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Spotlight on the Canals – the Trent & Mersey Canal

Stunning views over the Cheshire Plain, mighty canal structures, the charming Potteries and mile-upon-mile of peaceful countryside.

The 90-mile long Trent & Mersey Canal, begins close to the River Mersey near Runcorn and finishes at its junction with the River Trent in Derbyshire.

It evolved as a direct result of the development of the pottery industry in North Staffordshire, where the local clay had enabled pottery to be manufactured since Elizabethan times.

In 1765 Josiah Wedgewood, the top producer of pottery, put forward the idea of building a canal to link the Potteries with the River Mersey. Engineered by the canal-building genius James Brindley, it was the country’s first long distance canal.

Opening in 1777, the effect of the canal was instant and phenomenal – transport costs were quartered and the whole area expanded. As well as pottery, industries prospering from it included the brewing industry at Burton on Trent, salt at Middlewich, Northwich and Sandbach, and coal mining in North Staffordshire.

Today the canal takes narrowboat holiday-makers through some of the best scenes that our waterways have to offer, using mighty feats of canal engineering, including the Anderton Boat Lift, the 2,647-metre long Harecastle Tunnel and the flight of 31 locks between Middlewich and Kidsgrove known as ‘Heartbreak Hill’, which raise the canal up from the Cheshire Plains.

Best for beginners

On a short break from our canal boat hire base at Great Haywood near Stafford in Staffordshire, boaters can head north along the Trent & Mersey Canal to the old market town of Stone, travelling for five hours and passing through four locks.

Once home to the headquarters of the canal company, Stone is now the food and drink capital of Staffordshire, with regular markets, a diverse choice of cuisine and an exciting calendar of events, including the Stone Festival held in June and the Food & Drink Festival in October.

Along the way, the route passes the village of Weston, with its beautiful village pub on the green, The Woolpack run by Marston’s.

Next, canal boat holiday-makers can enjoy views of the imposing Sandon Hall, its 400 acres of rolling parkland, and Grade II* listed Pitt’s Column, erected in 1806 by the first Earl of Harrowby in memory of the great Prime Minister Pitt the Younger.

The canal then passes along the outskirts of Burston, where the family-run micro-brewery Greyhound pub is well worth the short walk to.

On arriving in Stone, there are visitor moorings at Westbridge Park, opposite the Swan pub, and a little further along past the Star pub on the left.

On a week’s break, canal boat holiday-makers can continue north from Stone along the Trent & Mersey Canal to Stoke-on-Trent, first travelling through Meaford Locks, and past the canalside ‘Plume of Feathers’ pub at Barlaston, which the actor Neil Morrissey re-opened two years.

Another good place to stop along the way is just before Trentham Lock to explore the World of Wedgwood, with a factory tour, afternoon tea in the Wedgewood tea room, woodland walks and award winning museum housing a UNESCO protected collection of huge historic and cultural significance.

Just under five miles later, after travelling through the Stoke flights of five locks, the canal reaches its junction with the Caldon Canal at Etruria, in Stoke-on-Trent. Here boaters can stop to visit the Etruria Industrial Museum, Spode Visitor Centre, Ski Centre and the Waterworld indoor aqua park, before turning to travel back to Great Haywood.

This journey to Stoke and back travels a total of 36 miles, passing through 36 locks, and takes around 18 hours of cruising time.

Best for experienced boaters

On a week, 10-day or two-week break from Great Haywood, more experience boaters can tackle the stunning Four Counties Ring – travelling through Cheshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire and the West Midlands, covering 114 miles and 94 locks, and taking around 55 cruising hours.

To travel the ring in an anti-clockwise direction, boaters continue north along the Trent & Mersey Canal from Stoke-on-Trent, passing through the mighty one-and-three-quarter-mile long Harecastle Tunnel, re-emerging at Kidsgrove, and Harding’s Wood Junction, where the Macclesfield Canal meets the Trent & Mersey.

And it’s here that boaters travelling north meet the summit of ‘Heartbreak Hill’ – the series of 31 locks which between Middlewich and Kidsgrove, raise the canal 280ft up from the Cheshire Plains.

The Red Bull flight of six locks are the first to be dealt with, followed by the two Church Locks, one Halls Lock and then three Lawton Locks at Lawton Gate.

The next village is Rode Heath with its Royal Oak pub and Rode Hall, one of Cheshire’s most exquisite country houses, which is open to the public on Wednesdays and bank holidays in the summer months.

The South Cheshire Way crosses the canal at Lower Thurlwood Lock, one of a flight of three, then it’s the two Pierpoint Locks, and then there are two more at Hassall Green, just before the canal passes beneath the M6 motorway.

