Down England's Severn

Personal Journeys

A memorable placeThe Severn River...

November 15, 1998|By Elizabeth Heimbach | Elizabeth Heimbach,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Down England's Severn; A memorable place

The Severn River flows past Worcester Cathedral in a wide sunlit stream. Swans glide out from the cathedral steps to the center of the river. Our 13-year-old daughter alternately feeds them and snaps their pictures as our longboat slips slowly by, barely rippling the water's surface. Kingfishers take flight as we approach, and ducks bustle away, but we see no other people, no other boats.

We have an incredible feeling of distance from the hubbub of daily life. There is almost no sound as our diesel-powered boat moves along at 4 mph. We are on our way to Stourport, once a busy industrial center but now a quiet little town known for its intricate system of canal locks.

Our trip down the Severn was the heart of a wonderful week we spent on a canal boat in the English Midlands this summer. Most of our journey was on the Worcester and Birmingham Canal, built in the 18th century to transport goods through the industrial Midlands. We rented our boat for a week, and although it was only 7 feet wide, it was beautifully equipped with a well-planned kitchen, two bedrooms and a bathroom with shower. There were even groceries in the refrigerator!

The 47-foot boat proved surprisingly easy to manage, though we were glad we had not started with a 70-foot model. We had a few moments of near panic the first time we met oncoming boats in the narrow canal and the first time we went through an unlighted tunnel. At first, my daughter and I struggled with the lock mechanisms, but friendly fellow boaters coached us, and we soon mastered the process.

We were glad we had gained some confidence in our locking ability before we reached Stourport, because the locks were lined with onlookers who enjoyed watching boaters try their hands at the complicated system.

We lazed along each day, stopping to picnic and explore the towpath. Each night, we moored near villages with welcoming pubs that provided excellent dinners. In the evenings, we read, played cards, went for quiet walks and talked a lot, undisturbed by radio or TV. We slept lulled by the soft sound of water.

In the whole week, we covered less than 100 miles, but we all have lasting memories of a lovely, gentle journey. Like the Water Rat in "Wind in the Willows," our family has come to feel that "there is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so worth doing as simply messing about in boats."

Elizabeth Heimbach lives in Washington. South Africa

Barbara Robertson, Baltimore

"I have traveled the world over but never experienced a more exciting or stimulating time than at Kirkman's Kamp in South Africa. It is on a private reserve of 45,000 acres. We were able to see out of an open Land Rover the 'Big Five' animals of Africa. Excellent accommodations and a chance to see the Southern Cross in the night sky."

The Bahamas

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Pub Date: 11/15/98

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