A few weeks back, I organised a beginners trip to the Union canal, definitely a flat water trip. Whilst Ken and Zo did the shuttle to the Falkirk wheel (through every route but the right one), Jane, Eileen, Stephen and I put in at Polmont. The shuttle may have seemed to take ages as while we were waiting, we were subjected to Stephen's jokes! Ken and Zo eventually returned, got in their boats and joined us.
There are so many pretty sections on the canal, unfortunately, when you start coming near the towns, you are met with all kinds of rubbish. Sure enough, as we turned round a corner, nearing Falkirk, the bottles started bobbing around. A bit further on, the footballs start appearing. This tends to be as you pass the Young Offenders Institute. I can just imagine them going up to their officers and saying "He mister, can I go for ma ba'?" and keep on running.
Next we pass through a nice bit of parkland near Mavisbank.
At this point, we could hear music, sort of samba. Jane was getting all excited. On the way over, she was telling us she is in a punk samba band, odd combination, but I do believe they are good. It was a party barge with the band playing on the roof, all having great fun.
We were now nearing the tunnel, 690 feet long. Ken did his usual, who-ing and banging his paddle flat on the surface and generally making a lot of echoing noise. Will he ever grow up? - probably not. After paddling through the drips from the roof, it was warm being back out in the sunshine.
Through more nice parkland, then over the viaduct where it's fun splashing the cars driving underneath us. The end section was more out in the open and the wind had picked up. This is where Stephen realised it was good to have the car at the finish. At the start, he reckoned we could paddle there and back. With it being a beginners trip, muscles aren't built up and there was no flow to help us along and the wind was slowing us down.
Once we arrived at the Falkirk Wheel, we clambered out, left the boats at the side and watched as they opened the locks to bring the barges up. We then went through the next tunnel to watch the wheel in action. It's a huge drop between the Union canal and the Forth Clyde canal. It originally took 11 locks to connect the two canals. The Falkirk Wheel is quite an impressive bit of engineering.