At Wheelock, where there’s a choice of pubs, including the recently refurbished canalside Cheshire Cheese, there are eight locks to negotiate. It’s worth taking a break here, as from Wheelock, it’s a mile-long walk into the historic town of Sandbach, with regular markets, a Waitrose supermarket and plenty of places to eat and drink, including the Saxon Grill Restaurant at the Crown, next to the Saxon Crosses on the cobbled square in the town centre.

There’s a three-mile break from locks as the canal winds round Ettiley Heath and the Sandbach Flashes, a group of 14 wetlands designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Four miles and another four locks on, the canal reaches the historic market town Middlewich, famous for its salt industry which dates back to medieval times. Here the Four Counties Ring route leaves the Trent & Mersey Canal, heading to Barbridge along the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal.

At this point, boaters on a 10-day or two-week holiday, could take a 20-mile, eight-lock round-trip detour continuing north along the Trent & Mersey Canal, past the Lion Salt Work’s Museum at Marston, to visit the Anderton Boat Lift.

This incredible feat of Victorian engineering designed by Edwin Clark, perches on the banks of the River Weaver Navigation like a giant three-story-high spider. Using two huge water tanks with watertight sealable doors, it raises boats 50ft between the Weaver Navigation and the Trent & Mersey Canal.

Once back at Middlewich and onto the Middlewich Branch, this quiet waterway travels peacefully through the Cheshire countryside, with just four locks along its 10-mile length. Along the way, the Badger Inn at Church Minshull, a short walk from the canal, is a popular place to stop for refreshment.

After travelling for a further two miles to Barbridge Junction, with its marina and Olde Barbridge Inn, to continue travelling anti-clockwise around the Ring, boaters next head south down the Shropshire Union Canal to its junction with the Staffs & Worcs Canal at Autherley.

It’s worth noting that our Bunbury base is just three miles away from Barbridge, with boating facilities and the friendly Dysart Arms at Tarporley nearby for refreshment. So canal boat holiday-makers hiring from our Bunbury base can pick up the Four Counties Ring here, a journey which would involve a total of 56 locks and could be completed in 58 hours.

Along the way, heading south down the Shroppie, the route passes over the Nantwich Aqueduct on the outskirts of Nantwich, home to the stunning timber framed Elizabethan mansion house, Churche’s Mansion.

Two rural miles later, there are two locks at Hack Green, close to the Secret Hack Green Nuclear Bunker, once one of the nation’s most secret defence sites, and now a fascinating museum.

Three miles on at Audlem, boaters pass the Shroppie Fly pub and Audlem Mill, selling canal gifts, crafts and the locally made Snugbury’s Jersey Ice Cream.

Then the Audlem flight of 15 locks takes the canal 93ft downhill to a lock-free mile, before another flight of five locks at Adderley.

Boaters next travel through Betton Cutting, past Brownhills Wood before reaching the historic market town of Market Drayton, home of the gingerbread man.

Next there are five locks at Tyrley, then the canal is lock free for 17 miles, passing through a series of cuttings, embankments and villages with excellent pubs.

Places of note along this 17-mile level stretch include Goldstone Wharf with its Wharf Tavern pub, Staffordshire Wildlife Trust’s Loynton Moss Nature Reserve at Grub Street, the Old Wharf Tearoom at Norbury Junction, the Royal Oak at Gnosnall, and the Hartley Arms and Mottey Meadows Nature Reserve at Wheaton Ashton.

There’s just one lock at Wheaton, then the route is lock-free again for eight miles, passing the Bridge pub at Brewood, going under the M54 motorway and running close to Pendeford Mill Nature Reserve, before meeting Autherley Junction Stop Lock and the southern end of the Shroppie.

To complete the Four Counties Ring, boaters then travel north up the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal back to Great Haywood, passing the National Trust’s magnificent Shugborough Estate, with riverside gardens dotted with fascinating monuments and follies, one rumoured to offer a clue to finding the Holy Grail.

To make a booking or to get friendly advice on canal holidays, please call our Booking Office on 0117 304 1122.

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Spotlight on the Canals – the Shropshire Union Canal

Stunning views of the rolling Cheshire landscape, sleepy villages, atmospheric cuttings & an abundance of wildlife.

Stretching from Autherley Junction near Wolverhampton in the South, to Ellesmere Port in the North, the charmingly rural Shropshire Union Canal, affectionately referred to as “The Shroppie”, covers 77 miles, including its 10-mile Middlewich Branch and quarter-of-a-mile long River Dee Branch.

There are 47 locks along the main line, four along the Middlewich Branch and three on the River Dee Branch. With long stretches with no towns for miles, the Shropshire Union Canal is great for getting close to nature.

The northern section is a wide waterway, running through the gently rolling Cheshire landscape, while the arrow-straight southern section features long embankments, cuttings and grand bridges, and fewer locks.

These deep mossy cuttings are atmospheric and full of wildlife, giving keen-eyed boaters the chance to spot the flashing blue of a kingfisher in flight, and other waterway wildlife.

