The New Year is a great time to take up new hobbies and activities, to learn a new skill. It is an opportunity for a fresh start.
New Year’s resolutions should not be about self-denial and restrictions but about positive fulfilment, expansion, self-discovery and learning. A new hobby is a wonderful way to boost your wellbeing and re-energise life when things are feeling a little stale.
After the overindulgence of Christmas and New Year’s Eve most of us are seeking some more wholesome interests and activities to nourish our mind, body and soul.
So why not take up narrowboating as your new hobby for 2020!
Any narrowboat holiday veteran will admit to being a little nervous the first time they found themselves in control of their own canal barge but our expert instructors will ensure you have all the knowledge you need to quickly become an adept skipper.
Before you set off from our narrowboat hire base, you will be taught how to start the engine, fill up with water, steer, moor up and work the canal locks. They will also talk you through canal etiquette and rules such as where and when to drive, speeds, how to leave locks behind you, best places to moor up and more.
All our narrowboats have manuals on board for guests to check anything or you can even give our engineering team a ring 24 hours a day for further advice. Since most canal boats cannot move at more than three miles per hour, being at the helm is a relaxing rather than stressful experience.
Once you have experienced the joy of a canal boat holiday for the first time, we’re willing to wager a decent sum, you will be back for more. Here are just some of the reasons why:
A canal boat holiday is a perfect way to explore some of the most beautiful areas of Britain, with more than 2000 miles of navigable waterways snaking their way through unspoilt countryside and historic cities, towns and villages. How far you explore largely dependent on how long you have for your canal boat holiday as narrowboats move at a stately pace, but even a couple of days is enough to cover some ground. As you are always on the move, mooring in a different spot each day with new places and things to admire and explore, there’s no excuse for getting bored.
It is a very calming and mindful experience being on the water, focused on the present moment, whether steering the narrowboat or taking in the gorgeous surroundings. With so many people now suffering from stress, a canal boat holiday is the perfect way to unwind away from the rush and bustle of your day to day existence. The canals crisscross miles of idyllic countryside and are teeming with wildlife so a narrowboat holiday allows you to get outside, be one with nature and breathe the clean air while listening to birdsong. Choose one of the more rural canal routes for a truly tranquil narrowboat holiday experience. Persistent stress is very bad for our health so a canal break in 2020 may be just the thing you need to boost your mental and physical wellbeing.
History geeks dream
The canals are a key part of our nation’s industrial heritage, with the vast majority built more than 200 years ago. They were originally constructed as the most efficient method of transporting large bulky goods prior to the advent of the railways. That is why there is such a high concentration of canals in the old industrial heartlands around the West Midlands and North West. This makes a canal boat holiday a history lover’s dream come true as you are quite literally floating through history. You can admire many historic feats of engineering, from the soaring grandeur of the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, completed in 1805 and the Anderton Boat Lift, completed 1875 to the Dudley Tunnel, completed 1791. Beyond the canals themselves, are the historic villages, towns and cities through which they pass as well as stately homes, castles and museums all of which are easily accessible from the waterways. If you have an interest in the UK’s heritage then a narrowboat holiday is the one for you.
So, don’t bother with self-denial, instead embrace this fantastic new hobby for 2020 and discover the magical world of narrowboating.
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:
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.
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 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.
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.
Aim high: The most impressive aqueducts on the canals of England and Wales
There are few things as magical as drifting on a canal boat high above another waterway or even a road or railway, waving to the world below. Aqueducts offer some of the most incredible moments of any canal boat holiday, from enjoying sweeping views across verdant countryside to admiring the incredible feats of historic engineering many of them represent. As your narrowboat crosses an aqueduct and you calmly watch the world passing below, you will feel transported in body and mind.
Here, to help you plan your next narrowboat holiday route with Anglo Welsh, we list the most impressive canal aqueducts to look out for in England and Wales:
Arguably the most awe-inspiring of any aqueduct in England and Wales, the Pontcysyllte carries the Llangollen canal a jaw-dropping 126-ft above the River Dee. It offers traversing canal boats and towpath walkers sweeping views along the stunning river valley in each direction. Located at Trevor in North Wales, the Grade I* listed aqueduct achieved World Heritage status in 2009.
