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Waterway activities to enjoy along the canals

Waterway activities to enjoy along the canals


The magic of cruising aboard a narrowboat is just one small part of what makes a canal boat holiday so special as there are dozens of other healthy and fun ways to enjoy our inland waterways. If standing at the helm of your canal boat starts to get a little monotonous or you simply want to stretch your legs, you can moor up and indulge in one of the many other family friendly activities on offer both on land and water along the canals. Or simply hand over responsibility for steering to one of your crew and have a walk alongside the narrowboat – you’ll easily be able to keep up.

Here’s our round up of just some of the popular canalside pursuits you could try out if you want to add some variety to your canal boat holiday:

Walking

The canal towpaths provide thousands of miles of beautiful walking routes crisscrossing wide expanses of stunning countryside to reach some of our most fascinating historic towns and cities. Towpaths offer easy traffic-free and largely hill free walks with plenty to admire along the way from the comings and goings of the narrowboats to wonderful varied wildlife, rambling rural vistas and charming canalside pubs. Being relatively flat and well laid with stone, the towpaths, which are lovingly maintained by the Canal and River Trust, are also very accessible to those with limited mobility, wheelchairs and scooters, which means no-one has to miss out.

Canal walks can combine stunning scenery with culture and history. Aside from its obvious physical health benefits, walking is a perfect way to unwind and take in your wonderful surroundings – and will help you work up an appetite ahead of dinner. So whether you fancy a day long trudge or a half hour amble to the pub, the canalside towpaths will not disappoint.

Cycling

Due to their gentle gradients and absence of cars, the canal towpaths offer safe and scenic cycle routes for all ages and cycling abilities. The towpath network is an ideal place to get young children into cycling without the worry of busy roads.

The canals provide green corridors through some of our biggest busiest cities and the waterside cycling paths are among the most beautiful cycling routes in the UK, connecting historic towns and villages via miles of unspoilt open countryside and farmland.

If you want to head off exploring covering many more miles than your narrowboat, with its maximum speed of three to four miles an hour, will allow then why not moor up and take your bikes out for the day.

Our guests are welcome to bring up to two bikes on their canal boat holiday as they can be strapped to the roof of the narrowboat – we just remind them to be extra careful when going through tunnels or under low bridges. If you require more bikes there are many bike hire shops along the canals so just have a look and plan your route accordingly.

Fishing

Fishing is one of the best ways to get outside, relax and concentrate your mind in the present, getting you away from your day to day worries. The rivers and canals of England and Wales are abundant in fish of many kinds which the Canal and River Trust and partners work hard to maintain and protect so enthusiasts can enjoy fishing in a sustainable way at key authorised spots. To find out which stretches of canal allow fishing, have a look at the ‘places to fish’ on the Canal and River Trust website. You will then need to buy your rod licence from the Environment Agency and apply for a permit to fish from one of the many angling clubs that help manage the fisheries or from the Canal and River Trust’s Waterways Wanderers scheme.

If you want to try out fishing for the first time, come along to one of our free ‘Let’s Fish’ events where licensed coaches teach the basics of fishing at canal and riverside locations all over the country throughout the year. Have a look at the Let’s Fish webpage to see which events might be happening on your route when you plan your canal boat holiday.

If you plan to bring your rod and enjoy a spot of fishing on your next canal boat holiday with us, just be aware that we do not allow live bait to be on board our narrowboats at any time.

Nature spotting

The inland waterways are home to a rich variety of wildlife both in the water, on land and in the air so a canal boat holiday is ideal for nature spotting or bird watching enthusiasts. Even in the heart of cities, canals provide pockets of nature which allow flora and fauna to flourish. In spring and summer the canal banks burst into life with wildflowers of every colour, shape and size while in the water itself, amphibians such as frogs, toads and newts thrive.

Do not forget to bring your binoculars and store them close at hand so you keep an eye out for creatures great and small from common canalside inhabitants such as ducks, swans and squirrels to those that are harder to spot such as kingfishers, badgers and otters.

If you are really lucky you might even catch a glimpse of the canal’s shyest residents which include stoats, hedgehogs and water voles, although this is more likely when exploring on foot as they are likely to be scared off by the sound of the boat’s engine.

You can download a free nature spotting guide from the Canal and River Trust in order to find out what animals and birds you may see during your narrowboat trip and tick them off as you spot them.

Kayaking, canoeing or paddle boarding

Want to try out a different form of waterborne vessel during your narrowboat holiday? Taking off in a canoe, kayak or on a paddleboard can be a great way to spend a morning or afternoon, viewing the canal from a very different perspective while having fun and getting some exercise. These are hobbies enjoyed by millions across the UK each year and the canals offer a wonderful safe environment in which to learn the ropes.

Exploring by canoe, kayak or paddleboard, with no engine to disturb the peace, you get closer to nature and stand a much better chance of spotting some the rare wildlife that lives in, on and around the canals. While we do not allow kayaks, canoes or paddle boards on board our holiday narrowboats, there are plenty of boat clubs and companies along the canals where you can rent them and book lessons if you are beginner in need of some tuition.

If you do go on to buy your own canoe, kayak or paddleboard that you wish to use in your own time, then you will need to ensure it is licensed to use the canals and rivers – you can apply for a license with the Canal and River Trust here. This money goes towards the ongoing maintenance of the 2000-mile canal and river network across the UK, keeping them in great condition to be enjoyed by everyone for many generations to come. It also pays for the construction and upkeep of access points, ramps and slipways that enable boaters to enjoy the inland waterways.

This is just a taster as there are not only many more wonderful canalside activities but also events, famous sights and tourist attractions dotted all the way along our waterways so you will never get bored.

Once you have an idea of your desired narrowboat holiday route, get online and have a look at the vast range of treats on offer along those stretches of canal or river. If you ever want advice on what can be found along the canals get in touch with Anglo Welsh’s expert team who have an in-depth knowledge of the inland waterway network and will always be happy to help.