Best for beginners

On a short break from our canal boat hire base at Bunbury near Tarporley in Cheshire, narrowboat holiday-makers can head north along the Shropshire Union to the historic City of Chester. The 12-mile journey through the rolling Cheshire countryside takes seven hours, passing through 18 locks.

After leaving the base and going through Tilstone Lock, and two more locks at Beeston (Beeston Stone & Beeston Iron), boaters can moor-up just below Wharton’s Lock and walk half-a-mile to English Heritage’s Beeston Castle & Woodland Park, one of the most dramatic ruins in the English landscape.

Continuing along, soon after Wharton’s Lock, boaters come across the canalside Shady Oak pub and two miles later, the Famous Cheshire Ice Cream Farm at Tattenhall is a short walk from the canal.

Soon after the canal becomes less rural, passing through Waverton, and the site of the Battle of Rowton Moor (one of the last major battles of the English Civil War), and then into Christleton with its Cheshire Cat canalside pub and the Ring ‘o’ Bells pub in the village.

Climbing up five more locks along the way (Christleton, Greenfield, Tarvin, Chemistry, and Hoole Lane), the canal passes the Lead Shot Tower site, where during the Napoleonic Wars musket shot was produced by dropping molten lead balls from height, which formed spheres as they fell into a vat of water at the bottom.

Now in the ancient City of Chester, there’s so much to explore, including the City’s Roman Amphitheatre, Museum, City walls, River Dee, Chester Rows, Shops, Chester Cathedral built in 1541, St Johns’, Chester Castle, and racecourse.

For canal boat holiday-makers heading back to Bunbury, there’s a winding hole close to Chester Cathedral at Cow Lane Bridge 123E.

Boaters on a four-night or week-long break can continue down the staircase locks and into Telford’s Basin, then on lock-free for a further eight miles to the end of the Shropshire Union Canal at Ellesmere Port, where the canal meets the Manchester Ship Canal. Alternatively, at the four-mile marker there’s the option to moor-up at Caughall Bridge, and walk half a mile to the award-winning Chester Zoo, with 15,000 animals living in 125 acres of gardens.

At the canal’s terminus, boaters can visit the National Waterways Museum, with its historic boat collection, docks, warehouses, forge, stables and workers cottages, recreates homes from the 1830s, 1900s, 1930s and 1950s and brings the past vividly to life with costumed characters and guided tours.

Best for experienced boaters

On a week, 10-day or two-week break from Bunbury, boaters can tackle the Four Counties Ring, travelling through Cheshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire and the West Midlands, covering 114 miles and 96 locks, and taking around 58 cruising hours.

After travelling south two miles to Barbridge Junction, with its marina and Olde Barbridge Inn, to travel anti-clockwise around the Ring, boaters should continue to head south down the Shropshire Union Canal to its junction with the Staffs & Worcs Canal at Autherley.

Along the way, the route passes over the Nantwich Aqueduct on the outskirts of Nantwich, home to the stunning timber framed Elizabethan mansion house, Churche’s Mansion.

Two rural miles later, there are two locks at Hack Green, close to the Secret Hack Green Nuclear Bunker, once one of the nation’s most secret defence sites, and now a fascinating museum.

Three miles on at Audlem, boaters pass the Shroppie Fly pub and Audlem Mill, selling canal gifts, crafts and the locally made Snugbury’s Jersey Ice Cream.

Then the Audlem flight of 15 locks takes boaters 93ft downhill to a lock-free mile, and then another flight of five locks at Adderley.

Boaters next travel through Betton Cutting, passing by Brownills Wood before reaching the historic market town of Market Drayton, home of the gingerbread man.

Next there are five locks at Tyrley, then the canal is lock free for 17 miles, passing through a series of cuttings, embankments and villages with excellent pubs.

Places of note along this 17-mile level stretch include Goldstone Wharf with its Wharf Tavern pub, Staffordshire Wildlife Trust’s Loynton Moss Nature Reserve at Grub Street, the Old Wharf Tearoom at Norbury Junction, the Royal Oak at Gnosnall, and the Hartley Arms and Mottey Meadows Nature Reserve at Wheaton Ashton.

There’s just one lock at Wheaton, then the route is lock-free again for eight miles, passing the Bridge pub at Brewood, going under the M54 motorway and running close to Pendeford Mill Nature Reserve, before meeting Autherley Junction Stop Lock and the southern end of the Shroppie.

To continue the Four Counties Ring, boaters then travel north up the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal to Great Haywood, before transferring onto the Trent & Mersey Canal.

Places of interest along this section include the National Trust’s Shugborough Estate with beautiful riverside gardens, the 2,675-metre long Harecastle Tunnel and the Wedgewood Museum at Stoke on Trent.

