Great Canal Journeys: Essential Telly for Boaters
Timothy West and Prunella Scales star in this new documentary series on More4, following their travels on Britain’s canals as they celebrate their golden wedding anniversary. Prunella Scales is now 81 and her husband is 79 but they’ve been boating for decades and were involved in the restoration of the canals in their earlier years of leisure boating.
The programme opens with beautiful views and stunning aerial photography of the Caen Hill flight as the first episode features the Kennet and Avon canal in the West Country. The camera sweeps through luscious green fields, trees and glistening water before honing in on the regal architecture of Bath.
I love visiting Bath but I’ve never been by boat. These scenes showing the secret waterways views of the city had me hooked from the very start. Canal boating is really such a stunning way to see England. Bath to Devizes is a journey I have always longed to do and so I got to ‘see’ it from the comfort of my living room.
“Pru doesn’t like steering which means therefore that she has to do most of the legwork,” says Timothy. Luckily this is not a problem as she enjoys winding paddles and opening lock gates. (One of the top 15 weirdest canal boating rules is that in 9 out of 10 boating couples the woman is in charge of operating the locks while the man is in charge of steering the boat. However, “I’m a perfectly competent steerer!” Pru reassures us.
Episode 1 showed the viewer that travelling this country by canal you really get to see Britain from a unique perspective. In Sydney Gardens they embarked on historical anecdotes and showed the rope marks on a bridge, worn in by years of towropes from the days of horse-drawn cargo carrying.
Pru has a mild kind of Alzheimer’s but she’s very much still able to enjoy the journeys even though sometimes she doesn’t remember where they are going or why they are going there.
“Sometimes I just want to watch the countryside slide by.”
It means that they make sure they enjoy their time together doing things that they love.
The programme mentions the competition of the railways, the decline of the canals and the restoration by enthusiasts and volunteers.
“We were the first boat to travel the full length of the K and A and it was very different then,” says Pru.
If anyone has ever wondered what is the attraction of boating on canals this program showcases both the bygone heritage and the bright colours, green trees and fields and painted boats that make it popular today. But aside from the beauty of boating, taking a glimpse into this couple’s evidently happy and supportive marriage made for some enchanting and absorbing television.
Missed it? Watch Great Canal Journeys Episode 1 on 4OD
If following this real life cruise re-ignited your desire to go canal boating use our flexi-search function to find a second hand boat within your budget.
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