Thoughts, quirky insights and experiences in my meandering life.

Almost, but not quite

I have never been to Disneyland, Graceland, Dollywood, The Epcot Centre, or Marine Land, and now I have never been to Cadbury World. Although I got close, the Cadbury store where you exit into the gift store from the attraction. Cadbury World became a focus as Katherine and I made our way around the west and south of Birmingham, including navigating the Severn, going up the Droitwich Canal which included a whole day of progressing through 32 locks and the next day with no locks at all but including three tunnels. Two were 500 or so meters, one was 2500 meters. Yes, 2.5km. It is kind of weird to go underground for that distance. I know it is safe, but I really felt the weight of the land above me!

The light at the end of the tunnel, 2.5 km away.

Getting closer

What I was more interested in was Bourneville itself. The Cadbury family were devout Quakers and were early social justice champions, particularly George Cadbury. When he was able he had the village of Bourneville built for the Cadbury workers. It was during the Arts and Crafts period and the houses and community buildings reflect that style, which I am particularly attracted to. There is a community building named for Ruskin, one of the founders of the Arts and Crafts movement. Simple but elegant design. Hopefully more Arts and Crafts later in my narrowboat travels.

The village is a thriving community, beginning to turn its attention to senior housing. George Cadbury was one of a few industrialists who cared about his workers. Most improvements were wrought by the formation of trade unions, but my bias is showing.

It is a pretty village and reminded me of an upscale Bain Co-op in Toronto, which is also in the Arts and Crafts style.

A wedding present from George to his wife
The first bank I had an account with
Wonder what Pantone colour it is.

We checked out the store, bought chocolate, and then looked around the village. Our plan was to do Cadbury World the next day, but decided it was not worth it as we would not see the actual chocolate production.

I wonder what the locals think.

We have been so lucky with weather the last two weeks, very sunny and warm. In Droitwich the other day the Rosemary was already in bloom

Rosemary, in bloom in February. A tender perennial in Canada

Since leaving Bourneville (they named a chocolate bar after the village, my favourite when I was a kid, the Bourneville bar was dark chocolate) we travelled along the Stratford on Avon canal. Sounds posh doesn’t it? Well, it is not. It goes along the south side of Birmingham and was full of garbage, all kinds of it, including a 5 gallon plastic container spewing oil. Jammed up the propeller. No fun cleaning that out, then today the canal became really shallow and it was hard to navigate and move forward. Then 20 more locks. You never know what you will experience on the canals. The day we did the Tardebigge flight of 32 locks there were all kinds of people on the canal. Lots of parents with kids and grandparents with grandkids, which we had been seeing all week as it was half-term. Parents really enjoyed explaining what was happening as we opened and closed locks, filled them with water and moved higher up the flight. And they lent a hand . Today we were largely on our own and both the paddles (what you lift to let the water in or out), and the single gates were really heavy. It was quite a workout.

I have been on the canal for more than three weeks now and have not travelled nearly as far as I thought I would in this time. Katherine and I are getting close to Warwick in the midlands. I had thought I would be down by Heathrow by now able to drop her off there. As it is she will be taking a bus to Heathrow

It has been an intersting time. The canal is a microcosim of society of course, so there are all kinds of people on the canal, although almost exclusively white. I am glad that I am doing this five month adventure now, not 10 years from now. Narrowboat life is becoming very popular with arable land being converted to marinas. The boats come in all shapes and sizes and colours. We pass many that have permanant moorings and I can’t help feel that most of them look pretty forlorn. They provide a cheap place to live, but they begin to look un-loved. Leaves and other debris collecting on them, moss on the bumpers, needing a coat of paint and reblacked on the hull, and generally looking a bit sad. Maybe I am judging them to harshly, but it has cured me of ever wanting to live on a moored boat anywhere. Then of course there are the houseproud boat owners that keep them ship shape and everything in between. There is a growing number of boats in general, I wonder if they will have to limit the number some time in the future.

On the other hand, everyone is very helpful, always willing to lend a hand, and many of the people who walk along the canal, inevitably walking their dog, also seem to have experience being on a boat and offer good answers to questions.

One thing that really stands out is the smell of coal smoke. Definetely a smell from my childhood. I grew up in a modern house, built in 1957, but it’s only source of heat was an open coal fire in the living room. It was a four bedroom, four room downstairs house. Mom could not wait to get central heating, which we did in the mid-sixties, so that she would not have to make a coal fire every day of the fall, winter and spring.

Many boats have wood and coal burners, with coal seeming to dominate. Britain is yet again trying to crack down and discourge people from using coal fires for heat. Anyone who has watched The Crown will know the diastrous results of coal smoke pollution in London and it was banned there for many years. London smog killed. So I have a complicated relationship with the smell, but overall it is not pleasant. Certainly not as attractive as a wood smoke.

Already people are noticing that Little Star is a long way from home. They express suprise when they ask how long I have been travelling and it is a conversation opener. I can only imagine what the reaction will be when I am in Bath or Bristol, just about the furthest away from Nantwich in Cheshire that I can get! I do detect a bit of envy. I feel a bit like a snail, carrying my home around with me and I love it. I haven’t had to go through a lock single handed yet, that will probably happen in April, may try a practice one with my sister Mary on board in March. As a fellow traveller said, they loose their novelty when you are on your own.

Palermo and Sorrento next to each other!

The British have a habit, quaint?, twee?, of naming their homes even if they have a street address. Here the builder did it for them. Some do not have a street address, my sisters The Croft, my brothers Cayhill Cottage, so it makes sense to have a name, but otherwise……


Picnics, plant life and herons in trees.


The care and maintenance of a canal life


  1. Daniel

    Those are long tunnels! I think I would have been creeped out a bit… and really glad to see the light at the end of it.


    PS: Love Cadbury chocolate from England. The story of the Cadbury family will increase my enjoyment of it. Somehow, the quality of the chocolate was not quite the same in North America.

  2. Glen

    I agree with Daniel that the tunnels are long! Is there space for two boats to pass? In the locks there doesn’t look like a lot of extra width – are they a standard size and the boats too so they fit through?

  3. Maggie

    No, the tunnels have been one boat wide so far. Too expensive to make them wider I think. All hand dug!
    The locks are one or two boats wide. The standard boat is 7 feet, but some were double wide. So a particular canal will either have one type or the other.

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