Welcome to British Isles Friday! British Isles Friday is a weekly event for sharing all things British and Irish — reviews, photos, opinions, trip reports, guides, links, resources, personal stories, interviews, and research posts. Join us each Friday to link your British and Irish themed content and to see what others have to share. The link list is at the bottom of this post. Pour a cup of tea or lift a pint and join our link party!
Last week, I reviewed the film Mrs. Miniver. Tina enjoyed her re-read of Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher. Jean reviewed Robin Hood: Green Lord of the Wildwood by John Matthews to learn (or speculate) about the real-life Robin Hood, plus the various stories and ballads that have sprung from the story.
It seems like every one I know has gone down at least one YouTube rabbit hole since we’ve all been spending more time at home. My brother learned about the rare hobby of collecting antique mouse traps. My partner started with the more popular hobby of collecting vintage radios, but has somehow found himself in the odd corner of the ham radio community that still uses Morse Code — so, now, he’s learning Morse Code as his new quarantine skill.
My newest obsessions are people who live on narrowboats, continuously cruising the canals of Great Britain, and make YouTube videos about their adventures.
My first curiosity was “how are people who live aboard narrowboats coping with the pandemic?”
People who live on the canals pay a license to the Canal and River Trust and follow the rules that the CRT provides. So, narrowboaters were guided both by the local government (at any given moment, the rules have been different in Wales, Scotland, and England) and by the CRT. The YouTubers I watched, so far, were in England, so that’s the experience that I’m familiar with.
When the lockdown got serious in England, the CRT advised boaters to moor in one place for the duration, only moving when they needed food or water or when they needed to empty their toilets. The usual rules for continuous cruisers are that they are only allowed to stay in one place for 14 days. There are also lots of places, often near stores in towns, that are usually limited to 48 hours and those rules were relaxed so that boaters could stay near the services they needed.
Here are three YouTube channels documenting three very different experiences.
Robbie Cumming abandoned ship to self-isolate with his girlfriend and her toddler at her place on land. He was supposed to have started filming a new season of Canal Boat Diaries for BBC Four, just as the lockdown went into force. So, we got to see a bit of what it’s like to be away from your boat, but with people you want to be with, but worrying about a significant loss of expected income.
The Narrowboat Girl is Emma who turned 13 during lockdown. She lives with her mum and several dogs on a narrowboat, full-time, as a homeschooler. They got sick, presumably with COVID-19, so we learn a bit about what that was like. They spent most of the lockdown moored in a place that was convenient to services they needed, but ended up with some bad experiences with the people in the nearest land-built house.
Minimal List is a vlog by Michael (an Americanadian) and Jo, with their dog, George. They followed instructions and only moved when they needed water or food, but they used each of those moves to improve their moorings in some way — from next to a too-noisy (but appreciated) firehouse, to a peaceful spot in the country, back to a different spot near the village (but farther from the firehouse).
Even with minimal moves, or none at all, we get to see pictures of waterways and English countryside. That’s so relaxing for me.
When the lockdown eased, a bit, in England, the Canal and River Trust reverted to usual mooring rules. They recommended that people continue to follow social distancing rules, but encouraged boaters to resume cruising and to follow the 48-hour mooring signs and the usual practice of staying in one place no more than 14 days.
Robbie Cumming went back to his boat and is meeting up with the film crew for Canal Boat Diaries:
Emma, the Narrowboat Girl, and her mum moved away from the unfriendly neighbor and are starting to make plans for further adventures:
Jo and Michael are encountering all kinds of weeds and other obstructions on a canal that hasn’t been used as much as usual by this time of year, but they’re enjoying seeing new sights after months of staying in one stretch of canal. I love how Jo shares bits of the history of the canal, the locks, and the various buildings and sites in view of the canal.
Have you gone down any YouTube rabbit holes? Would you like to join me in a virtual exploration of British canals by narrowboat?