When I think about places to go and canals to see I think of the obvious holiday destinations: The idyllic Llangollen canal, the Norfolk Broads, or the popular Kennet and Avon. If I want to explore a city navigation I consider doing the London ring, or visiting Birmingham, which has more miles of canals than Venice. I had lived on a narrowboat for years before I realised that Cambridge and Ely are connected to the navigable canal network, via the East Anglian Fen waterways! Not far from London there’s a whole other water-world out there that nobody tells you about (except Amy, who blogs about living aboard in Cambridge!)
For a long time all I knew of the world of canals was contained in the Nicholon’s canal guides, which don’t cover the Great Ouse, Cam or Middle Level waterways. (However, a range of canal books, canal maps, Imray’s canal guides, and DVDs for rivers including Middle Level, Ouse, and Nene are available in the Fox Narrowboats online shop. )
The East of England waterways have been described as “a hidden gem” by BBC Countryfile’s Adam Henson (pictured), perhaps because they offer peaceful and idyllic countryside cruises, shopping and eating in Ely and Cambridge, pretty walks, villages, churches, cosy pubs, and the steam trains of the Nene Valley Railway. If you’re looking for uncrowded waters, beautiful little rivers, tourist attractions and historical places to visit then you may just have discovered the waterways’ best-kept secret.
Imagine visiting the world famous Cambridge University and the grand Ely Cathedral, by canal boat! En route you’ll discover wildlife and wild flowers, traditional pubs and historic monuments. You can also visit St Ives; the birth place of Oliver Cromwell, on the banks of the river Great Ouse, and Oundle and Northampton.
When I find out about a waterway I haven’t heard of I always want to go exploring! It’s like that Star Trek thing of boldly going beyond the final frontier, except at three miles an hour, with a mug of coffee on the roof. Don’t you think that boating is just the best way to see England?!
If you’re canal-curious like me, check out Fox Narrowboats, a warm, friendly, family business offering narrowboat holidays and day boat hire in March, Cambridgeshire. As you know, I no longer blog about boats and living aboard here on Narrowboat Wife but if you want to read more about everything to do with boats and canal-life then you will now find me blogging regularly for the Fox Narrowboats blog. I’ve already written; Three Things You Must Do When Visiting Cambridge, and How Winter Threatens to Damage Your Narrowboat – Three Ways to Protect Yourself.
Come and see, and let me know what you think of the new blog!