A year ago, we had a competition where the prize was a canal boat trip to East Midlands. Our Swedish winner, Per, shares his story with us:
Last autumn I won a competition arranged by VisitBritain. The prize was a canal boat trip to East Midlands including flight, train and boat for 4 people. It wasn’t difficult to gather up a crew! I called my best friends to ask if they wanted to come along. None of them said no!
This summer it was finally time to go. Early in the morning 4 hopeful guys flew from Arlanda to London. Then we took the train to Long Eaton in Nottingham. Because of the beautiful weather, we decided to walk to Sawley Marina where the canal boat was waiting for us and a 2 hour training. None of us had actually any experience with boats, so we were a bit nervous.
In the afternoon it was time to leave. A representative from Robin Hood Boats took us out from the marina and to the first canal lock. We practiced on how to control the boat, open and shut the canal lock and how to let the water out. Then we were on our own. So now we had 4 days on the canal with a 14 meter long narrow boat. The boat had 4 beds, toilet, shower, a kitchen, as well as a tv and a dvd player. Everything we needed.
We celebrated the beginning of our trip with a Carling. And us being nervous was really unnecessary. We managed the first lock perfectly. After a few hours we arrived in Shardlow where we stayed for the night. There were a couple of cosy pubs right by the canal.
The warm and nice weather continued on our second day. All of us took turns in driving the boat, and we got really good at it! Though it was a bit narrow when we tried to go through the canal locks with another boat. We ate lunch at the Coopers Arms – a 5 minute walk from the canal. Most pubs and restaurants are situated right by the canal locks.
We continued on our way to Willington where we were going to turn the boat around. That went smoothly. When we went down to the shops, the streets were crowded with people. And it turned out to be a local beer festival! We tried out several local types of beer and hang out with the locals. We had a great time!
The third day was also nice and sunny. We were thinking to ourselves; – Is this really England? We had packed our raincoats at the top of our back packs, but we didn’t need to wear them at all. Canal boat is a relaxing way to spend your holiday, and there was always something to look at along the way: small cosy houses, other boats, people walking or cycling along the canal, small bridges made of stone and nice pubs. Idyllic! Back at the Shardlow, we visited our favourite pub New Inn.
During our trip we tried different types of food and several types of beer. John Smith’s Extra Smooth became a favourite. In the evening we drove towards Sawley Marina and stayed outside the marina, ready to take the train to London the next morning. So we had time for an afternoon in London with lots of shopping and culture!
Then it was time to go home. Sadly our plane was cancelled! We stayed at the airport for several hours. An unknown woman at the British Airways check-in counter gave us new tickets, a hotel and an evening meal for the four of us. Well done!
We would like to thank VisitBritain for an amazing trip! We had a great trip and could really recommend East Midlands and Sawley Marina to everyone who wants to hire a canal boat. It’s so much fun!!
Per Axelsson with crew