Saturday, 25 August 2012

DVD and Map review: Waterway Routes BCN

Well, this is a first. I've heard of other blogs being given products to review, but we hadn't- until a few weeks ago when, in Ely, we passed Paul from Waterway Routes. Unfortunately, we were heading off to London to cruise the tideway with Indigo Dream, so couldn't stop and chat, but he passed across a couple of DVDs for us to review - the "BCN two DVD set" with the "Popular" narrated tour, and the speeded up "Bowcam"; and another DVD, which has Memory Map software for you to install, had a detailed map of the BCN to zoom in on, explore, and see the details, as well as a PDF which could be printed easily.

I'll look at the narrated tour DVDs in this blog post first, and review the maps in detail at a later date.

First Impressions

The DVD comes in a fairly weighty case. Although the cover isn't quite as slick as a very commercial DVD, it is very professionally done, with an attractive cover photograph of nb Waterway Routes at Titford pumphouse. The back cover shows a highlighted map of the DVD's coverage, along with an informative blurb. Only the lack of a barcode and film company logos distinguish the DVD from those you might buy in a shop or supermarket.

Inside the case, the DVDs themselves have attractive designs on them, and there is a very useful information book and map, which you'll need to follow the twists and turns of the BCN if unfamiliar with the area covered! All in all, a very professionally presented product.

"Popular" narrated tour - Disc One

 This DVD, with an attractive title menu, is a narrated tour of the various parts of the BCN. Because the network offers so many alternative routes, arms, branches, and cut-offs, this is probably one of, if not the most, complicated routes to present of the whole canal network.

This disc was filmed almost entirely from the narrowboat, and offers a boater's-eye view of the system, along with shots of surrounding places of interest.

The map used to present an overview of the BCN is superb. A 3D computer generated visualisation, it is very clear and shows the differing levels extremely well. I'd go so far as to say it is the best presentation I have seen of the complexities of the BCN system.

The DVD itself is split into chapters covering different parts of the BCN. You can select a particular part to look at, or play them all in sequence for a guided tour of the whole system.

Each chapter generally begins with a highlighted part of the map, so that you can orient yourself as to where this part fits in with the whole system.

This is a great idea, and works well. Nevertheless, in each chapter, there is some to-ing and fro-ing down various arms and branches and back again, and this could be quite confusing. Having the paper copy of the map, included with the DVD, helped us work out where we were, however it might have been helpful to show either the full map, or super-impose a section of it with an icon showing the position of the camera boat, to clarify some of the more complicated sections. However this is just a minor criticism, as with a little thought, you can keep track of where you are.

Paul narrates the DVD, with dulcet tones that would not be out of place on Radio Four. He comments on the route and the sights of interest, with occasional lighter-hearted interludes which raise a wry smile. The tone is, I feel, just right; informative and interesting, without being too heavy on the details. He is careful to point out useful navigational points such as winding holes and some good information on places to moor, but this DVD does not mention waterpoints, pump-outs, or other facilities - you'll need to buy the DVD or download the map for those details. Although it makes commercial sense not to have overlap, it might have been handy to mention such facilities in passing on the narrated tour. Each flight or set of locks is described in detail, including the ease of working and details such as the number and type of gates, and anomalies in numbering and positioning of locks are explained through giving some background details.

 Leaving the canal at times to video interesting scenes like the air vent of Netherton Tunnel in a normal suburban front garden, the DVD is very informative and I learnt a fair bit about the
history of the network. Interesting points such as the groves in paddlegear and stonework left by horse towing ropes are shown, along with numerous careful shots of the delightful BCN cottages - I really like the look of the cottages by Netherton Tunnel, and would move there if I could!

"Bowcam" higher-speed tour - Disc Two.

Marketed as "a little fun", this is a speeded-up continuous video shot from a camera in the bows of nb Waterway Routes. Along with commentary, this is a very good way to show the whole of the system, and working locks is very amusing.

Overall Review

This is a very interesting double DVD set. It aims to cover, in detail, a very complicated section of the canal network, and  succeeds in doing so. If you were completely new to the BCN and had never visited, then some parts might require you to pause the DVD and consult a map, to work out exactly where you are, because of the complications of the system. As mentioned above, perhaps a brief shot of the map might help prevent any possible confusion.

This is aimed very much at boaters, although it would also be interesting for people walking or cycling the canal; perhaps the Waterway Walks DVDs are more suitable for that audience. Although it would have been nice to have seen slightly more mention of facilities for boaters, it's very understandable that these are not included, as they are detailed on the (separate) DVD of maps, and so would duplicate content.

The "Popular" DVD, on its own, costs £12.95. The speeded-up "Bowcam" DVD costs £7.95, or you can buy them together for £19.95 (+ P&P if ordered directly).

Is it worth the money? I think so. If I were pushed, I would say that the "Popular" narrated tour DVD is the more useful of the two, and is well worth the money.

Is it necessary to buy this DVD to enjoy the BCN? And is it aimed only at boaters who have never visited? No. Even though Amy and I have spent a great deal of time on the BCN and have covered most of it over the years, we still learnt some new information. Seeing the views from canals we had already covered helped us remember when we covered them ourselves; and seeing the video of parts (such as the "back of the map" through Netherton tunnel) which we haven't visited means that we feel more informed about them and would happily boat there.

In short, this DVD has a great deal to offer. It can show boaters who have never visited the BCN a taste of the sights and history of the area, and will enhance a trip. For other boaters who know the area well, this will stir up their memories of their own trips, and indeed probably teach something new.


Thanks to Paul for giving us this copy to review.

The DVDs are available directly from the Waterway Routes online shop, or, to save P&P, Paul does sometimes visit waterways shows with a stall.

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1 comment:

  1. Hi the DVD is winging it's way to me now and I look forward to watching it and pretending I did get to Birmingham myself this summer!