Win a Holiday Competition
Time to choose our winner!
Time to choose our winner!
Earlier this year we launched a Win a Holiday competition with a fabulous (if we say so ourselves!) Black Prince narrowboat holiday up for grabs.
To be in with a chance of winning, we asked you to tell us about a time that a holiday or break away helped you reconnect with your family.
It has been wonderful to read stories of loved ones reuniting and reconnecting, families reminiscing of holidays past and many simply enjoying the time out to relax and reflect.
We read about Charlie, the Labrador puppy who loves narrowboating, the different parts of the world that helped you reconnect, from Arizona to New Zealand, Iceland to Gretna Green. We had a little chuckle about the little things you remember from holidays such as searching for lost keys on big sandy beaches and vibrating beds…
And a special message to John Foster. We very much hope you are continuing to fight the good fight and we send you our heartfelt best wishes both to you and your family.
Thank you to everyone who entered the competition and shared stories. It seems so poignant right now and we hope that sharing these stories with you gives you a glimpse of life that we can look forward to once these current challenging times are in the past.
We were so pleased to have received hundreds of entries to this competition and as you can imagine, it’s been a tough call to reduce the entries down to a shortlist.
We need your help to choose the winner! Simply choose your winning story, click on the button (this will take you to our account with SurveyMonkey) and enter the number of the winner you have chosen.
The winner will be the person who receives the most votes.
Please vote before Thursday May 20th, 2020.
The winner will be announced on Friday May 21st, 2020.
Memories for a life time
My dad and I planned a rowing trip down the Thames River. We started at Newbridge, which is near the village where my dad was evacuated during the war. We rented a 26 foot rowing skiff, Edward, that was 120 years old. The skiff worked best with me rowing and my dad on the bench at the stern steering with the lines to the rudder. My dad would read ‘ The Ordinances of the Thames”, a comprehensive history of all the villages, towns and buildings along the river. We stopped at Abingdon on the second day. I own several MGs so I was interested to see where the factory stood and what remains of MG history. My Dad and I had an unforgettable week on the Thames. We stopped and walked a village every day. We passed places such as Godstow, Oxford, Goring, Henley, Harley, Windsor Castle and Runnymede, the meadow where the Magna Carta was signed. The swans, the sheep and the ornately painted narrowboats are some of the memories that will stay with me. The trip on the Thames River was a special way of visiting the English countryside and spending a week with my Dad.
Mr John Orrell
I’d been working too hard, for too long. My husband had been ill, my young children preoccupied with school and TV. I knew we needed to get away, for some much-needed quality time, but what? I’d always liked the idea of a narrowboat, but had talked myself out of it because, while I like a slower pace, 4 mph seemed too slow. So when we did book, it was on a whim. I’d no idea whether we’d like it. But that weekend, which unfolded at a stately, and slow, pace was magical. We all enjoyed it, but it was my husband, I think, who was affected the most. He’d been unwell for months, his outdoor movements greatly restricted. Navigating a boat for the first time brought him back to life; he had a purpose again; and a sense of direction, both metaphorically and literally. The man I’d married, who had been all at sea for over a year by that point, had come back to me on a canal on the outskirts of London, steering round shopping trolleys, and fawning over herons. It saved him, and saved us.
Mrs Elena Sanchez
A last minute camper van trip in Cheshire In February last year. We arrived at the site in the dark having never hired a camper van before, much hilarity followed with me and my 3 kids watching my husband try and connect up the water supply, he was soaked. He then tried to sort out the toilet but what we didn’t know is my youngest had already tried it out so when he opened it the contents of the toilet including the blue dye landed in his hands, we laughed until we cried and he spent the rest of the trip with his hands stained blue like a smurf! It’s still a family joke now, we’d been so busy with work and school before the trip that it really was fabulous just to laugh together.
Mrs Rebecca Morris
We inadvertently booked a long weekend away to the same tiny fishing in Yorkshire as my Auntie and Uncle. We bumped into one another along a tiny cobbled street after not seeing one another for about a year. We arranged to meet up later on that evening and over food, a few drinks and a pack of cards we reconnected in the most simplest way. We had such a lovely time enjoying one another’s company that we met twice again during our break. We now also continue to meet every month for a games night. The rest of the family have also joined us and our games night is now a big family event! Our last minute trip away turned into such a lovely adventure which reconnected us as a whole family.
