National Geographic’s ‘Journey of a Lifetime’ on the Shropshire Union Canal

Is there any better way to discover the natural beauty of England and Wales than drifting along a picturesque canal on a narrowboat? Well, if you’re one of those savvy customers who never books a holiday without first securing references from impeccable sources, how about a canal trip recommended by the world’s most prestigious travel magazine?

National Geographic’s ‘Journeys of a Lifetime’ presents a mouth-watering range of destinations, adventures and modes of transport, and taking centre stage alongside Trans-Siberian railways journeys, treks to Mount Kilimanjaro and horse-riding in the Andes is a long-time Anglo Welsh favourite. A narrowboat journey along the Shropshire Union Canal in the West Midlands is selected as one of the world’s ‘Top 1o canal trips’, rivalling prestigious names like Panama, Amsterdam and the Baltic Sea Canal in the waterway stakes.

As lovingly described by National Geographic, “The Shropshire Union Canal meanders through gently rolling landscape and hills, and across valleys via deep cuttings and magnificent bridges. The canal is a monument to the early days of the industrial revolution; the brightly painted narrowboats also seem to come from another era. Boats go at walking speed so that their wakes don’t erode the banks.”

In reality, the plaudits from National Geographic’s travel experts merely confirm what Anglo Welsh insiders have known for years. As part of the ‘Four Counties Ring’, the Shropshire Union Canal – or as locals call it, the ‘Shroppie’ – is at the heart of the Inland Waterways’ most popular circuit, and to ease a narrowboat along its 66 miles (106 km) and through 47 locks is to embark on a non-stop voyage of discovery.

Anglo Welsh’s base at Bunbury in Cheshire is the perfect starting point for a cruise along a peaceful stretch of the Shropshire Union Canal before taking the Middlewich branch to the world famous Anderton Boat Lift. Further south, our base at Great Haywood in Staffordshire provides easy access to all four ‘Rings’ and the opportunity to explore a region that is rich in history, from stately homes and gardens to picturesque villages and welcoming pubs.

Stretching across the border into Wales, the Llangollen and Montgomery canals are the modern names of branches of the Shropshire Union network. Hiring a narrowboat from Anglo Welsh’s Trevor base on the Llangollen canal, you can immediately navigate over the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, 126ft (38 metres) above the River Dee. The legendary ‘Stream in the Sky’ was granted World Heritage status in 2009 and if National Geographic ever decides to list the world’s top 10 aqueducts it’s a racing certainty to join the Shropshire Union Canal as a journey of a lifetime.

For more information on Anglo Welsh’s ‘Four Counties Ring’ circuit and the Shropshire Union Canal, please call our Booking Team on 0117 304 1122.


Retiring at Twenty Five!

One of Anglo Welsh’s most valued and loyal customers has left the world of school trips after his 25th booking.

Headmaster, Peter Cook, of Wellow House School, Newark, and formerly Kimbolton School in Cambridge is hanging up his gown and mortar at the end of this year for a well earned retirement. Or, in Sir’s case his rugby shirt and shorts!

Peter has introduced children to the wonderful experience of narrowboating for 19 years, combining educational, fitness recreation and the fun activities that canal cruising has to offer.

An avid Rugby Union devotee, Peter still strikes an imposing figure on and off the pitch and the disciplines of the sport are reflected in the behaviour of the pupils in his charge.

In recognition of his quarter century of bookings Base Manager, Kevin Yarwood presented Mr Cook with a brass compass and sundial on his final visit to Great Haywood base. Kevin thanked him for his custom over the years and on behalf of Anglo Welsh wished him a long and happy retirement and hoped to welcome him back, in the future, with his family.

Commenting on his presentation, Peter said “I never expected anything like this but it is typical of the team at Great Haywood. Over the years I have had nothing but praise for the Booking Team, the base managers and staff for their consideration and helpfulness.”

