Gyles Brandreth details ‘frightening’ boat problems he suffered on Great Canal Journeys

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Former Conservative MP Gyles Brandreth, 72, has spoken candidly about working on the latest series of Great Canal Journeys. The broadcaster and writer is accompanied by his long-time friend Sheila Hancock, 86, on the Channel 4 show, which returns tonight.

Taking over the reins from former stars Timothy West and Prunella Scales, the programme sees Gyles and Sheila explore London’s waterways including the River Thames’ upper reaches to Windsor Castle; and down the Lee Navigation, from rural Hertfordshire to the heart of the East End.

The Celebrity Gogglebox star admitted that the former presenters made it look “relaxing” when they set sail, but the process was the total opposite for him.

Gyles revealed that there was a moment when he became “frightened” when setting out on the canal.

He quickly discovered that sailing down waterways at 4mph can be a scary experience and steering a canal boat is not particularly straightforward.

“At first it was a little bit frightening, to be honest. Although you’re not going very fast, it seems fast,” Gyles commented.

“I found the steering very difficult because I don’t stop talking and I can’t do two things at once.”

He continued: “When I’m in the car, I have to turn down the sound on the radio if I want to turn left or right.

“And also because you push the steering wheel to the right if you want to go to the left, which Sheila found terribly easy.”

During one of the episodes, Gyles admitted the pair almost suffered a “traumatic” experience.

He admitted that the producers cut out a scene of him crashing during one of the new episodes.

“When they edited the first episode, they cut me out when crashing, because it happened so often. So it was quite traumatic and Sheila did most of the steering,” Gyles continued to this week’s Radio Times.

“I did the locks, which is heavy work, and we managed the tying up and the mooring between us.”


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He added: “There was a lot of shaking of heads from the lock-keepers when I turned up and tried to moor.”

Viewers of the Channel 4 programme will get to see Gyles and Sheila embark on spectacular canal journeys across Britain.

Despite filming being interrupted as a result of the lockdown, the presenting duo were able to form a social bubble which allowed them to complete the series.

Their final trip sees the pair embark along the picturesque Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal.

Radio Times [RADIO TIMES]

It was announced earlier this year that Gyles and Sheila have taken over the show from former Great Canal Journey hosts Prunella and her husband Timothy.

The married couple stepped down from the series in 2019 following Prunella’s struggles with Alzheimer’s disease.

The former presenters have appeared in more than 30 episodes of the Channel 4 programme.

Prunella revealed in 2013 that she was struggling with her memory loss and could not recall when she married her spouse – which was in 1963.

You can read the full interview in this week’s Radio Times – out now.

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