Alnwick Probus Club, March meeting

The March meeting of Alnwick Probus Club spent a relaxing time hearing of life in the slow lane when member, Rev Richard Ford, told of his three-month sabbatical on a narrow boat travelling along the canals of the English Midlands.

Having decided to take a break from his work as a clergyman, Richard quickly discovered that to hire a narrow boat for three months was going to be prohibitively expensive, so he opted to buy a boat and then sell it at the end of his sojourn. This turned out to be an inexpensive solution to his problem.

Illustrating his talk with photographs, pencil sketches and watercolour paintings, Richard brought the relaxed atmosphere of his experiences to the meeting.

As well as tales of the wildlife on the canals, he also enthused about the engineering feats of the 18th-century canal builders and of the care they took in making their works aesthetically pleasing as well as practical.

He ruefully compared their work, particularly on bridges, with some of the modern solutions recently imposed on the Northumbrian countryside.

He took the meeting along frighteningly high aqueducts, through idyllic pastoral scenery into the heart of Birmingham where it is possible to moor in a tranquil canal basin in the heart of the bustling city.

It was fascinating to hear of a way of life, not far away in terms of car travel, completely unrepresented in our part of England.