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‘Barging Round Britain’ with canal lover John Sergeant

Narrowboat enthusiasts and John Sergeant fans alike will soon be celebrating as the man who shimmied his way into the nation’s hearts on ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ returns to our screens in April with a new series of ‘Barging Round Britain’. And as anyone who watched the first series will testify, Sergeant moves rather more gracefully on waterways than he ever did on the ballroom floor!

“Canal boating is a classic holiday,” says the former political correspondent, who traces the fascinating history of canals, meeting lock builders and families living on houseboats, and witnessing stunning architectural feats. “The British canal network is romantic and quite mysterious. You don’t know where these things are going and then you suddenly come across a tunnel that can go on for a mile – it’s pretty incredible.”

In his most spectacular journey in series one Sergeant cruised over the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, a thin bridge of water that carries the Llangollen Canal 126 feet over the River Dee in north-east Wales. “Going over the Aqueduct was a highlight. Amazing!” Sergeant recalls. Completed in 1805, this skinny passage is the longest and highest aqueduct in Britain, and took ten years to build. “It’s like a pencil,” he continues. “You look at it and you think, ‘This isn’t going to work,’ because there are no rails or anything. It’s magic.”

‘Barging Round Britain’ isn’t Sergeant’s first go at being a helmsman, but the joys of dawn on a narrowboat are new territory. “I’m overnighting at least once on every trip,” he says, remembering a scene where he appears in his dressing gown on an empty canal. “There’s something amazing about waking up to complete silence. In one place there was nothing – nothing that way and nothing the other way. Just total peace and calm.”

“I’m very interested in history and there are moments when you get a real feel for the past on a narrowboat. It’s astonishing to have the canals still there and be able to use them. There’s no real equivalent. If all the steam trains were still working and you could go by steam all over Britain then that would be. But we can actually do that with canals. OK, they’re not horse-drawn, but the sensation and sights are exactly the same as when they were built. That is really something.”

Why not hire a narrowboat from Anglo Welsh’s base at Trevor on the Llangollen canal and follow John Sergeant’s “amazing journey” over the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct? Our team of friendly canal holiday experts are available to take your booking. Please call us on 0117 304 1122.

Series two of ‘Barging Round Britain’ is on ITV from April 22. The first series is now available on DVD and the accompanying book, ‘Barging Round Britain: Exploring the History of our Nation’s Canals and Waterways’ has recently been published in paperback.

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Behind the scenes at Anglo Welsh. The family that plays together stays together.

Listening carefully to our loyal customers tells us that people keep coming back to Anglo Welsh because of our fantastic range of narrowboats located at convenient bases on the most picturesque waterways in England and Wales. It also tells us that people value our customer service very highly. In particular, they appreciate the unwavering passion of our canal-loving team.

“People really appreciate being greeted by a familiar smiling face when they hire a boat,” says Carl Cowlishaw, Anglo Welsh’s Operations Manager, “and we do have an uncommonly large number of long-serving staff at our bases. There must be something in the water at Anglo Welsh – excuse the pun – but once people join us, they never want to leave!”

Carl himself soon qualifies for a gold watch, despite still being a youthful 42. “I am now in my 28th year on the canals,” he says, almost wistfully. “I first started working at Anglo Welsh in Great Haywood as a Saturday lad when I was 14. The plan was to earn enough money to catch the bus to Woolworths in Stafford and buy the latest chart singles. If memory serves me right, one of them was ‘I Should Be So Lucky’ by Kylie Minogue!”

“My musical taste has changed a bit since then,” he continues, “but my love of narrowboats and the sheer pleasure of being around canals hasn’t, and I think that applies to many Anglo Welsh stalwarts. Yes, we take our work seriously, but being around boats and on the canals also gives us enormous pleasure. They say ‘the family that plays together stays together’ and that definitely applies to the enjoyment you get as part of the Anglo Welsh family.”

Carl has been Operations Manager at Anglo Welsh since 2005, but before that he’d occupied just about every role going: apprentice, engineer, boat painter, hire fleet manager, base manager. Much to his chagrin, he now spends as much time on the road as on the water. “I visit all ten Anglo Welsh bases at least once a month and also spend time at our Bristol head office where bookings and customer enquiries are handled. But it’s not all admin, I get to monitor the winter maintenance and our boatbuilding programme, and I still try to get out on one of our boats at least once a week.”

