5 Ideas for Frugal Family Fun on the Waterways
Peggy Melmoth, who has written this wonderful guest post, travels the waterways with her husband and two daughters aged 4 and 2. Peggy has lived on a canal boat for eleven years and writes a blog about family life, living aboard at www.narrowboatwife.blogspot.com
There are over 2000 miles of canal network in the UK and over 50 per cent of the population live within five miles of a canal. Even if you live in a city you may find that your local canal or river is haven of tranquillity and a place to discover wildlife.
Hiring a narrowboat for a holiday may not be a low cost option for a family on a budget but during the winter season some companies offer a half day rate of around £70.00 on a weekday. The cost can be shared by a group. However, the towpath is also a wonderful location for low cost family fun.
Before embarking on a long journey consider a list of useful things you may need such as spare inner tubes, repair kit, pump, spanners, lock, and water bottles. BW keys are available to buy at any boat yard or chandlery (about £3) and will give you access to taps on the towpath to refill water bottles. Cereal bars and Kendal mint cake are perfect for keeping up the energy and a Nicholsons canal guide is a good map to plan your route and stops.
Fishing can be begun with very little outlay on equipment and the under 12’s do not need to purchase an Environment Agency rod licence. Most of the fishing rights on the canal network are licensed to angling clubs, but the stretches that are not let are made available by the BW Waterway Wanderers permit. Adult permits are £20 and Junior permits (under 16) are £5 for the year.
My children love finding blackberries on the towpath but there is much more foraging to be found.
Belle Tidy’s blog ‘I Know a Bank Where the Wild Thyme Grows’ has plenty of tips on what to find on the towpath, and recipes so that you know what to do with your finds when you get home. Imagine dandelion marmalade and rosehip bread or red clover rice salad, and of course all sorts of jams and chutneys. (For grown-ups she has a surprising range of vodka based recipes!)
While history may not be your children’s favourite school subject there are thirteen waterways museums in Britain. Entry to the London Canal museum is free. It has a full size replica of a working narrowboat cabin so that visitors can see how narrowboat families used to live. They also run activities for kids in the school holidays such as ice-cream making, roses and castles painting and boat trips.
Find your nearest museum at http://www.canalmuseum.org.uk/waterways-museums.htm
5 Rainy days
If you love the waterways as much as I do you might want to force canal themed books onto your children too. Rosie and Jim books have been around for years, but a more recent canal series is Muddy Waters. It’s a series of books about colourful canal boats with names, that started in Oxford and go on adventures. An undiscovered gem that gives a flavour of the history of the waterways are the Bert and Betty books; picture books for the very young describing the life of 19th century boaters http://www.thebraunstonboaters.co.uk Try also cooking a boat themed recipe together from the very affordable book ‘Favourite Boating Recipes’ by Cas Best £1.35
Find more watery things to do in your area by searching for your region on the Waterscape website. http://www.waterscape.com/in-your-area
And don’t forget to carry your polyester designed swimwear and moisturized sunscreen products inside a waist strap backpack for an enjoyable travel and swim time. A soggy swimsuit is never fun to put on!