Travel tales from the riverbank

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Blogger Trish Burgess writes for the Free Press

There’s something about cities and towns which have rivers and canals flowing through them which I find very appealing. I suppose that’s what first attracted me to Spalding when we moved here.

From my travels over the years, I have many water-themed memories. The most famous city on water, Venice, was superb; having access to frequent vaporetto water buses was a great way to see the sights and stopped so much of the usual family whinges about getting tired from walking.

Berlin surprised me with its river, the Spree. We took an hour’s cruise on the canal, making the mistake of choosing the cheapest tour, where the guide only spoke German. I gather he was most amusing but we had no idea what he was saying.

In Copenhagen we took a day cruise, starting in the beautiful harbour, Nyhavn, where the local office workers sit with their feet dangling over the edge, supping a Carlsberg or two. We jumped off the boat with everyone else to have a photo opportunity with the Little Mermaid. She was very beautiful though, as her name suggests, quite small.

In recent months we have visited places closer to home and still been drawn to the waterways. Birmingham has an extensive canal network which we investigated, starting at the cafes and restaurants around fashionable Brindleyplace. We walked along the towpath to the Jewellery Quarter, a place steeped in history. Did you know the original FA Cup was made in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter or that whistles for the Titanic were manufactured here?

A few weeks ago, when driving from Glasgow to Edinburgh, we stopped off to look at the Falkirk Wheel, the world’s first and only rotating boat lift. This 35m feat of engineering allows boats to move between the Forth & Clyde Canal and the Union Canal. It’s well worth a visit if you’re in the area as there are regular trips on the wheel and plenty to interest families.

On the Bank Holiday weekend we probably had one of the most charming experiences of city waterways when we visited Little Venice in London. Taking a fairly well hidden path between Paddington Station and St Mary’s Hospital, we stumbled upon the Canalway Cavalcade, an annual event bringing the community together.

Around 100 boats had gathered at the junction of the Grand Union and Regent’s Canals, many having travelled some distance along Britain’s 2,000-mile waterway system. They were all looking their best: freshly painted, decorated with bunting and displaying lots of painted enamel canalware. Morris Dancing, a fairground and numerous food stalls were gathered on the river bank. It didn’t seem possible that this was happening in the centre of London: an unexpected treat.

Returning home, we drove past the River Welland and I realised that, despite making a beeline for boats and waterways when I’m on holiday, I’ve never actually had a trip on Spalding’s own water taxi. That’s now on my list of things to do this summer. Not far to go this time.

* You can follow Trish on Twitter @mumsgoneto and find her blog at