for the great pictures.

As you will be aware I love cycling along the canals because tbey are without hills as they follow the contours of the land.

From your log you have got me thinking that I need to put this canal on my to do bucket list.

I can see from your picture the tow paths are well kept so looking at my cycle app it is a few hours drive to the canal so one day may cycle part of this canal.



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Re: A Fantastic Canal Holiday
« Reply #11 : July 15, 2018, 16:28:13 »
It is easy to hop on and off the boat as it passes through a bridge - and I did so a few times to get some exercise whilst Gareth was at the helm . Even though I strolled along the towpath at an easy pace, I easily walked faster than the boat.

I have never seen as many dogs in one area as I did along the canal. Most holidaymakers appeared to have a dog on their boat and numerous walkers, joggers and even cyclists had dogs.


The towpaths I walked were in great condition and generally free of dog eggs
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« Last Edit: July 16, 2018, 07:33:00 by AlanHo » »
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Re: A Fantastic Canal Holiday
« Reply #12 : July 16, 2018, 03:21:27 »
Thanks for the great writeup!
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