We've often walked along the banks of Staffordshire's canals with Elsa and wondered what it would be like to sail a narrow boat... it always looks like such a serene way of travelling. When I started looking into boat hire I discovered that most places will let you take dogs aboard, but committing to a full week's hire seemed a bit too daunting. Luckily, a number of places offer a 'Day Boat Hire' option where you can get a taste for canal sailing.
A birthday was the perfect excuse to schedule a family day out and I decided to make the booking with Norbury Wharf Limited because they offer this option any day of the week (some places only rent day boats on certain weekdays), and their day boats are slightly smaller than a full narrow boat, but still come fully kitted out with a kitchen area with hot and cold running water and a fresh water flush toilet.
We ended up bringing the booking forward to an earlier date but it was no trouble at all, I just called and they sorted it out for me over the phone instantly, the customer service was excellent. Parking is a bit tricky because there are limited spaces and it seems to be quite a popular place because of the tea room, shop and pub all located around Norbury Wharf. Luckily we found a space behind the main building because we arrived quite early. There were signs clearly saying that dogs were allowed inside the reception area/shop and tea room, they even have a sign telling customers that dog ice cream is available.
We were eager to set sail so as soon as we'd settled on board, they came and gave us full instructions for sailing the boat and we were off! Despite our pace, I found the whole experience exhilarating! We saw all sorts of interesting things as we sailed along including ducklings, buzzards, a jay, lambs, lots of dogs being walked and even a few aeroplanes flying around from the RAF Cosford Air Show in the distance!
It was easy to hop on and off the boat with Elsa so we let her stretch her legs a few times throughout the day. She was a little unsettled on the boat at times; she really hates not being able to see what's going on, and struggled to get up and down the steps inside the boat, so I spent a lot of time sitting at the bow of the boat with her so that she could look over the edge and this seemed to keep her happy enough. Eventually she went and found a little corner on the floor inside the boat and curled up for a rest.
There are lots of lovely looking pubs dotted along the canal route, but we'd taken a picnic with us so after a couple of hours of cruising we moored up and enjoyed the peace and quiet while we ate. Thankfully we had good weather and it was dry for most of the day, apart from a very brief shower. The boat has an indoor deck area, but whoever is steering will definitely get wet if it rains...
Overall, our canal sailing experience was a very peaceful and relaxing way to spend a day. We're very grateful that places like Norbury Wharf Limited recognise that people want to include their dogs in these sorts of activities. If you're looking for something new to try with your dog then we'd highly recommend getting those paws 'all aboard'!
What are you waiting for? Take your paws to Staffordshire and visit Norbury Wharf Limited!
The Wharf, Norbury Junction, Staffordshire ST20 0PN