After several weeks of training and months of preparation our first floating Scout camp set sail on Friday 25th September from Little Venice!
Friday morning was an early start for Howard & Paul as they collected Theo from Hillingdon Narrowboat Association in Hillingdon and moved him to Little Venice ready for the Scouts. Theo is a 71 foot long narrowboat with separate bunk areas for our boy & girl scouts, a galley area and ample space to sit and eat in the ‘lounge’.
Friday evening with Theo safely moored in Paddington Basin just off Little Venice the scouts joined us on-board, found their bunks and got to explore Theo before their first safety briefing. Quiz master Roni joined us on-board too and the evenings quiz got under way.
Saturday morning with 10 Scouts and 3 leaders on-board it was an early start. With a breakfast of cereal, eggy bread, beans & bacon inside us our aim for the day was to head east along the Regents Canal and to moor up at the Olympic Stadium at Stratford, 9 miles and 11 locks away. Our route would take in Regents Park and London Zoo, Camden Lock, the Islington Tunnel and Victoria Park.
At just after 9am we set sail, it was a gentle start to the day as we navigated our way through Little Venice and out towards Regents Park. As you enter Regents Park you pass under Macclesfield Bridge which is more commonly known as ‘Blow up Bridge’. It gets its name as a result of the boat Tilbury, carrying gunpowder to a quarry in the Midlands, exploding, demolishing the bridge and killing three people at 3am on 2 October 1874. Locals sprang from their beds, fearing an earthquake.
As we headed further east we passed through London Zoo, got to spot various animals and heard bird song from the aviaries. A little further ahead came a sharp left turn as well as the ornately painted Feng Shang Princess floating restaurant.
Camden Lock came into sight and it was time to get everyone off, remind them of safety around locks and get them ready to ‘work’ their first lock. The locks here were constructed between 1818 and 1820 and are the only twin-lock remaining on the Canal. Safely through the lock and onto the next, one lock down ten more to go.
Two more locks follow in quick succession here before everyone was back on-board and we headed further east towards Kings Cross and the Islington Tunnel. Before we entered the Islington tunnel it was time for lunch and we moored up by Battlebridge Basin.
Revived it was time to go through The Islington Tunnel which is the longest tunnel on this trip at 878m long. It’s quite eerie in this tunnel as you glide along focussing at the light in the distance trying not to clip the walls of the tunnel. As we popped out the other side the sun was still shining here in London. A couple more locks and we could see Victoria Park on our left hand side, not much further now.
As we turned the final corner in the evening sun you could see the Olympic Stadium, we had made it to Stratford and our mooring for the night. Having moored up we headed off to explore The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park before dinner. Rolling down hills seemed to be the favourite activity until we found the adventure play area.
With stomachs rumbling we headed back to the boat. Our dinner of pasta and meatballs hit the spot after a busy day. Tonight’s entertainment was high stakes bingo!
Snoring was detected from all cabins by 10pm.
Sunday morning saw us up early again and another beautiful morning greeted us on-board. The waft of breakfast spurred everyone on to get up and get ready for another day on the canals. Ben joined us on-board this morning as we planned our day which saw us reverse our route back towards Little Venice.
Scouts, windlasses in hand, wound locks and spent more time today at the helm practising their steering as we navigated our way back along the canals. In what seemed like no time at all we were mooring up for lunch and disembarking several scouts who were off to receive their Chief Scout Silver Awards on Sunday afternoon.
Lunch cleared up we were on the move again. The canal was much busier today with lots more boats on the canal and in locks slowing our progress. Camden lock came into sight and as it had been our first it would also be our last lock on this camp.
Next stop Little Venice, we moored up close to where we had been on Friday evening. It was sad to see the last few scouts disembark and wave farewell as another great camp came to an end.
For some of us the voyage continued as we headed off again back towards Hillingdon to return Theo.
As with all things in Scouting, its only with the support of leaders who volunteer their time freely, parents, family and friends who help and assist that camps like these can happen so Thank You to everyone who contributed in any way to make this camp a success.
You can find more images from our Narrowboat Camp in our gallery