Mrs Julia Husband
In 2018, I suffered a devastating miscarriage. My father, not one for discussing private emotions, offered to take me on a family holiday to Iceland with my stepmum and sister. We spent the first day walking around the city of Reykjavik, followed by a refreshing dip in the famous blue lagoons. Outwardly, I was smiling, but inside, all I could think of was my loss. How could I ever be ‘normal’ again? Equally, none of my family knew quite what to say to me. On our last day , we were on a road trip to see the geysirs, lost in our thoughts; my younger sister staring out of the window with her headphones on, when ‘spin me round’ by dead or alive, came on the radio. We all spontaneously sang along at the tops of our voices, horribly out of tune, shouting the words like we were expelling painfully suppressed emotions. When the song had finished, we all burst out laughing. It was the first time I’d smiled in months. After that, I felt alive again.
Mrs Abigail Butt
I grew up in North East England, but my mother’s family lived in the South West. The distance meant that we rarely met. In the early 80s my parents discovered canal holidays, a few years later they invited my mother’s family to join us, thereby halving the distance that we each travelled to meet up. Every summer, rain or shine, we’d reconnect on a canal boat for a week of adventure. It was great to bond as a crew, taking on different roles, with myself as ‘lock operator’, my mother on the tiller, gran as chief watcher of wildlife, aunt also a ‘lock operator’, and dad responsible for the dreaded weed hatch. During those holidays I developed a close bond with my aunt, together we’d solve puzzles and play my favourite board games, and I also enjoyed her wit and jokes. Now, 35 years later (aged 46 and 83 respectively), we still have a close bond. We love to talk about those holiday adventures, remembering when the engine stopped in the tunnel and the new born calf that we rescued from the canal! We also solve crossword puzzles together, and of course I still enjoy her sense of humour!
Mr Peter Rayner
Sometimes reconnecting with family comes in moments of joyful perfection; sometimes it comes in difficult hard-won moments of upheaval, sweat and tears. Ours was just such a moment. The Azores islands (Portugal), the kids were bored and becoming restive of a tasteful but small villa. They were just teens now and without immediate distractions reverted to their phones or Olympic levels of complaining and bickering – gold medal standard all round. So, we researched activities. It was the wrong time of year for rafting but we were recommended the ‘Caldeira Descent’ described as a vertical hike down to the grassy bowl of a long extinct volcano and great fun apparently. I emailed twice before booking to check it would be suitable for ‘the children’. It was, apparently, so we set off to meet our guide. The weather was hot, the sun merciless, wet shirts clung to our backs and our legs stung with ill-used muscles. At points I disguised near tears of exhaustion by admiring the admittedly lovely view. Not so the young and delicate children. They pranced ahead of us, talking confidently to the young guide, appearing to be on nothing more than a country stroll even on the way back up. All three delighted in watching us struggle to catch up before gleefully setting off again. ‘You were worried about us doing it’ the girls delightedly chorused, surveying their no longer bigger, stronger or more competent adult parents. And so, the scales shifted that day from young to old(er). It was not an easy transition. But, we bonded in unity over ice creams that day and on many days after as we’ve recollected the agony of that climb fondly. Sometimes, family connection is about handing over the reins to ‘the children’ who are in fact neither as young or as delicate as I thought.
Ms Sharon Mckenna
My uncle Bob, a bachelor, did our family an enormous favour when he bought Leyton – a 64 foot canal boat. He used it himself, but seemed happiest when one of the family borrowed it to spend time with our friends and children. For years, my brother, sister and I gratefully took up this offer having some lovely breaks, enjoying the relaxation that only a canal boat can bring. Each having our own families and friends we didn’t tend to go together and when we eventually did it was a very sad/happy occasion. Uncle Bob developed early onset dementia and started a long slow decline in his health. Before it was too late we got the extended family together for a final day trip on Leyton. By then, Bob was still able to come on board and although withdrawn we felt he was still with us – we motored a little, drank a lot and talked and laughed even more – sharing our collective memories of great times aboard Leyton. Bob couldn’t really join in the conversation, but I do think he felt the warmth and the gratitude we all felt and shared the enjoyment of us all being together one more time.
Mr Stephen Haynes
My Auntie lives out in Spain and I last saw her when I was 16 years old. When my dad passed away suddenly a few years ago, she came over to the UK for the funeral and invited me to go and stay at her place in spain. I went out there a few months later and although I was a bit nervous, it felt good to get away from the cold English weather to somewhere warmer and brighter. She took me around her local area where she attends different social meet up with fellow ex-pats. We also went to a nearby Spanish town for some sightseeing and authentic food. While I was at her place we spent many nights up till late, talking about my dad. She told me alot that I didn’t know about their childhood and what he was like growing up and I got to fill her in on my later teenage years and the ones that followed. It was so nice to get to know her on an adult level and we still keep in touch to this day. I try to pop over to see her in Spain when I can and I really value the new relationship I have made out of horrible circumstances.
