A trip along the Wolverhampton canal in a narrowboat, and particularly the promised feast of fish and chips, tempted SVI members, volunteers and three guide dogs aboard a minibus from West Bromwich on a sunny Wednesday. It was 6 July and this was to be the first of several similar excursions.
We drove through towns and suburbs until suddenly we entered the green space surrounding the Wildside Activity Centre. SVI member ‘Captain Lisa’ marshalled her ‘crew’ aboard and safety checks were completed. Enablement Worker Kelley and volunteers Cassie and Josh stowed away vital refreshment rations in the galley. We were shipshape and ready for our voyage. The boat’s real crew cast off and we were moving. There was no fanfare of horns, just the gentle movement of the Trebalisa along the sleepy canal.
People chatted on the open deck, listening to the birds in the trees and the gentle breeze. Below decks the chatter continued, while the dogs prepared to doze. Kelley and her helpers handed out regular refreshments during the voyage much to everyone’s delight. Their later mission to the chippie required a bit of a sprint. But when the boat turned around at Autherley Junction we were fully provisioned.
By definition a narrowboat is narrow. This means the likelihood of keeping your lunch away from the nose of a fully grown labrador in the middle of the seats is nigh on impossible! Happily guide dog owner Tina had come prepared with large ‘doggy toothbrushes’. No, not for brushing their teeth after they had eaten our lunch – but made of vegetables. So with a gentle crunching from the dogs and the rustle of chip papers everyone was happy (and quiet) and declared the fish dinner excellent.
We stopped at a lock so those who wanted to were able to take a walk, chat to and admire the work of the Canal and River Trust volunteers. It was a hive of activity. One lady was sprucing up the paintwork, carefully repainting the name plate on the lock. From another open working boat, people were clearing the reeds out of the canal.
Then it was a gentle trundle back with more tea and cakes (and rumour has it, beer and wine) on the way. We floated past industrial buildings, allotments, canalside housing and lots of green trees and reeds. It was hard to believe we were in the middle of Wolverhampton City.
Everyone had a great day thanks to the friendly crew of the Trebalisa and the concerted efforts of the SVI staff and volunteers.
(Thank you to ‘Captain Lisa’ and volunteer Carol for contributing this article)
This was the first of three narrowboat trips, each with different SVI passengers. The second was on 21 July and was enjoyed by all. The third is on 2 September. We are hoping for more fun and some sunshine on the forthcoming trip, which is fully booked.