At Middlewich, the ring route leaves the Trent & Mersey Canal to head west back to Barbridge, travelling along the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal.

This quiet waterway, which travels peacefully through the Cheshire countryside, has just four locks along its 10-mile length. For refreshments, as well as a choice of canalside pubs at the historic market town of Middlewich, the Badger Inn at Church Minshull, just a short walk from the canal, it’s a popular place to stop.

To make a booking or to get friendly advice on canal holidays, please call our Booking Office on 0117 304 1122.

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What’s on in 2017 – Anglo Welsh’s guide to the year’s top canal festivals

Literary giant Dr Samuel Johnson famously said that “when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life”. Here at Anglo Welsh we reckon you could say the same thing about canals! Every year there is an action-packed calendar of festivals and boat shows on the waterways near our 11 bases in England and Wales, and 2017 is no exception.

Dr Johnson’s hometown of Lichfield lies just a few miles by waterway from the historic Shropshire Union Canal, a firm favourite among holidaymakers departing from Anglo Welsh’s Great Haywood and Bunbury bases. Taking place just cruising distance from both bases is the 18th annual Audlem Festival of Transport (30th July), where a record number of vintage canal boats are expected at the Audlem Wharf next to Audlem Mill and the Shroppie Fly. For all-round transport buffs, there will also be a parade of 300+ vintage cars, vans, trucks and buses.

The Skipton Waterway Festival (29th April – 1st May) on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal near Anglo Welsh’s Silsden base will see narrowboats lined up along the Skipton Basin and surrounding towpaths. The North Yorkshire event also features specialist attractions like the ‘Birds of Prey’ show and the ‘Bark-ing mad wood turners’, plus a host of children’s rides. The Silsden to Skipton stretch of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal runs through a beautiful part of Yorkshire and offers gorgeous views of the South Pennine countryside and old stone-built villages.

The Crick Boat Show (27th – 29th May) in Northamptonshire is Britain’s biggest inland waterways festival. Visitors can take a free trip out onto the water to experience the Grand Union Canal on a vintage canal boat, and for nostalgic narrowboaters there will be a unique show of historic boats dating back as far as 1909. The Crick event is organised by Waterways World, a must-read monthly magazine that explores the UK’s waterway systems, tests the latest boats, and looks into the history and heritage of our canals.

There will certainly be plenty of canal history and heritage on offer at the Foxton Locks Festival (17th – 18th June) near Market Harborough on Anglo Welsh’s East Midlands Circuit. Waterway enthusiasts will tell you the highlight is witnessing boats getting up or down the hill through the famous Foxton locks and the amazing inclined plane, but that’s not the only thing on offer. Leicestershire’s much-loved festival boasts a fantastic range of historic boats to enjoy as well as craft marquees, a music festival and the ever-popular Fun Dog Show.

Another early summer highlight comes in the shape of the Braunston Historic Narrowboat Rally and Canal Festival (24th – 25th June) near Daventry in Northamptonshire. Over 80 historic boats will gather at the picturesque marina located on three Anglo Welsh circuits – the Warwickshire Ring, South of England Circuit and East Midlands Circuit. There they will take part in parades with expert commentary; other attractions include a real ale beer tent, boat exhibitors, waterways artists, live music, and Morris dancing.

Travelling across to Shakespeare country on Anglo Welsh’s popular Avon Ring, the Stratford-upon-Avon River Festival (1st – 2nd July) is now in its eighth year and goes from strength to strength. It’s a quintessentially English summer festival featuring a display of spectacular narrowboats, world-class live music, fun activities in the Family Zone, an artisan craft market, a delicious selection of global food stalls, and an awesome Saturday firework display.

For canal goers who enjoy spectacular festivals and thrilling boat shows, 2017 will clearly be another busy year on the UK’s waterways. To paraphrase Dr Johnson; if a man, woman or child is tired of canal festivals and Anglo Welsh narrowboats, they are tired of life!

Click here to see the full range of Anglo Welsh canal circuits on the Shropshire Union Canal, Grand Union Canal, East Midlands Circuit, the Avon Ring and more.

Anglo Welsh’s friendly staff at our 11 bases in England and Wales will be delighted to recommend the best local boating events. To book a narrowboat holiday in 2017 call our booking team on 0117 304 1122.

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Anglo Welsh’s top 5 Mother’s Day trips afloat

This Mother’s Day, why not spoil your Mum with a relaxing day afloat, enjoying a posh picnic afloat or stopping off for a pub lunch along the way?

Anglo Welsh offers day boat hire from five of its bases, from less than £10 per person. Full tuition is included, so if you’re new to narrowboating, you can get the hang of steering, mooring up and working the locks.

Boats are equipped with cutlery, crockery and a kettle and most day boats also have a toilet, cooker and fridge.

