MEMBERS of the Rotary Club of Oswestry were thoroughly entertained by father and son Dave and Tim Barker of Maesbury Marsh’s Bywater Cruises who were guest speakers at a recent meeting.

Their social enterprise business gives regular horse drawn narrowboat cruises on their passenger boat “Countess of Maesbury” on the navigable 7 mile stretch of the Monty available from Canal Central at Maesbury Marsh. Cruising quietly through the beautiful Shropshire countryside at the steady speed of their boat horse Cracker, visitors can see the locks and old warehouses at Rednal and Queens Head and the beautiful Shropshire countryside.

Pulling on his flat cap to get into character for their presentation, Dave commenced by giving a brief history of the development and purpose of the Montgomery canal until its abandonment in 1944 and some insight into the restoration programme that is ongoing to join up the navigable stretches from a junction with the Llangollen Canal near Ellesmere in Shropshire to Newtown in Montgomeryshire.

In his absence, Tim was clearly just Cracker’s assistant and stand-in. A powerful strawberry roan ‘pocket’ shire standing at 13.2 hands, Cracker has appeared on BBC TV with Dick and Dom, Nicky Chapman on ‘Escape to the Country’ and even has his own Twitter account @BoatHorseCracker where he comments on matters canalwise.

Tim spoke of Cracker’s working day. “Most trips last an hour and we cover about 3 miles. We can do more with appropriate rest breaks, but it’s not hard work and a totally relaxing experience.” he said. “We also do private charter trips of up to 6 hours.”

As many in the audience enjoy a peaceful walk along the Monty’s towpath, Dave encouraged them to volunteer: “We are introducing a ‘Friends of Cracker’ volunteer group which could involve horsemanship, walking the towpath with Cracker and crew, steering Countess and assisting on board before, during and after trips and learning how to horseboat on either half or full day experiences.”

Tim also invited members to visit Canal Central on 15th to 17th September when Bywater Cruises are hosting the Maesbury Canal Fayre, a fun showcase for local hobbyists or tradesmen with a talent of interest to share.

Pictured: (L-R) Dave and Tim Barker

For more information about volunteering or the Canal Fayre please visit or contact them on Facebook or Twitter.