I’m sure I’m not the only person who, when thinking about canals, thinks about Venice. Oh the romance of narrow waterways passing by historic stone houses in rainbow colours, a gondolier in a straw hat and stripy shirt and lazy warm days on the water, gelato in hand!
Canals though aren’t just restricted to Italy – hundreds of places have them, England included. The U.K. canal system really rose to prominence during the Industrial Revolution and given the Midland’s strong association with this era, there are plenty of examples of canals near to Malvern.
A few weeks ago Adam and I popped into Worcester. Before we ran our errands in town, we took the opportunity to take a wander along the Severn River and one small section of the Worcester to Birmingham canal, which was finished in its entirety in 1815.
At the start of the canal at Diglis was the most beautiful wooden signpost, showing the way to nearby towns in locks and miles.
The Diglis Marina had a wonderful collection of long-boats. Each vessel has quite a personality and I liken the artwork on many of the boats to that seen on gypsy caravans. For many people the boats are a holiday home of sorts but Adam once knew a man who actually lived full time on a canal boat! I can see the appeal in that – cruising the canals in a cozy little boat. Many of the boats moored in the marina had their own little patch of ‘garden’, which I thought was very sweet.
The canals pass right by homes and houses and when you’re walking by it feels like you’re following some sort of secret path, right in the middle of the city.
I must admit the canal water didn’t look so appealing – murky and stagnating in some areas and polluted by rubbish. Despite that, there are still plenty of birds that live on and around the canal system, including some of the Severn’s swans.
Wandering past the canal I couldn’t help but wonder at how many boats must have utilised the waterway over the last 200 odd years. The scenery must of changed dramatically. It’s heartening the canals have been preserved, even though their original use as a ‘highway’ is no longer relevant.
That ‘living history’ you get to experience everyday in England, is one of my most favourite things about this country. There’s a pride here in the backstory.
I’m rather enamoured with the old school charm the canal boats exude – any tips for good places to watch the boats go by… or canals that are worth exploring by boat?