Travel

Canal Holiday in England

A group of friends, doing absolutely nothing, very slowly, for long periods of time

Derek Reinhard
ENGAGE
Published in
7 min readMay 25, 2024

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Scenic canal with footpath and bridge
West Midlands canal — photo by author

Sounds and smells bring back deep memories: A woman’s laugh and a waft of perfume sweeps me back to my blate adolescence; distant dogs barking and the deep mouldering smell of leafy vegetation recalls travels in Sierra Leone, West Africa; heavy muffled fog, pelting drizzle on tree leaves, and the low chugging and bitter smell of diesel engines puts me back on the canals of Great Britain.

My wife and I fell in love with UK canals quite accidentally. During our first US Air Force tour in England, my parents came for a visit. My mother related something she had read and wanted to try — an interesting activity called “canal boating.” With two toddler daughters, aged 2 and 3, you can imagine my wife’s and my reluctance to go on a drive-it-yourself, open-deck, boat trip. But go we did.

Built in the 18th and 19th centuries and before the advent of rail travel, these clay-lined troughs of limit and travelwater totaled 4,700 miles (7,600 km) at its height (including a 2,700-mile (4,345 km) web of connected canals). This enabled haulage of raw materials inland and finished goods out to other cities and coastal ports. With the advent of rail, able to outstrip a canal boat’s 30-ton…

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Derek Reinhard
ENGAGE

Writes quirky life, productivity, and relationship stuff (uses the Oxford comma). Author of 3 books on GTD and a couple coloring books.