John and Jan's Marathon Journey
Many couples see
retirement as a time to put their feet up and relax. Hethersett couple
John and Jan Halford saw it as a time to set-out on a 550 mile canal
odyssey through some of the most picturesque parts of England.
The Halfords are
narrow boat enthusiasts and saw retirement as the catalyst for a journey
that lasted 10 weeks and saw them manoeuvre through 431 locks on their
beloved boat Jubilee.
Setting off from the
boat’s base at Milton Keynes, they visited Leamington Spa, Warwick,
Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Stoke, Macclesfield, Manchester, Rochdale,
Hebden Bridge, Halifax, Wakefield, Doncaster, Rotherham, Sheffield,
Newark, Nottingham, Burton on Trent, Tamworth, Nuneaton, Coventry, Rugby
and many other places between.
John retired a year
ago from his job as an editor for BBC Television in Norwich and Jan
retired at the end of the summer term from her teaching post at Hethersett
Old Hall School. Their passion for narrow boat cruising goes back many
years and since 2007 John has kept a blog of their journeys.
Jubilee in 2012 and now look upon it as a second home when they are not
spending time in their bricks and mortar house in Hethersett. Over the
years they have made many friends on the waterways of England and Wales
and are keen members of the Boaters’ Christian Fellowship.
“We chose the name
Jubilee because we bought the vessel in the year of the Queen’s Diamond
Jubilee and also in the Bible the term jubilee refers to a period when
slaves were set free and debts cancelled. It has given us the freedom of
the water,” Jan said.
On their latest trip
they were able to worship at eight different churches on their way: “We
are always made to feel so welcome,” Jan added.
“The thing that
attracts us to narrow boating is the slow pace of life and being able to
cruise at 3 mph and visit places we might not normally have seen. You can
moor practically anywhere and explore villages and get very close to
nature with all its wonderful wildlife. Many canals will take you right
into the heart of a city where there are no parking worries. We become
keenly aware of the history of places and there are some very interesting
urban and industrial areas as well as the countryside. There is also a
great community feel with other boaters,” John added.
Whilst locks may pose a challenging hurdle to master for holidaymakers, John admits that he enjoys the whole process: “I like the feeling of control being able to work the locks gives. It is an operation that is linked so closely to the past. Some of the mechanisms were designed 250 years ago,” he said.
The couple’s boat
is 55 ft in length which is short enough to make cruising the entire
waterways network comfortable. That doesn’t mean they have had to skimp
on luxuries as Jubilee includes a fridge, cooker, microwave, washing
machine, central heating, two double beds, a wood burning stove, shower
and fully fitted shower room.
Their travels have
taken them literally thousands of miles throughout this country, as far
north as Skipton in Yorkshire and as far south as Bradford on Avon in
Wiltshire. They have made many friends on the way and try to pass on the
message of their Christian faith whenever they feel it appropriate and get
the opportunity to do so.
Narrow boating has
given them many happy memories of evenings spent in the company of
like-minded people, many of whom have contacted the Halfords as a result
of John’s blog. They also have a few quirky memories like the
“extraordinary look of delight” on the face of a homeless man when he
bit into one of Jan’s ham sandwiches. “That for me has been one of the
highlights,” she said.
John and Jan admit
that being back on dry land brings with it a wanderlust to set off again,
but this will have to be put on hold as they are closely connected with
both Hethersett Singers and Hethersett Pantomime Group. One thing that is
certain, however, is that they won’t be resting on their laurels but
will be taking off on another marathon jaunt in the not too distant
John’s blog can be
viewed by clicking here