Afloat on birdsong, hawthorn petals and young leaves
March 28, 2021

Canalscapes of Childhood

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A listener has asked, "After we left the boat and went to live in a house, did canals continue to play much of a part in my life?"
After the boat, we moved to Kings Langley, Hertfordshire. It was there I grew up and found my place within the world. At the time it was still a fairly small village. The main industry was the Ovaltine factory that bordered the Grand Union Canal which bisected the village. Working boats were still a relatively common sight. As well as through traffic from London to Birmingham and other cities to the north, they serviced the local industries; Ovaltine, Toovey's Mill, the John Dickinson mills at Nash Mills and Apsley, and Rose’s Lime Juice at Boxmoor Warf, Hemel Hempstead. 

As time went on, the number of working decreased, but the canal remained as a key part of the village and social topography and geography. 

“The canal wasn’t part of my life in a deliberate way. But that was because it was unconsciously so much part of our environment; the geographies of growing up.
 The playground and classroom that we all just took for granted.”

Journal entry:

“25th March, Thursday.

Tonight, the air is warm and still.
 The cabin doors are open. 
 The sounds and scents of a spring-time night
         fill the boat.

It is difficult to tell where the boat ends and the night begins” 

Episode Details

In this episode I read a few lines from John Clare’s (1820) The Shepherd’s Calendar. The text to ‘March’ can be read here - Poem Hunter: The Shepherd’s Calendar - March

I also refer to Ruth Binney’s (2010) Wise Words and Country Ways: Weather Lore published by David & Charles.

If you are interested in seeing Captain Mark Dexter’s picture of the Suez Canal, his Instagram account is: The Woodend Wanderer.

General Details

In the intro and the outro, Saint-Saen's The Swan is performed by Karr and Bernstein (1961) and available on CC at

Two-stroke narrowboat engine recorded by 'James2nd' on the River weaver, Cheshire. Uploaded on 23rd June 2018. Creative Commons Licence. 

Piano interludes composed and performed by Helen Ingram.

All other audio recorded on site. 

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