Timothy West: Wife's struggle with Alzheimer's has given viewers hope

The couple's slow-paced exploration of Britain's canal network has delighted viewers for eight series.

Timothy West has spoken of how glimpses of his wife’s struggle with Alzheimer’s during the pair’s televised canal trips have given hope to others affected by the disease.

The 83-year-old told the Sunday Telegraph it was “deeply saddening” to slowly say goodbye to his wife Prunella Scales, but that they had decided not to airbrush her illness from their popular waterways programmes.

The couples’s aquatic adventures on Channel 4’s Great Canal Journeys have delighted viewers for eight series, depicting a poignant journey through Britain’s soothing and slow-paced canal network and beyond.

Spring weather May 21st 2016
A canal boat is navigated through a lock on the Kennet and Avon Canal (Andrew Matthews/PA)

West said: “At the very beginning we asked ourselves, ‘do we want to show this?’. But by then many people knew about her condition so if we didn’t bring it up it would have been dishonest and unfair to Pru and to me.

“A lot of people do get in touch with me and say ‘I’ve got a wife or husband who is suffering from Alzheimer’s and you have given us hope’.”

Prunella Scales Tree Conservation
Actress Prunella Scales, who is currently living with Alzheimer’s (Tim Ockenden/PA)

The classical stage and TV actor has been married to Scales, best known for her role as Sybil in Fawlty Towers, for 54 years.

She was diagnosed almost two decades ago, and West said initially he knew there was something wrong with her, but did not realise what it was.

Scales, now 85, penned the foreword to West’s new book, Our Great Canal Journeys: A Lifetime Of Memories On Britain’s Most Beautiful Waterways, making reference to her condition.

It chronicles the couple’s shared love of canals, narrowboats and each other spanning half a century of married adventure.

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