Scan 14

My first holiday on an English Canal walked with simple ease straight into my heart and settled in. Gliding slowly through countryside and hills in an old Narrow boat was heaven that week, it still lives vividly in my mind.

For those who don’t know, I want to give a brief outline of how this wonderful Canal system came about, its original purpose before people like myself sought them out for peace and relaxation.

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The first Canal ( Bridgewater ) opened 1761; the golden era of the canals was 1770 – 1830. During this era most bulky transport took place on the canals, e.g. cotton, coal, steel. It was considered quick transport although even today the max speed is 4 miles per hour. Originally the boats were drawn by horses on the “Towpath” with long ropes attached to the boats.

The Canals were built by hardworking men with pickaxes and shovels. As you can imagine this was a very hard work; the photo below shows a typical scene of the time. Most workers were Irish.


The network was originally called Navigations and the men working and digging these ‘navigations’ got called “navvies”. These very same “navvies” were also the ones digging and building the railway system that came to mean the death of the Canals as viable transport systems. Sadly the Canal owners lowered the wages to the “navvies” as the rail system grew, thus it came about that the navvies and their families started living in rather cramped conditions on the Narrow boats as money were short.

The rescue of the Canal system came from people who saw the potential of opening them to holiday makers. Today this is a big and very popular venue for holidays. The Lancaster Canal, which I had the honour to travel, was a have a haven to me and if you still have time; please find below my my poem from this trip.

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The Narrow Boat

Gently chugging through still water,
Pastoral countryside slips by
in green, yellow and gold,
cows, sheep and country pubs.
Magnificent mountains afar,
shimmering purple and blue.

A Heron following, so near
a beautiful winged friend,
Breathtaking as he lifts to the sky.
Powerful beauty at ease,
knowing itself.
With grace he returns.

The diesel engine’s comforting sound,
a counter point
The heart beat of the ‘Narrow boat’,
In harmony with nature’s own song.

Unveiling to me as we move on,
Clarity and light.
Chattering thoughts disperse
as onwards we both fly,

The Heron and I.

© miriam ivarson

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All photos except “the Navigation men” by miriam ivarson.

21 thoughts on “THE NARROWBOAT

  1. Absolutely beautiful, Miriam. The canals are so peaceful; I would live on a narrowboat if it were practical. Sadly, I probably need (want?) more space than it provides. One can dream though.

    Your poem puts the whole thing into perspective. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes it is funny how we want to just stay when we find a place of peace and fulfilment. I could easily stay at least a summer month but would say no to a winter month. Even though there is heating.:)

      Thank you for your kind words both about the canal and my poem.


  2. Miriam, I hadn’t any idea about the canals in England and the narrowboats to navigate them. They look so peaceful. They do remind me of the bayous of Louisiana.

    The poem sets it off perfectly, introducing us to beauty when nature and humanity come together in harmony.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you very much JC and I am glad to have been able to introduce this – to me – very important part of English history.
      In turn I have now read up on bayous in Louisiana. Fascinating what we can learn on these blogs.

      Thanks also for the comment on my poem, that means a lot.


  3. Thank you Andrea, you brought out an extra big smile.
    I understand what you mean with the canals replacing the sea.
    I feel this both about the moors and the canals.


  4. Miriam, this is a superlative post, well-crafted and moving on so many levels. The first poetic sentence drew me in with ‘English Canal walked with simple ease straight into my heart and settled in’. With this lyrical turn of phrase I settled down to enjoy…thank you so much for including a snippet of the history of the canals. The work was brutal and unforgiving and imagine how they must have felt when the canals so quickly fell out of favour for transportation.

    Your poem is beautiful and captures that unique sense of the ‘Navigations’! The inherent peace of the canal trip is overwhelming and quickly transposed to the reader. I love how the heron was your friend and how your two spirits seem to merge as one – what a magical and inspiring experience and one you have remarkably captured on film! Finally the engine of the canalboat beats through the poem and as your write:

    ‘The heart beat of the ‘Narrow boat’,
    In harmony with nature’s own song’

    A very special and delightful poem, thank you for sharing with us! 😀❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Annika, I am really speechless. Your comment is superlative and an honour to receive. I can’t believe how you managed to get into your answer all the feelings I really wanted to convey. Amazing.
    This could be the time when one hangs up the pen…..:) but I am brave and will persevere.
    I think I found my way of posting; a poem with history or thoughts around.
    Thank you Annika

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This takes me back to doing regular holiday trips in narrow boats in the 70s. They were pretty basic back then but it was great to slow down the pace to 4 miles an hour and take time to admire the passing scenery and wildlife. Plus there was always the possbity of tying up canal side of a pub for lunch (or dinner, or any other excuse you could think of). Love the photos and the poem which conjours up those relaxing summer days,
    Never saw a heron though.


    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you Mike for your spirited and kind comment. It seems to me I was lucky going much later when the boats had been converted and modernised inside. Still, the same slow throbbing engine though.:)
    I did also notice the homely and convenient pubs whilst meandering along; very convenient. 😉
    The Herons now, I had several around me each day. Quite amazing and touching.


    • I am so glad you liked it Kathy and who knows, you might one day go on one of these old time boats.
      Don’t get me started on birds😊 , we could be talking until nightfall…..and beyond.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank you Janice, I am really happy that both poem and history spoke to you.
    I have now looked up Rideau Canal and it looks beautiful. Wider than ours but a similarity in their meandering ways. We also have plenty of locks and I found it quite satisfying to operate these old levers.


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