It has become something of a tradition now that every year I invite a few of my friends on my dad’s narrowboat for a week pottering around the Midlands, relaxing, eating and drinking (usually with much of the latter). This year was no exception, except for a slight change of scenery.
For a bit of a change, and a bit of a challenge, I wanted to get the boat to Llangollen in Wales. I say challenge because this particular route involves travelling over one of Tomas Telford’s greatest creations: Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. The aqueduct is a 307m long, 38m high masterpiece of 19th Century engineering. An iron trough carrying 1.5 million litres of water over the River Dee valley, originally allowing for goods from Welsh mines and quarries to reach English markets, now serving as the tourist highlight to the busiest canal in the country, the Llangollen Canal.
And so our voyage was set and, on a surprisingly sunny week in the middle of August, we set off. Passing secret nuclear bunkers, drinking cider and champagne and navigating lift bridges we weaved our way through the English and Welsh countryside. It didn’t fail to deliver relaxation and calm to the entire crew, and after a week of inhaling diesel fumes and eating far too much, I felt ready to tackle the monotonous world of research once again.