Horse drawn narrow boat rides, Surrey Hills, England
Responsible travel: Horse drawn narrow boat rides, Surrey Hills, England
Our narrow boats are entirely horse drawn, and do not even have engines on board – we don’t cheat! Our trips are therefore not only completely environmentally friendly, but also very quiet; the only noise will come from the gentle footfall of the horse and the quiet chatter of the people on board. The horses walk alongside the river on towpaths, which were established in Victorian times exactly for this purpose, and we produce no waste, recycling anything and everything we use during the trips. The cakes we sell are baked within the local village, minimizing food miles. So in fact, our activities have no negative impact on the landscape and river whatsoever. And, as we are silent, we often are surrounded by birds which I will feed along the way – and in this way, we actually benefit the environment as we go along our route. Buddy and Ben, our horses, are extremely well treated, getting plenty of exercise through the trips, living outside year round and kept very warm during the winter. They are not disturbed between trips and are not visited by the public. Any horse manure is used on a local allotment.
Based in the charming village of Godalming, we are ever popular with the locals – we have regulars who come back every year, from retirees, to families with children, to historical enthusiasts and couples. We receive large groups from nearby churches and retirement groups, and are particularly popular with couples wanting to get married – they can book our boat for the day for their reception. Our scones are locally baked at Hilliard’s Bakery, and we encourage people to use local places to eat and have a drink before and after our tours – Hector’s Bistro, located at Farncombe Boathouse along the way, is particularly good. There are also a number of excellent pubs within Godalming which our groups will often visit. The company employs a number of local people, part time, during the months we are open and these all live in the nearby area. We support two charities primarily – the RSPB who do such a good job of looking after the birds we see along our route, and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.
Coming along on one of our trips is a wonderful way of seeing the local landscape. Travelling by horse drawn narrow boat is an absolutely charming method of transport, and one that has been around since the Victorian era. You’ll really gain a sense of the history attached to the canal, and in fact our red and green boat is very much a part of this history in itself – built in 1935, it was originally commissioned to carry coal, lime juice, chocolate crumb and steel for local industry. As the narrow boat moves along the river Wey towards Guildford, you’ll be able to sit back and enjoy the gentle valley, as areas of woodland and water meadow pass by on either side. The banks are full of reeds, cow parsley and meadowsweet, and because we are virtually silent, you’ll often see wildlife and birds along the way; the area contains many deer, as well as ducks, kingfishers and terns. Rarer sightings have included red kite and even a demoiselle crane. Godalming itself is a wonderful village and a great place to explore – initially, it was established in connection with the wool trade and this shows in the history that can be found in the town. There are excellent walks in the local area, not least along the river Wey itself, and many other local attractions nearby such as Winkworth Arboretum and Oakhurst Cottage.
The story of the provider of Horse drawn narrow boat rides, Surrey Hills, England
I bought the business 26 years ago, hearing about it from my daughter who was working on the boat at the time. The business has changed little in that time, just as the method of transport we use has changed little since Victorian times; the towpaths we use were made for the purpose. We now have two younger heavy horses - 26 years is a little too long for one animal to work! - and now the boats are alternatively pulled along by 'Ben' and 'Buddy'. The trips allow people to experience a charming and historic way of getting around, and provide a unique way of experiencing the local landscape.