Nearest Anglo Welsh base: Trevor
Situated on a stunning stretch of the Kennet and Avon Canal between Bath and Bradford-upon-Avon, this beautiful stone structure was completed in 1810 by John Rennie. It carries narrowboats across the River Avon as well as Brunel’s Great Western Railway and is now designated as a Scheduled Ancient Monument.
Nearest Anglo Welsh base: Monkton Combe
Barton Swing Aqueduct
The first and only swing aqueduct in the world carries the Bridgewater Canal across the much larger Manchester Ship Canal. Now a Grade II* listed building, this feat of Victorian civil engineering opened in 1893 consisting of a channel that can be sealed off at each end to form a 235-feet long and 18 feet wide tank. Holding 800 tons of water, it swings on a pivot on an island in the middle of the Ship Canal.
Nearest Anglo Welsh base: Bunbury
The highest canal aqueduct in England, this incredible triple arched structure carries the Peak Forest Canal 90-feet above the River Goyt near Marple. Designed by Benjamin Outram and opened in 1800, the Grade I listed construction and ancient monument which sits at the bottom of one of the steepest lock flights in Britain, comprising 16 locks.
Nearest Anglo Welsh base: Bunbury
Dowley Gap Aqueduct
Also known as the Seven Arches Aqueduct, this beautiful Grade II edifice takes the Leeds and Liverpool Canal across the River Aire, between Saltaire and Bingley. Designed by the famous engineer James Brindley, the 245-year-old aqueduct runs for 131 yards over seven stone arches, as its second name suggests.
Built in 1825 by engineer Thomas Telford, this 52-ft long elegant cast-iron structure carries the Engine Arm Canal across the Birmingham Canal Navigation (BCN) New Main Line near Smethwick. The aqueduct was designed to transfer water from Edgbaston Reservoir to ensure the West Midland canal network was topped up.
Nearest Anglo Welsh base: Tardebigge
This 70-ft high aqueduct, built between 1796 and 1801 by Thomas Telford and William Jessop carries the Llangollen Canal across the luscious Ceiriog Valley straddling England and Wales. Despite its scale and beauty with 10 masonry arches, the Chirk Aqueduct is often overshadowed by its near neighbor the Pontcysyllte but is included within the World Heritage Site which stretches from Chirk to the Horseshoe Falls in Llangollen itself.
Nearest Anglo Welsh base: Trevor
This cast iron aqueduct built in 1811 carries the Grand Union Canal 40-ft above the idyllic River Great Ouse at Cosgrove. Originally known as the Iron Trunk, the aqueduct was built in iron to replace a previous stone aqueduct that had failed.
The longest cast iron aqueduct in England, the Edstone is one of three aqueducts on a four mile stretch of the Stratford-upon-Avon canal in Warwickshire. Stretching for 475-ft, the Edstone crosses a road, a busy railway line and the track of another former railway near Bearley. Opened in 1816, the aqueduct is notable for the fact its towpath is at the level of the canal bottom so walkers crossing it can watch the narrowboats motor past at waist height.
Nearest Anglo Welsh base: Wootton Wawen
If you would like further advice on the best routes for a canal boat holiday to take in some of these aqueducts and other marvels of our canal network, please don’t hesitate to contact our team on 0117 304 1122 or via our website: www.anglowelsh.co.uk/Contact-Us.
We offer a range of different types of holidays such as City Breaks, Relaxation Cruises and Popular Destinations
So why choose Anglo Welsh?
More than 55 years providing unique canal boat holidays.
Modern & spacious narrowboat holiday fleet – from 2 to 12 berths.
Wide choice of narrowboat hire locations and canal.
Canal boat holiday routes for novices & experienced boaters.
Flexible holiday booking, no hidden costs.
Family friendly holidays, pets also welcome.