I had booked a day trip out with the local bus company to Bakewell which included a canal cruise. A friend had been earlier in the year and had enjoyed it. I should have done a bit more homework before I booked.
The Judith Mary is a long boat canal which seats 40 passengers and runs cruises up and down the Upper Peak Canal between Whaley Bridge and New Mills. The return trip takes two hours at a leisurely speed of 4mph.
In mid summer the trees are well in leaf and obscured the views. There were views of Kinder Scout but only glimpsed through the trees. Leaving Whaley Bridge the canal runs along the hillside with gardens tumbling down to the canal. It then passes through wooded banks with rampant vegetation and some of the largest ferns I’ve seen. There was touch me not as well as rosebay willow herb , great hairy willow herb and meadow sweet. There were ducks a and Canada geese.
There were canal boats moored along the canal, some in looking quite uncared for and we passed a few other boats. Furnace Vale Marina was a popular mooring space and beyond here there was great excitement as we went through a swing bridge. The valley did open up here and there were views through the trees to New mills and the Peak District.
The boat turns round to make the return journey. At this point there are problems with Giant Hogweed which has been sprayed in an (unsuccessful) attempt to kill it.
We were served sandwiches on the outward journey – a huge plate per table with cheese, ham, chicken, egg of tuna sandwiches. These were freshly made but with thick sliced bread so were filling. We were offered poly bags to take home left over sandwiches. The rest were fed to the ducks. Orders were taken for drinks which all had to be paid for, including a cup of tea.
On the return trip we were served two hot scones (cherry and sultana) with jam and cream. These did come with a free cup of tea.
Overall I would rate this as a bit boring. Staff were good and friendly and there was a bit of a commentary. The afternoon tea was decidedly pedestrian and I did think it a bit cheeky to charge for the first cup of tea. The boat was comfortable but a bit cramped, especially if sitting next to a larger person. Being below the level of the windows, views were restricted and even more so with all the trees. Toilets were OK. Getting on and off the boat is through a low doorway and down a steep flight of steps. There is restricted room on the boat. It is unsuitable for wheelchair users and may present problems for people with serious mobiity issues.
Overall verdict – interesting to have done, but not one I would do again.
The afternoon tea cruise costs £15.50 (plus another £1.50 if you ask for a cup of tea for the outward journey). They also offer a hot “menu”:http://www.judithmary.co.uk/menu.html
They mainly seem to cater for larger groups although there do offer public trips for smaller numbers each month.