So how has the narrowboat sector changed in Carl’s three decades at Anglo Welsh? “People definitely expect a lot more these days,” he says. “To give you one example, we’ve installed wi-fi on the entire Anglo Welsh fleet for 2016. But in 40 years as a leading hire boat operator some things have hardly changed at all. People still come to us because they value the UK’s waterway heritage and enjoy the gentle pace of canal holidays. And they appreciate Anglo Welsh because we offer a large choice of boats and locations but still maintain the personal touch people expect from a great holiday. Early bookings are at a record-breaking high this year, so we’re busy preparing the fleet for an exciting summer season. And hopefully, our customers are looking forward to renewing acquaintances with some familiar faces!”

Our team of experienced and friendly canal holiday experts are available to take your booking.

Please call us 0117 304 1122

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No Experience? No Problem! Narrowboat holidays for novices.

They say you never forget how to ride a bicycle, and the same applies to canal boats. Once you’ve learned how to manoeuvre a narrowboat – and with help from Anglo Welsh’s experienced instructors, learning is a surprisingly straightforward procedure – you’ll never forget how. But be warned, once you’ve experienced a magical journey at the helm of a canal boat you’ll be hooked for life!

Over the last 40 years Anglo Welsh has taught more people to handle a narrowboat than you can shake a canal rope at, and we still love welcoming excited first-timers to Britain’s growing family of canal enthusiasts. In fact, one of the attractions of waterway holidays is that anyone can hire a canal boat with no licence or prior training**.

“If you’re 18 or over and willing to learn, we’d love to teach you,” says seasoned Anglo Welsh instructor Rod Bright, a popular figure on the canal boat scene who has been showing narrowboat novices the tricks of the trade for three decades. “We get people of all ages, backgrounds and nationalities coming to us as beginners, but believe me, they all get the same thrill when they first take control of the tiller.”

So how does ‘day one’ on an Anglo Welsh narrowboat work? “First of all, we sit down over a cuppa and talk about which routes are most suitable for beginners,” says Rod. “Then we board the hire boat and show people where everything is: from the tiller, controls and engine to the heating and fuse boxes. Next we focus on safety procedures and canal etiquette. No Anglo Welsh instructor ever leaves a customer alone on a narrowboat without being 100% sure they’re capable of handling things on the canal without any risks.”

Next comes the practical instruction. “We set off along the canal and demonstrate how to steer the narrowboat, how to line up for bridges and navigate locks, and how to tie ropes for mooring,” explains Rod. “You move the tiller left to go right and right to go left which can throw people! When that’s all sunk in, we’ll set the boat up in a nice straight line and hand over the tiller. Once we can see the hirer feels confident and is in control we’ll wave them off on their first solo adventure.”

“Some people are off and running after 45 minutes’ instruction, others take longer; the key thing is we never rush people. And one advantage nowadays is that people often do advance research online which helps them to grasps things more quickly. Common sense and care is the main thing we impress on our customers; narrowboats may trundle along the canal at 4mph, but we’re talking 18-ton vessels, so some caution is required. Things happen more slowly on the water, but unlike driving a car you need to think ahead. Luckily, most canal boats are steered using a tiller at the rear of the boat. That may sound strange but it means that you can see ahead and also see what your boat is doing!”

“It is 30 years since I first steered a friend’s narrowboat and I’ve been hooked on the canal life ever since,” concludes Rod, who is now based at Anglo Welsh’s Wootton Wawen base near Stratford-upon-Avon. “It’s such an exhilarating way of spending your free time it gives me real pleasure helping people discover how easy it is to get started.”