Here are our Top 5 Days Out Afloat for 2017:

  1. Glide across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ – from our canal boat hire base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, it’s less than 10 minutes by water to the incredible World Heritage status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, also known as “The Stream in the Sky”. At over 38 metres high and 305 metres long, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is truly one of the wonders of the waterways, offering stunning views of the Dee Valley below. After travelling over the Aqueduct, boaters can turn at Froncysyllte and head back across, travelling on to the ancient Welsh town of Llangollen in two hours. Day boaters can moor up in Llangollen Basin to explore the town and visit Plas Newydd house and gardens and enjoy lunch at the Corn Mill, with stunning river and mountain views. Day boat hire from Trevor starts at £120 for up to 10 people, £160 on weekends and bank holidays.
  1. Explore Shakespeare countryside – from Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal near Henley-in-Arden, boaters can head south, crossing the Edstone aqueduct, to the pretty village of Wilmcote, a journey that takes around 2½ hours. Here, day-boaters can moor up above Wilmcote Top Lock and take a short walk into the village to enjoy lunch at The Mary Arden Inn or the Masons Arms, and a visit to the childhood home of Shakespeare’s mother, Mary Arden’s Farm. Day boat hire from Wootton Wawen starts at £99 for up to 10 people, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.
  1. Cruise the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal – from Great Haywood on the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal near Stafford, day boaters can cruise to the historic market town of Rugeley and back, passing the National Trust’s stunning Shugborough Estate, with beautiful Georgian Mansion house, walled garden and rare breeds farm, as well as and the delightful Wolseley Arms pub at Wolseley Bridge. The journey to Rugeley and back takes a total of six hours. Day boat hire from Great Haywood starts at £99 for up to 10 people, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.
  1. Cruise along ‘The Shroppie’ to Hack Green – from our base at Bunbury Wharf on the Shropshire Union Canal near Tarporley, cruise north for nine picturesque miles, past Barbridge and the canalside Barbridge Inn, through Nantwich and over the Nantwich Aqueduct, to a mooring and turning place just above Hack Green Locks. Here it’s a short walk to the Hack Green Nuclear Bunker, a vast underground complex which remained a secret for over 50 years, now a fascinating visitor experience. Day boat hire from Bunbury starts at £99 for up to 10 people, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.
  1. Travel through rural Worcestershire – from Tardebigge on the Worcester& Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, cruise north to Kings Norton Junction, passing through fields, woods and three tunnels, including Wast Hills Tunnel, one of the longest in the country. The route, which covers a total of 16 miles there and back, takes boaters past a choice of waterside pubs, including the Weighbridge at Alvechurch and the Hopwood House at Hopwood. There are no locks on this journey, which takes around three hours each way. Day boat hire from Tardebigge starts at £99 for up to 10 people, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.

To book an Anglo Welsh Day Boat call our friendly booking team on 0117 304 1122.

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Save £250 on Summer School Holidays with Anglo Welsh

and say hello to Harry Potter, Thomas the Tank Engine and Naked Mole-rats!

Ask a canal enthusiast how they first got hooked on narrowboats and the answer will most likely involve reminiscences about family holidays when they were a child. There is definitely something magical about hazy summer days on the UK’s historic waterways.

As a family-friendly company, Anglo Welsh has always offered good value getaways for school holidays. The latest example is our 2017 ‘Summer Holiday’ promotion on holidays departing between 14th July and 1st September – book before 28th February and you could save £175 off a short break or as much as £250 off a week’s holiday.

The magic of canal boat holidays casts an everlasting spell. Children never forget navigating on the water, picnicking on deck, feeding the ducks and telling dad how to steer. And when it’s time for an adventure on dry land, Anglo Welsh’s 11 bases and 10 canal circuits offer easy access to some of Britain’s most popular family attractions.

Alton Towers is close to canals near our Great Haywood base and has all the ingredients for a memorable day out – rollercoasters, water coasters, runaway trains, enchanted forests and sensory gardens. Nearby Drayton Manor Park is located in acres of beautiful parkland and boasts an equally mouth-watering range of attractions. It even offers rides on Thomas the Tank Engine at his permanent home in Thomas Land.

Anglo Welsh doesn’t offer train rides from Platform 9¾ at King’s Cross but our narrowboats can transport you along the Thames to Oxford, a must visit destination for any Harry Potter fan worth their Shimmering Silver Salt Drops.

First stop in Oxford has to be the ‘real’ Great Hall inside Christ Church College, reached via that most famous of cinematic stairways. Other magical Oxford locations include Bodleian Library, aka the Hogwarts Infirmary, and Duke Humfrey’s reading room where Harry dons his invisibility cloak to seek clues about the Philosopher’s Stone. Wizards and Muggles are equally welcome at Anglo Welsh’s Oxford base on the River Thames!