Ms Lizzie Reeve
Well… should we or shouldn’t we. Yes we should. .. we bit the bullet and booked our canal boat holiday from Stoke prior. .. just myself and my wife travelling from Germany and meeting my son and his girlfriend who were planning to spend four days with us. From the first lock we new we were going to have fun. It’s really a strange feeling for a father to become dependent on his son… but it happened. As we went through each lock it was becoming obvious that my son and his girlfriend were more capable than my wife and myself. You see the little boy is now a strong capable man.. who can make his own decisions and doesn’t need his father for help anymore. He ànd his girlfriend navigated the boat through the canals… along the river..and even in the windy conditions showed how they could cope. My son is now my son, and my mate. He can buy ME a beer now.!! The best holiday ever.
Mr Gary Wright
I had just returned from my first deployment to Bosnia with the British Army in 1996, spending 6 months in and around Sarajevo. Coming home was to my family was something special, however my 2 young sons, aged 4 & 3 were confused and also a little distant because of my time away. My wife and I decided a trip to Disneyworld Florida would be a great way to reconnect with the family. It was truly a memorable trip and very successful. Now I am a grandad it would be perfect to win a canal boat holiday to share the experience with the younger generation.
Mr Peter Harrison
My favourite holiday I went on as a child was our annual trip to Lake Waikareiti in the central North Island of New Zealand. My father, our family friend, his two sons and I would all jump in the van at about 3 o’clock in the morning to start the six-hour journey down the country from Auckland. The roads seemed to wind forever! Once at the edge of the bush we would all don backpacks crammed with as much as our 9/10 year old shoulders could manage and start the two-hour trek through native bush to the lake. Dad and his friends would drag out a dingy and the two of them would row all of us across the lake to the bush hut. It would take them about an hour and a half of puffing and panting while the kids lie back, chatting away with each other. The hut was basic with bunk beds to sleep in, no electricity and no flushing toilet. What ensued was the most magical 10 days a child could ask for: hours of fishing for rainbow trout (and catching a few!); building dens and fires by the pebble beach; deer stalking in the early hours (never catching any!); stories by candle light; and belly laughs for days. I am now a mother of three children and our family lives in the UK. Our kids are at an age where I would love to start making our own traditions. We all work so hard I would love to give them some memories to treasure. It has always been a dream of mine to do a trip on a narrow boat and I can see it becoming something we would adore!
Miss Elisabeth Henry
I had had a really hard long summer working with no weekends off for about 40 weeks, and we decided to take our van down to France last September with our little 8 year old daughter. I was so tense and uptight at the start of the trip but after two weeks of cruising, eating, surfing and talking with my family I came back with a totally new perspective about my work. I handed in my notice and got a new job where I got weekends off and a much better work life balance, that trip completely changed me and made me realise that my family deserve more of my time.
Miss Layla Astley
I think, to me, a holiday, no matter where you go, can deepen your bond because its supposed to be carefree time together, ice-creams and sandcastles, fairground rides and swimming pools, laughter and great food and everyones happy! But I think even the negatives of a holiday can bring you closer together, Dad threatening to turn the car around and make us walk home before we have even left the road we live on, the argument over the last donut, the kicking over of your sisters sandcastle, forgetting to pack more pants, getting overtired and crying because you left your favourite book at home and its raining (that one was all me!)! All these things and more bring you closer together, forge the bonds of family tighter, because these are the parts you laugh about together, niggly little memories of lost undies, forgotten books, and sand in the sarnies!
Mrs Carrie Talbot-Ashby
A canal boat holiday helped me and my in-laws to bond. I had been dating their daughter for a couple of months and was nervous about sharing a holiday with them; especially after how my parents reacted to me being in a same-sex relationship. There is nothing like cruising along a river to help calm the situation and allow time for reflecting and talking. Through this we bonded really well. That and the 6 locks we had to go through in the snow!!
