Travel the Waterways like a Fictional Gypsy

his dark materials bbc hbo

Image courtesy HBO & BBC

Do you enjoy reading fantasy adventures?

Want to get lost in a romantic landscape?

Fancy yourself as a wandering traveller?

Then let these ‘Gyptian’ characters inspire you!

His Dark Materials is a new fantasy adventure TV series set to premiere on BBC One on 3rd November 2019. It’s based on a series of three novels by Philip Pullman.

The first book in the trilogy, Northern Lights, (sometimes known as The Golden Compass) is set in a parallel universe. It describes the quest of a young girl, Lyra Belacqua, who travels from Oxford to the Arctic in search of her kidnapped friend, Roger. She is assisted by a fictional ethnic group called the Gyptians, who live aboard boats and travel the rivers and canals. The name ‘Gyptian’, like ‘Gypsy’, is derived from ‘Egyptian’. Lyra’s Gyptian friends come from “Eastern Anglia”, the counterpart in Lyra’s world, of East Anglia in our world.

When Lyra joins the Gyptians they are travelling, by boat, to a big muster in the Fens. Pullman describes the area as,

“That wide and never fully mapped wilderness of huge skies and endless marshland in Eastern Anglia. The furthest fringe of it mingled indistinguishably with the creeks and tidal inlets of the shallow sea…”

Our hire boat base is in the Fens of East Anglia, and our boating customers enjoy cruising peacefully under our wildly, huge skies, for day trips and longer holidays.

No doubt, Pullman was inspired by stories of the cargo carrying narrowboaters that travelled England in the 18th century, before the emergence of the railways. These families were constantly travelling, so their children did not go to school. These narrowboat people were sometimes regarded with suspicion by people who lived on the land.

The mysterious network of navigations across the Fens lends itself well to a fantasy adventure. Most of the fens were drained a few hundred years ago, creating a flat, dry, low-lying agricultural region supported by a system of drainage channels and man-made rivers called dykes and drains. The Fenland waterways can be accessed from the rest of the UK navigation system by travelling through Northampton on the Grand Union canal. From here a boater can access the River Nene, the Middle Levels, The River Ouse and River Cam, plus many smaller lodes and tributaries. The quaint towns and villages here are steeped in history and tradition, legends and ghost stories. The waterways are uncrowded and unspoiled by modern life, allowing the boater to easily imagine being a fictional gypsy from bygone days, on some kind of romantic quest.

If you’d love to take a break away from the ‘real world’ and experience something quite calming and magical, check our holiday availability here: Search Breaks.

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