There are no hippogriffs or house-elves at Chester Zoo but the UK’s most visited zoo is home to 15,000 animals and 500 different species, including Asian elephants, Andean bears, Sumatran tigers and the scary looking naked mole-rat, who we hasten to add is no relation to the loveable water voles who build their nesting chambers in steep canals on the nearby Shropshire Union Canal.

Birmingham Sea Life Centre is another destination with the wow factor for animal-loving kids. Encounter sharks, penguins, stingrays and a giant green sea turtle in the UK’s only 360° Ocean Tunnel, where you can get closer than ever to incredible creatures and be transported to life beneath the ocean’s waves – without the need for a snorkel! And it’s just 5 hours and no locks from our base at Tardebigge.

For the budding scientists in your family, At-Bristol Science Centre joins the dots between science, arts and culture with live shows and hands-on exhibits. Close to moorings on the Kennet and Avon Canal, At-Bristol uses cutting-edge multimedia to inspire the next generation of Einsteins and boasts the UK’s only 3D ultra-high definition Planetarium where visitors can fly through the universe from the comfort of their own seats.

Anglo Welsh has provided great family holidays for over 40 years and many of the children who first discovered the joys of the waterways with their parents now come back every summer with their own offspring. Given the natural wonders of our canals and the proximity of so many world-class attractions en route, who can blame them?

To save up to £250 on your School Summer Holidays call our Booking Team on 0117 304 1122 and quote ‘Summer Holiday’. Offer available on holidays departing 14th July – 1st September that are booked before 28th February 2017.

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Canals and Culture – Anglo Welsh’s prime destinations for lovers of the arts

For many people, cruising along a peaceful canal surrounded by picturesque countryside is the perfect antidote to the hubbub of modern life, but if your personal recipe for relaxation also involves immersing yourself in the arts, Anglo Welsh Narrowboat Holidays offers the perfect cultural pit stops.

Oxford, Bath and Stratford-upon-Avon are just three of the outstanding destinations on Anglo Welsh circuits that provide fabulous opportunities to moor up and explore some of the UK’s cultural jewels.

A leisurely three-hour cruise from our Witney base on the Thames, Oxford is a city that has captured the artistic imagination for centuries. The ‘City of Dreaming Spires’ boasts 1,500 listed buildings from every major period of British architectural history and the centre looks like an enchanted fairy tale city – one of the reasons it has inspired so many writers and film directors.

Oxford is flat and compact with many of its major attractions – the University of Oxford and its 38 colleges, Bodleian Library, Oxford Castle – located right in the centre, which makes it the perfect destination to explore on foot.

The Ashmolean Museum’s world famous collections range from Egyptian mummies to contemporary art. This year’s must-see exhibition, Degas to Picasso – Creating Modernism in France (February 10th – May 7th), features over 100 works that have never been seen in Britain before. The exhibition plots a course from Romantic artists such as Ingres and Delacroix via the dramatic artistic transformations of Van Gogh and Cézanne to the radical experiments in Cubism by Picasso and Braque.

The Oxford Festival of Arts (June 4th – July 8th) is a two-week celebration of culture and the arts in venues throughout Oxford. The Festival programme presents an exciting array of high quality events, with a colourful mix of music, literature, theatre, art, speaker events, workshops and much more.

The World Heritage City of Bath is another year-round cultural hotspot. Just five minutes from Anglo Welsh’s Sydney Wharf base are visitor moorings in the heart of the city – a stone’s throw from Bath Abbey with its unique Victorian Gothic architecture and the historic Roman Baths.

The 2017 Bath Bachfest (February 16th – 18th) is the sixth annual celebration of the music of J S Bach and his Baroque contemporaries. The festival has rapidly become a firm fixture in the musical calendar, earning critical acclaim and loyal audiences. This year the final evening concert takes place in Bath Abbey and will present an all-Bach programme, book-ended by two of his most loved works: the Third Brandenburg Concerto and the Magnificat.

On a more frivolous note, the Bath Comedy Festival (April 1st – 17th) gets bigger and better every year and comics don’t get bigger than Have I Got News for You star Paul Merton, who opens the Festival on Saturday 1st April in the glorious, 1930s surrounds of the beautiful art-deco Bath Forum.

Reverting to more highbrow pastimes, this year’s Jane Austen Festival (September 8th – 17th) is celebrating the novel Northanger Abbey. Before that, the venue for the pre-festival Summer Ball on July 1st is the historic Banqueting Room at Bath’s Guildhall.

Shakespeare is to England what Mozart is to Austria or Tolstoy to Russia – the country’s cultural giant; and nowhere is better for tracing the giant steps of the Bard than Stratford-upon-Avon, a pretty journey along Stratford Canal from Anglo Welsh’s bases at Wootton Wawen or Tardebigge.

Moor on the River Avon close to the famous Swan Theatre to explore Stratford-upon-Avon’s quaint side streets with many surviving buildings that would have been familiar to Shakespeare, including his own birthplace and the romantic Anne Hathaway’s Cottage.