Our team of helpful canal holiday experts are available to take your booking – whether it’s your hundredth time on a narrowboat or your very first go!
Please call us 0117 304 1122

**The Hirer must be aged 18 years or older. There must be two able-bodied people aged 18 years or over to take responsibility of the boat and crew at all times. Whenever the boat is driven by a person aged under 18, they must be under close supervision of a competent person aged 18 years or older.

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Great Canal Journeys: a Narrowboat Love Affair

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, if you love canals – and the Anglo Welsh team is guilty as charged – you have to love Channel 4’s ‘Great Canal Journeys’, now back on our screens for a third series.

Husband and wife team Timothy West and Prunella Scales are self-confessed ‘canal nuts’, and despite their advancing years (he’s 81, she’s 83) and Prunella’s fragile health, they have no intention of hanging up their canal ropes. Married for 53 years, the thespian couple have created a lifetime of memories on stage and screen (who can forget Scales’ arch portrayal of Sybil in ‘Fawlty Towers’?), but away from acting they have lived a very different life exploring the stunning waterways of Britain by canal boat.

Each episode of ‘Great Canal Journeys’ reveals the rich and diverse history and culture of canal life, explores the beautiful scenery of Britain’s landscapes and wildlife, while giving Timothy and Prunella the chance to recreate some of their most treasured family moments. It proves to be a charming insight, not just into their lifelong passion for narrowboats, but also their half-century love affair, a relationship laced with poignancy now that Prunella suffers from Alzheimer’s.

One of the first ever journeys featured on ‘Great Canal Journeys’ was a trip on an Anglo Welsh narrowboat along the Oxford canal where the couple took their first boating holiday as a family with sons Sam (actor Samuel West) and Joseph more than 40 years ago. Another memorable canal trip took Prunella and Timothy back to their honeymoon destination, Llangollen in North Wales, now Anglo Welsh’s largest base.

Cruising along by narrowboat, the couple have also revisited the picturesque Kennet and Avon canal in the West Country, which they helped saved from closure a quarter of a century ago. In the current series, they travel from Birmingham to Braunston, Northamptonshire for a festival of canal boats and to unveil a plaque to a late friend and canal campaigner.

Last year it was revealed that Scales’ Alzheimer’s means she can barely remember any of her 53-year marriage to West, but as her still doting husband explains, “Pru doesn’t remember things very well, but you don’t need to remember things on the canal because you can enjoy things as you see them, so it’s perfect for her really.”

“Do I know where we’re going or why we’re going there?” asks Prunella at one stage. “Well, sometimes I do, but sometimes I just want to watch the countryside float by.” Relaxing on a narrowboat, cruising along a canal, watching the world go by … ‘Great Canal Journeys’ shows that canal holidays are a heartwarming way to spend time with your nearest and dearest, whether you’re young newlyweds or lovebirds in your dotage.

Our team of helpful and friendly canal holiday experts are available to take your booking.
Please call us 0117 304 1122

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Mother’s Day Canal Boat Cruise

Spoil your Mum with a relaxing day afloat this Mother’s Day (Sunday 6 March 2016).

A day spent cruising along a peaceful canal, stopping off for a pub lunch along the way, is a great way to make your Mum feel special on Mother’s Day. We offer day boat hire from five our bases, with prices starting at £10 per person on weekdays, £14 on weekends and bank holidays. Full tuition is included so we can help you get the hang of steering, mooring up and working the locks. Our boats are equipped with a toilet, hob, fridge, kettle, cutlery and crockery – perfect for a picnic afloat.

Here’s a run-down of our day boat bases and routes for Mother’s Day 2016:

    1. Glide across ‘The Stream in the Sky’…from our canal boat hire base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, the incredible World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is just a 20-minute cruise away. Standing at over 38 metres high, supported by 19 pillars stretching 305 metres across, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is often referred to as ‘The Stream in the Sky’. Day boaters can reach the pretty mountain-side town of Llangollen in two hours, with a range of pubs, cafés and restaurants to choose from.
    2. Travel along the Stratford Canal…from Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal near Stratford upon Avon, boaters can head south to the pretty village of Wilmcote and back (2.5 hours each way).  Once there, enjoy lunch at The Mary Arden Inn or a visit to Mary Arden’s Farm, the childhood home of Shakespeare’s mother.
    3. Cruise the Staffs & Worcs Canal…from Great Haywood on the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal near Stafford, day boaters can cruise to the historic market town of Rugeley and back, through several locks, past the National Trust’s beautiful Shugborough Hall and the Wolseley Arms in Wolseley Bridge. The return journey takes six hours.
    4. Enjoy lock-free boating on ‘The Shroppie’…from Bunbury on the Shropshire Union near Crewe, day boaters can cruise south past Barbridge and Nantwich to Baddington Bridge. With no locks to negotiate and pubs including The Badger and The Galley at Nantwich, it makes for a very relaxing day afloat.
    5. Potter through rural Worcestershire…from our base at Tardebigge on the Worcs & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, day boaters can cruise north to Kings Norton Junction, a pretty rural route with historic pubs along the way, including the family-friendly Hopwood House at Alvechurch. The route is lock-free but there are two tunnels to pass through.

Our team of helpful and friendly canal holiday experts are available to take your booking.
Please call us 0117 304 1122

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Our Canal Boat Base at Trevor – It’s in the blood

Becca Strong, Admin Manager at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal, tells us why the canal life is in her blood…

Alongside picturesque routes and stylish narrowboats, Anglo Welsh is also renowned for the calibre and commitment of its dedicated staff. ‘Vocation’ is the watchword for a professional team who not only live and breathe canals but are rooted in their local communities. The dynamic duo at the helm at Trevor in Llangollen, North Wales are no exception. Base Manager Matt Anderson first joined Anglo Welsh as a 13 year-old Saturday boy in the mid ‘90s, but he is a narrowboat novice compared to his partner and Trevor’s Admin Manager Becca Strong!

“I grew up in a canal side house alongside the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, a stone’s throw from Trevor’s wharf, so you could say that canals and narrowboats are in my blood,” says Becca. “My grandad, dad and brother all worked for British Waterways (now The Canal & River Trust) and I first set foot on a narrowboat when I was just 3 years-old. The local waterways have been a big part of my life ever since, so joining Anglo Welsh in 1994 was a real thrill and a proud day for my family.”

Becca and Matt moved back to Trevor in July 2015 after 1o years managing Anglo Welsh’s Tardebigge base in Worcestershire. “It’s great to be back home where we both started,” says Becca, “and we’re relishing the challenge. Trevor is now Anglo Welsh’s largest base with a fleet of 19 holiday boats, including our new Constellation class ‘Aquarius’, 4 day boats, and 10 full-time staff, all of them genuine canal boat enthusiasts.”

“Everybody at Trevor is looking forward to a busy year and we’re already taking bookings for Valentine’s Day, the February half-term and Mother’s Day. As for the peak summer season, it will be all hands on deck and all boats in the water, so I recommend booking early! The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct’s World Heritage status means we are an international destination these days, so as well as locals we get visitors from the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Scandinavia and even from Holland, where they know a thing or two about canal boats!”

So having being born and raised in the shadow of the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, does Becca have any personal recommendations? “The stretch of canal from Trevor to Llangollen is really stunning with breathtaking views over the valley, beautiful churches, lush countryside and lovely, winding waterways. A crew from ‘Visit Wales’ were here recently filming the aqueduct for ‘The Year of Adventure’ campaign and I can tell you, even seasoned professionals are knocked out by the natural beauty here.

Sailing on a cloud. Broadchurch actor Matthew Gravelle and family on the canals of North East Wales.


The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, nicknamed the ‘Stream in the Sky’, carries the Llangollen Canal 38 metres (126 ft) above the River Dee. Cruising on a narrowboat without even a handrail on the aqueduct’s south side to obstruct your view of the valley below, you will feel like you are suspended in mid-air! Click here for more information on the Trevor base, routes and waterways.

Our team of helpful and friendly canal holiday experts are available to take your booking.
Please call us 0117 304 1122

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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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