Ms Rebecca Morris
A year ago, I was beaten. I’d been trying to do too much for too long. It turns out that being a brilliant teacher and a brilliant mother and a brilliant wife was aspiring to too many “brilliants”. My health gave way and I was lost. Something had to change. I left my 20 year teaching career suddenly, and with no real plan. First I had to get better physically, and then I had to get better at life. The bothy shone from my computer screen one evening. Tucked on the tiny Isle of Eigg, off the west coast of Scotland, it sang of escape and recovery. My family needed me better. They needed me back. For a week in that tiny, basic, beautiful bothy we hid from midges, talked through screen-free evenings, and remembered how to play. By day we found impossibly beautiful beaches, hidden waterfalls and dramatic walkways. Dusk had us silenced by the kaleidoscopic sunsets over the neighbouring Isle of Rum. We were a family again. That bothy shifted us. It shifted me. My health recovered and I found a new way of earning a living as a freelance tutor and charity worker. Most importantly I realised the value of being in control of my own time. I have the bothy to thank for that.
Mrs Emma Clark
It was May 2019 and I had invited my sister Sally, her husband David and my adult son Colin to come narrowboating on the South Oxford Canal with me. My sister and I had drifted apart over recent years for a complex variety of reasons and this was a golden opportunity to heal that rift. A few days meandering along the canal, dealing with the Napton lock flight, mooring outside wonderful pubs like the Folly at Napton and enjoying good food and drink, and walking the towpath with the fifth member of the crew, my border collie Cassie, created a wonderful environment for that healing to happen. Colin and I were experienced narrowboaters, Sally and David were canal virgins, but they soon learned! Life on the canal allows plenty of time for chatting and laughing, and we came home determined to create memories together on a regular basis. We enjoyed the calm of the early mornings on the canal, David planned to do some fishing but somehow never quite got round to it, Colin and David undertook some male bonding over the tiller, and Sally and I became expert Aperol Spritz makers. we have the photos to prove it. It was a truly life-affirming experience and one we hope to repeat.
Ms Karen Flatteau
Teenagers, such as our grandson, Jamie (16), are cemented to computer games and mobile phones. Consequently, it can be difficult to communicate. However, Jamie has an interest in military history. Could we use this to detach him from these addictive devices? After some discussion, it was agreed we would take Jamie to Normandy. We visited many places and Jamie, using his knowledge of modern technology, guided us round Bayeaux using his mobile phone. At Falaise, he demonstrated how to use a mysterious device called a “histopad.” We could then see pictures on the walls of the castle showing how life was like in the 11th century. My husband explained how the nuclear submarine had worked. Jamie identified ordinance relating to World War 11, learnt from playing computer games. We enjoyed meals together. Just before we left, Jamie was seen jigging and humming to the music at the rock concert. Since our return, he has expressed an interest in engineering and learning to use tools. He can communicate better with us, especially his Grandad, a retired engineer. Amazing what a holiday can do to cement family relationships and help a young person decide what his future interests might be.
Mrs Beatrice Faulkner
We’ve been on several canal boat holidays but I always remember my first ever holiday. I had grown up with my big sister who from the age of 14 suffered with a severe chronic illness and also my mum who was chronically ill all throughout my high school years. It was a rough time for our family. But when I’d done my GCSE’s my mum said I could choose our summer holiday. So I chose a canal boat holiday. It was the first time we’d done anything like it. My grandparents came with us as well. I still remember every single second. We all had such a great time and all got hooked on boating. We really all got on so well with no distractions and just the beautiful countryside around us and yes a typical British wet summer! But we loved it! So much we’ve on more since. My family are now going through a rough time with my son being bullied at school and having anxiety issues and I know what would be the best medicine for him. And would love to have some quality time together.
Mrs Helen Foden
A canal holiday certainly brought my family together. My four children ranged between fifteen and twenty five at the time of my 60th birthday, fourteen years ago. I was adamant we should have some time as a family as holidays together, were a thing of the past. I bravely hired a large canal boat on the Four Counties Ring and ten of us set off, no one with much canalling experience I might add! The group consisted of my partner and I and my four children, each with a partner or friend. A fairly rigorous week ensued but it was brilliant. Everyone pulled their weight and mucked in with the locks, driving and catering. As well as numerous locks, there were numerous pubs I remember! We all had the most marvellous time and no one fell out, out of temper or out of the boat! Since then we’ve all holidayed more together, grandchildren included now of course! This July I’m hiring a boat from the Stoke on Trent base to celebrate my son-in-laws 40th birthday. His side are joining us too! We’re retracing the route we took fourteen years ago! I can’t wait, another happy family holiday ahead.
Mrs Louise Richardson