Among the 2017 highlights at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre is the epic political tragedy Julius Caesar (March 3rd – September 9th). Following his sell-out productions of Oppenheimer and Don Quixote, director Angus Jackson steers the thrilling action as the race to claim the empire spirals out of control.

A new permanent exhibition at The Swan Theatre, The Play’s The Thing, offers a magical journey through 100 years of theatre-making in Stratford-upon-Avon. Discover rarely-seen treasures from the theatre’s archive: exquisite costumes, amazing model-boxes and weird and wonderful props.

If all that sounds a bit hectic and you prefer to spend your holidays away from the crowds, you can always relax on board with your favourite Jane Austen novel, download Bach on your tablet or watch a Shakespeare play on a flat-screen TV. If you have the cultural taste buds, Anglo Welsh has the technology!

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

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Spotlight on the Canals – The Oxford Canal

Meandering waterways, peaceful villages and scenes from Harry Potter

The picturesque 77-mile long Oxford Canal was completed in 1790, linking the university City of Oxford and the River Thames, with the Cathedral City of Coventry at Hawkesbury Junction.

Following the contours around hills, rather than using cuttings and embankments like later canals, this largely rural waterway meanders gently through the countryside, dotted with pretty villages, rural pubs, black-and-white lift bridges and nature reserves.

Once the main transport route from the Midlands to the south of England, it’s now one of the most popular and beautiful canal boat holidays routes.

Best for beginners

From our Oxford base, a trip to Lower Heyford and back is the perfect mid-week or week-long break for beginners.

Setting out from our boatyard on the River Thames at Eynsham, near Witney, it’s a delightful three-hour cruise along the River Thames to Oxford.

At Isis Lock, transfer onto the Oxford Canal, moor up for the night near Hythe Bridge, and it’s a short walk to many of this historic city’s famous landmarks, including the Ashmolean Museum and Carfax Tower.

If you are a Harry Potter fan, several scenes from the movies were shot in Oxford, including the Hogwarts Sanatorium in Oxford University’s stunning Bodleian Library, and Hogwarts dining hall in Christ Church College’s dining hall, still used for meals by students today.

Travelling up the southern section of the Oxford Canal, boaters first pass through the historic suburb of Jericho, once an industrial area and now one of Oxford’s most sought-after residential areas.

Three miles later, the canal passes the Plough pub, and soon after travelling through Wolvercote Lock and Perry’s Lift Bridge, boaters can stop off to explore Oxey Mead nature reserve, an ancient floodplain meadow which dates back to before the Domesday Book.

The historic village of Kidlington is two miles further along, with shops, a post office, several pubs, including the canalside Highwayman, and the Grade I Listed St Mary’s Church with its striking 67-metre high spire.

A mile further along, boaters reach the pretty canalside hamlet of Thrupp, with its Jolly Boatman and Boat Inn, both serving good food and real ales. Soon after the waterway widens for a short time (Thrupp Wide), when it merges with the River Cherwell for a short while, before continuing to once again run closely by.

From Thrupp, it’s eight miles to Lower Heyford, passing through five locks, and a the villages of Shipton-on-Cherwell with its SSSI former quarry, known for its crocodile fossils, and Enslow, with its Rock of Gibraltar pub and Satellite Earth Station.

There are visitor moorings at Lower Heyford and a choice of places to turn. The Bell Inn offers good food and beer on tap, and the beautifully preserved 18th century gardens at nearby Rousham House include cascades, a walled garden, parterre and pigeon house.

This journey, there and back, takes a total of 18 hours and travels through 28 locks

Best for experienced boaters

On a week’s break, experienced boaters can continue north a further 12 miles and eight locks to Banbury, passing through Upper Heyford with its popular Barley Mow pub, and Anyho with its Great Western Arms country pub, nestled between the canal and the railway and serving excellent food.

The medieval market town of Banbury with its famous neo-Gothic Cross has plenty of visitor moorings, many fine old pubs and Tooley’s Boatyard, the oldest working dry dock on the inland waterways, with a blacksmith’s forge and restored workshops open to visitors.

This journey takes a total of 29 hours, travelling through 32 locks

On a 10-day or two-week break, narrowboat holiday-makers can explore the rest of the Oxford Canal, reaching the village of Cropredy after a further five miles and three locks. The English Civil War Battle of Cropredy Bridge took place here in 1644, but today the village is best known for its annual music festival and historic country pubs, including the 17th century Brasenose Arms.

Two miles further north, the canal passes close to the village of Claydon with its fascinating Museum of Bygones at Butlin Farm, and the Claydon Flight of five locks.

Next, it’s Fenny Compton with its tunnel, marina, Wharf Inn and Fenny Compton Tunnels nature reserve, with rare grasslands important for a range of wildlife, including the endangered Grizzled Skipper butterfly.

