Monday, 18 March 2013

What’s so good about the Grand Union Canal?


When you live and travel on a boat it feels like you have several areas that you could call ‘home’. You might even feel at home on a whole stretch of canal and for me that stretch would be the southern Grand Union.

I’ve travelled from Blisworth to London and often settled myself comfortably on a winter mooring in Angel, Islington. When we finally decided to settle for good so that our eldest daughter could start school we were lucky enough to find a residential mooring in Marsworth. This is a tiny rural community, with a little church, two cosy pubs and many colourful moored boats lining the centre of the village. The loveliest thing about the area though is the three reservoirs that feed the canal. A favourite with families, dog walkers, fishermen and photographers the views are stunning. It is quite an unusual sight to see a vast expanse of water right next to the canal.

Rising up the flight of seven locks you then arrive at Bulbourne, a little hamlet which was once a hub of traditional lockgate making. The old British Waterways workshops can still be seen beside the canal. Drifting onwards the Tring summit level takes us through a leafy canal cutting down to Cowroast. Originally known as ‘cows rest’ because farmers would rest their cows here on the way to market in London, the local pub and boatyard now take on the name. The English countryside remains green and beautiful as we travel towards Berkhamsted, a charming historic town featuring an olde worlde sweet shop, a multitude of lovely restaurants and an ancient ruined castle. Travelling through Hemel Hempstead you see nothing of the concrete town centre, instead chugging past the ancient Three Horseshoes pub (1535), through the swing bridge and the spacious urban parkland known as Boxmoor.

Other highlights for me on the journey are the fields around Rickmansworth where Black Beauty was filmed, the quiet of Cassiobury Park, the lakes of Harefield and the woodland of Denham Country Park. This is followed by the Swan and Bottle pub in Uxbridge, full of wooden beams, real ale and memories of my old boating friends who have long since moved on. Then turning left at Bulls Bridge we head into London still travelling quietly through parkland such as Horsenden Hill and Perivale Wood before briefly flirting with the modern world as we drift over the north circular aqueduct.

The only way to end a cruise like this would be to moor up in one of the boatiest places in London: Little Venice. Here you can remain with the quiet English pub vibe (try the Warwick Castle) or eat at somewhere swanky and modern in Sheldon Square. You’ll also be a short walk from Paddington so could simply head off to see the famous sights of London.

I love this whole stretch of canal and can’t believe Neil and Corinne are offering a £50 discount on what must be one of the best boat journeys you can do!

See more details and check availability on the Leighton Buzzard to London (Little Venice) narrowboat hotel cruise.

Remember: If you are single or a couple, it is much cheaper to come hotel boating than to hire a boat, and you don't have to do the cooking and washing up!

Disclosure: I was paid to write this post for the Canal Voyagers Hotel Boats blog. It was my choice to republish it here as it tells a little bit about my own narrowboat life. 
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