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Top 10 Woodland Walks to Visit Afloat

Britain’s wonderful canal and river network takes canal boat holiday-makers through some of our nation’s most beautiful countryside, including many woodland areas.

Our woodlands are havens for wildlife – mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, insects, wildflowers and fungi – and ancient woodlands are particularly precious, supporting over 200 of our rarest and most threatened species.

With Spring, and the promise of carpets of bluebells just around the corner, we thought it’s the perfect time to celebrate the best woodland walk destinations afloat:

  1. Explore the ancient woods at Skipton Castle – From our canal boat hire base at Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in West Yorkshire, it takes just over three hours to reach Skipton with its medieval fortress and acres of woodland trails to explore. For nearly a thousand years Skipton Castle Woods provided fuel, food and building materials for castle inhabitants. There are at least 18 species of trees flourishing here, including Ash, Oak, Hornbeam, Lime, Chestnut, Rowan and Sloe. A combination of standing dead trees, rock fissures for roosting and water for insect-breeding make these woods a fantastic haven for bats and there are hundreds of flowering plants, including wild orchids and bluebells.
  2. Follow the woodland trail at Kinver Edge – From our Tardebigge base on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, it’s a 20-hour, 37-mile, 32-lock journey to Kinver on the Staffordshire & Worcester Canal. At Kinver Edge, managed by the National Trust and home to the famous Holy Austin Rock Houses, there’s an excellent woodland trail perfect for families, with natural play areas along the way and magnificent views across several counties from the Iron Age Hill Fort. Kinver is on the route of the Stourport Ring, which can be tackled on a week’s holiday from Tardebigge, travelling a total of 76 miles via Birmingham, Kidderminster, Stourport and Worcester.
  3. See the ancient Yew at Pendeford Mill Nature Reserve – From our boat yard at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal near Tarporley, it takes 20 hours, travelling 43 miles and passing through 28 locks, to reach Pendeford Visitor Moorings, just outside Wolverhampton. Pendeford Mill Nature Reserve is next to the canal here, offering 60 acres of astonishingly beautiful English countryside to explore, including ancient woodland, home to a Yew tree believed to be over 2,000 years old, as well as oak trees and, in the Spring, snowdrops and bluebells.
  4. Walk up to Bathampton Woods – From Claverton, on the Kennet & Avon Canal near Bath, canal boat holiday-makers can moor close to Claverton Pumping Station and walk across the road bridge into the village of Claverton. From here, lanes and footpaths take walkers up past the American Museum to Bathampton Woods and on to Bathampton Down. With stunning views over Bath and the hills beyond, this route is part of the National Trust’s Bath Skyline Walk. Claverton is just three miles away from our canal boat hire base at Bath.
  5. Discover the woodland sculpture trail at Stoke Bruerne – From our narrowboat hire base at Stockton on the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire, it takes 12 hours, travelling 28 miles and passing through 16 locks, to reach the pretty canal village of Stoke Bruerne. Here, as well as choice of canalside pubs and the Canal Museum to visit, there’s a charming woodland walk and sculpture trail to follow.
  6. Explore Hay Wood at Baddesley Clinton – From our base at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal in Henley in Arden, an 18-mile, 43-lock, 15-hour journey to the Navigation pub at Kingswood Bridge no 65, close to Baddesley Clinton. Here the Heart of England Way takes walker past the National Trust’s remarkable medieval moated manor house and on to the Midland Link walking trail through the Forestry Commission’s Hay Wood, home to a great diversity of wildlife, including bluebells, foxgloves, Muntjac deer and many woodland birds.
  7. Enjoy a woodland walk at Chirk Castle – From our narrowboat hire base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, it takes just over an hour to reach Chirk, passing over the incredible World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct along the way. There are moorings at the north side of Chirk Tunnel close to where a footpath take walkers up through a series of woods to the National Trust’s Chirk Castle, with spectacular views along the Ceiriog Valley.
  8. Climb to the Wittenham Clumps – From Day’s Lock on the River Thames at Dorchester there’s a footpath to Wittenham Clumps Nature Reserve, made of two chalk hills, upon which sit two clumps of beech trees planted more than 300 years ago. This beautiful reserve has wildflower meadows as well as woodlands, and here are spectacular panoramic views of Oxfordshire from the summit. Connecting footpaths take walkers back down to the River through Little Wittenham Wood and it takes seven hours to reach Day’s Lock from our narrowboat hire base at Oxford on the River Thames, travelling 22 miles and passing through eight locks.
  9. Visit the ancient ‘Big Belly Oak’ at Savernake Forest – At over 4500 acres in size and well over 1,000 years old, Savernake Forest is home to over 7,000 ‘Ancient’, ‘Veteran’ and ‘Notable’ trees, including the Big Belly Oak believed to be over 1,100 years old. The Forest runs close to the Kennet & Avon Canal in Wiltshire and the pretty canal village of Wootton Rivers, makes an excellent starting point for a variety of walks around the Forest. From our narrowboat hire base at Monkton Combe, Wootton Rivers is 35 miles away, a journey which takes 19 hours, passing through 37 locks, including the mighty Caen Hill Flight of 29 locks at Devizes.
  10. Wonder round Deep Hayes Country Park – At Deep Hayes Country Park near the Caldon Canal at Cheddleton in Staffordshire, three large scenic pools are surrounded by way-marked woodland walks criss-crossing a 143-acre area. And there are some lovely pubs to take refreshment at nearby, including the Hollybush at Denford and the Black Lion at Cheddleton. From our boat yard at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal in Staffordshire, it takes 18 hours, travelling 29 miles and passing through 30 locks to reach Cheddleton.

To book a holiday or break on any of Anglo Welsh’s fleet, call our friendly booking team on 0117 304 1122.