Eleven miles and nine locks later, the canal reaches its junction with the Grand Union Canal, at Napton on the Hill, with stunning views of Napton Windmill and the surrounding countryside, plus the Folly, Crown and King’s Head pubs for refreshment.

Joined for the next five miles with the Grand Union, here the Oxford Canal becomes a broad waterway. At the Braunston Turn, the Grand Union Canal splits away from the Oxford, heading south to London. For boaters continuing north along the Oxford Canal, there are places to moor for a visit to Braunston’s pubs, marina and fish and chip shop.

Now travelling along the North Oxford Canal, the waterway once again becomes a narrow canal and passes underneath the busy M45 motorway before reaching the village of Hillmorton, with its flight of three locks, plus Old Royal Oak and Stag & Pheasant pubs.

The canal next passes through the outskirts of Rugby, with a Tesco store and Cineworld nearby at Brownsover. The 186-metre long Newbold Tunnel, with Barley Mow and Boat pubs just before, takes boaters back out into the countryside.

Three miles later, it’s worth stopping at Brinklow to visit the remains of Brinklow Castle, a Norman earthwork motte and bailey fortress, and one of the village pubs – The Raven or White Lion.

Soon after, the canal passes beneath the M6 motorway before reaching the pretty canal village of Ansty with moorings and Rose & Castle pub. From here, it’s only another three miles to Hawkesbury Junction on the edge of Coventry, where the Oxford Canal meets its terminus at the Coventry Canal. There is a winding hole here, visitor moorings with a sanitary station and water point, plus The Greyhound and Elephant & Castle pubs.

This journey, there and back, takes a total of 77 hours, travelling through 84 locks

To make a booking or to get friendly advice on canal holidays, please call our Booking Office on 0117 304 1122.

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All hands on deck for Anglo Welsh’s winter maintenance

Midwinter calm may reign on the nation’s waterways but behind the scenes at Anglo Welsh it’s all hands on deck as our fleet of 160 narrowboats undergo their annual makeover – ranging from major refurbishing and mechanical services to minor maintenance and cosmetic TLC.

The winter maintenance process at our eleven bases across England and Wales starts in November as trees shed their final leaves and continues right through to March as the dawn chorus springs into song. Jonathan Nowell, Anglo Welsh’s base manager at Tardebigge in Worcester, took a break from his maintenance chores to provide an overview of the nationwide refurbishment programme.

“The Anglo Welsh fleet has a diverse variety of narrowboats,” says Jonathan, “but whether it’s a luxury 12-berth Constellation Class or a cosy two-berth, they all go through the same well-tested maintenance process to make sure they are mechanically sound and immaculately presented for the new season.”

“We begin by draining the water tanks and blowing the water out of the water system to prevent winter freezing. Then all electrical items are removed and electrics isolated. As you would expect, the engine on every Anglo Welsh boat gets a thorough service – that involves straightforward tasks like changing oil and filters to bigger jobs like checking the rudder bearings and cleaning the bottom of the diesel tank.”

“When it comes to dry docking, work can involve replacing stern gears, propellers, and hull blacking. Anglo Welsh also does private work at our bases with covered dry docks like the one here at Tardebigge. We offer boat owners professional painting, engine servicing/replacements, welding, hull blacking, gas/diesel pump outs, electric works, plumbing, stern gear repairs, and gas works.”

“People who hire Anglo Welsh narrowboats rightly expect handsome, well-equipped boats for their canal holiday, so the winter maintenance is as much about creature comforts as the technical stuff. Sometimes we do a full repaint of the cabin, decks, roof and doorways, and vent holes. If a boat needs stripping back to steel, the painting alone can take up to 12 days!”

“Below deck, we’ll install new cookers, fridges, carpets, curtains, upholstery or mattresses where needed, and we’ll replace damaged cabin panels, doors, trims and steps. Not forgetting the all-important gas safety checks by our gas accredited engineers.

Last but not least, is the deep cleaning – washing curtains, bedding and upholstery; hoovering carpets, cleaning windows and shining the cutlery. It’s a bit like spring cleaning the house before guests arrive!”

In a nutshell, Anglo Welsh’s maintenance team does all the hard work in winter so you can enjoy a relaxing canal holiday on a comfortable narrowboat that is fine-tuned on the inside and spick and span on the outside.

To make a booking or to get friendly advice on canal holidays, please call our Booking Office on 0117 304 1122.

If you are a private boater and would like to find out about Anglo Welsh’s private maintenance service, call 0117 304 1122 for base contact information.

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Be Inspired

We offer a range of different types of holidays such as City Breaks, Relaxation Cruises and Popular Destinations

City Breaks
Rural retreats
Popular places

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.

Anglo Welsh. So much more than narrowboats

...but don't just take our word for it

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