Q: What attracted you to a boating holiday?
Louise: A canal boat holiday was on our bucket list. Andy and I both have our own interests, his is cycling, mine Pilates. They are our sanctuary, so when we choose a holiday it has to relax us. Always the romantic, Andy sent me a text to say he had booked a canalboat holiday for us… "And don't worry, the boat has a roll top bath". Sold!
Q: Why did you choose the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal and Beacon Park Boats?
Louise: Back in 2004 we, as a family, came on holiday to Wales. We stayed just outside Cardiff in what we thought was an idyllic location - horses in the field, a house to ourselves. We hated every minute of it. Nothing went to plan, and we even drove to Hereford on one day just to feel calm!! Thirteen years later, we felt we had been a bit harsh to Wales, and decided to give it another go, minus the kids (who are now adults) but not forgetting our two Labradors.
Originally, I come from the Lake District and I have taken Andy back there many, many times. We love the hills and the rural scenery in what is such a beautiful part of the UK. In order to try and fall back in love with Wales, we chose the Brecon Beacons, as we had a feeling this area would offer as much as the Lake District.
As this was our first boating holiday, I think Andy knew that it had to give me the wow factor. One look at Beacon Park Boats’ website gave us that. In fact, it was two little words ‘hot tub’ (on narrowboat Owl) which convinced us to book our holiday. Unfortunately, someone had already got the dates we wanted so we had to choose a different sort of luxury – a roll top bath (on narrowboat Harrier).
Q: Were there any unexpected moments?
Louise: The locks!! We both watched the instructional DVD supplied by Beacon Park Boats at least six times in the comfort of our own home. We even took notes to try and fathom out exactly how the locks work. At one point I said to Andy that we should choose a route with no locks (there’s a 25-mile lock-free stretch on the Mon & Brec) but according to him we needed to be more active!
The first lock was our one and only argument. Andy knew better, but I thought I did. Then the realisation quickly set in that going through a lock wasn’t difficult at all. Yes, our first lock was a challenge but we love challenges!
Then there was the “Let’s stop here for the night and find a pub…..”. Firstly, we don't really go to pubs very often, and secondly it was 2pm! But we were so relaxed and the Dragon Inn in Crickhowell welcomed dogs into their cosy lounge so it seemed rude not to have three drinks. And the joy of it all was that our boat was just a short walk away, where we could crash out and sleep it off.
And last, but by no means least, the welcome we got in Wales was amazing. All memories of an unhappy holiday near Cardiff disappeared. The other boaters we met on the canal, the locals in the towns and villages, they all seemed as relaxed and chilled as we were. Sheer bliss.
Q. What were your favourite aspects of the holiday?
Louise: When we arrived at the wharf in Llangattock and were shown onto our narrowboat Harrier, Sarah asked me “why a canal boat holiday?”. My reply was “to get away from people!” I cannot really explain how tranquil the whole experience was for us.
Our two Labradors were so chilled jumping on and off the boat at every bridge, eyeing up the ducks. On the first day it seemed to be their ultimate aim to catch a duck. This soon changed, and they became mesmerised by the sheep, the ducks and the water.
Everyday gave us a new challenge and, as we are highly competitive, it became apparent that we both wanted to do well in our newly-acquired skills. My ability to work the lock gates was up against Andy’s steering prowess. Could he steer the boat into the lock carefully, staying away from the cill? Of course, Andy was the best!!! But I think we know the truth, girls.
Each night, we would sit with a glass of wine, watching the ducks - the dogs saluting them by this stage - and just listen ……. to the gentle movement of the water.
When people ask about our holiday, we just smile. When asked if we would do it again, on a different canal, it's an absolute ‘no’ because we wouldn't want to ruin the amazing experience we have had. We've fallen in love with this place. How could we better it?