England’s Canals are a major part of the United Kingdoms network of inland waterways. With over 2,200 miles (3,500 km) of navigable canals and rivers linked into a single network, the canals connect the Irish Sea, the North Sea, the estuaries of the Humber, Thames, Mersey, Severn and Ribble rivers with Industrial cities like Birmingham, Liverpool, Coventry and even London. They have a colourful history dating from as early as the Roman times, but in particular, the canals played a crucial role during the Industrial Revolution.
The majority of canals in the United Kingdom can accommodate boats (called narrowboats) with a length of between 55 and 80 feet (17 and 24 m) and are now used primarily for leisure.
That’s where we come in.
Situated just south of the town of Guildford, Surrey, we had the amazing privilege to call a Tudor cottage home, even if it was just for a short time. The catch? Well they were privileges too. Caring for a gorgeous Black Lab named Teazle, two cats, Pepa & George and spending a few afternoons with the mower (and a cold cider).
Everyone in our family is a HUGE Harry Potter fan. We’ve all read the books (Oscar our youngest is reading them now) we’ve all listened to Stephen Fry read the audio books, and we’ve all seen the movies many times. A visit to the Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studio Tour in London has been top of our bucket list for a long time, so recently we made the kid’s dreams come true, and it was AMAZING!
Birmingham Coat of Arms
Even the coat of arms says it, Birmingham is forward thinking. It’s a city world renowned for it’s contribution to industry and the arts and the second largest city in the United Kingdom. It’s hard to believe that Birmingham started out life as a medium-sized market town in the medieval period. Later in the 18th century, the Midlands Enlightenment and subsequent Industrial Revolution, helped Birmingham grab the attention of the world. Birmingham became a city at the forefront of advances in science, technology and economic development, including the invention of the world’s first steam engine (which we saw and the Black Country Living Museum).
The Black Country Living Museum – Getting to the Heart of Britain’s Industrial Revolution.
When we learned that we would be spending our first three months in the UK in the West Midlands, I must admit that we didn’t really have any expectations because we didn’t know a lot about the area. Sometimes though, that’s the best way to travel. We can honestly say though that this is an area that we have really grown an attachment to. This can definitely be attributed to the many kind, friendly locals that we encountered, the beautiful country scenery, pretty towns, and most of all a firm sense of identity based on a period in time that changed the world forever. In the Midlands, getting to the heart of Britain’s Industrial Revolution is easy, and nowhere more so, than at the Black Country Living Museum.
Our Global Adventure to Stratford upon Avon
Thanks to the fabulously entertaining and education BBC children’s program Horrible Histories, our children have long had an interest in William Shakespeare. A highlight of our year housesitting in England was always going to be a visit to the bard’s home town of Stratford upon Avon. However, despite an enthusiasm for visiting Stratford, and a keen interest in Shakespeare, I must admit that none of us were particularly interested in spending a lot of money to slowly shuffle through crowded houses to look at rooms done up to look as they might of in Shakespeare’s time. Call us spoiled, but after over 18 months of travel and numerous historical houses, it does become a little tiresome to be herded like sheep through rooms packed to the gills with other tourists. We needed a solution, and once again, our trusty Lonely Planet guide provided us with a great plan… Stratford Town Walk.
Our Global Adventure began with just one destination in mind over two years ago, The United Kingdom. We knew that we wanted a change of lifestyle and a change of scenery, to be able to spend more time together as a family. After particularly bad days at work we’d come home and joke “Let’s just sell it all and move to Scotland”.