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Spotlight on the Canals – Leeds & Liverpool Canal

Enjoy stunning upland scenery, the Yorkshire Dales, Pennine Way, industrial history, remote beauty, rugged hills, wooded valleys, mills and moors.

At 127 miles, the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, which celebrated its Bicentenary in 2016, is the longest single canal in the country. This mighty waterway crosses the Pennines and links the wide waterways of Yorkshire with those of Lancashire and the River Mersey.

From the vibrant centres of Leeds, Liverpool, Wigan and Burnley, to the awe-inspiring vast areas of open space of the moorlands at the canal’s summit and the peace of the wooded Aire Valley, the scenery of this canal varies dramatically.

The Leeds & Liverpool main line has 93 locks and two tunnels, there are two more locks on the seven-mile long Leigh Branch and eight on the seven-mile Rufford Branch. The waterway was recently extended by the construction of the Liverpool Link, taking boaters right into the heart of the city, passing in front of the Three Graces to moor in Salthouse Dock.

And it boasts two of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’ – the famous Bingley Five Rise Locks near Bradford and the awesome Burnley Embankment, carrying the canal high above the town.

Best for beginners

On a short break (three or four nights) from our canal boat hire base at Silsden, near Keighley, narrowboat holiday-makers can head west towards Liverpool to the attractive village of Gargrave in North Yorkshire – a journey which takes seven hours, passing through just three locks.

Heading away from Silsden with its attractive canalside warehouses, the route overlooks Airedale’s steep green hills, wooded in places. A series of swing bridges characterise this section of the canal, each needing to be unlocked and lifted.

Within two miles, the canal passes through the village of Kildwick, with its 17th century coaching inn close to the canal, The White Lion.

Continuing on along the valley of the River Aire, with stunning views of the surrounding countryside, two miles later the village of Bradley has an excellent pub a quarter-of-a-mile from the canal – The Slaters Arms, serving homemade food and real ale.

A mile later, the route passes the Bay Horse pub at Snaygill before reaching the outskirts of Skipton. Here a little arm (the Springs Branch) branches off the canal to moorings outside Skipton Castle. Built in 1090 by the Norman Baron Robert de Romaille, today this motte and bailey castle is one of the most complete and best preserved medieval castles in England, which together with its woods is well worth a visit.

Skipton also offers visitors a range of places to eat, including The Yorkshire Rose pub, Royal Shepherd, French Bistro des Amis, Bean Loved coffee bar and Cock & Bottle pub.

Heading west out of Skipton, it’s a further three miles to Gargrave, travelling through the hills. There are three locks to pass through before reaching moorings and a winding hole in the centre of the village.

Gargrave is on the River Aire on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, where visitors can access 680 square miles of some of England’s finest walking country, exploring deep valleys, open moorland and rugged hills with very little habitation.

And in Gargrave itself, there are plenty of pubs, including The Mason’s Arms and canalside Cross Keys Inn, as well as shops and a post office.

Best for experienced boaters

On a two-week break, canal boat holiday-makers can continue on to Wigan and back, cruising for a total of 60 hours (there and back) and passing through 112 locks.

After Gargrave, it’s four miles and eight locks to East Marton, where the Abbot’s Harbour Restaurant, set in a 12th century building constructed by Cistercian monks, offers traditional home-cooked food.

Nicholson’s describes the ‘beautiful upland scenery’ along this stretch as ‘composed of countless individual hillocks, some topped by clumps of trees’, with distant mountains beyond. The Pennine Way shares the canal towpath for a short distance, and after just over a mile, the canal reaches the three locks at Greenberfield, on the outskirts of Barnoldswick.

As well as take-away options, fish & chips, various shops, and The Fountain Inn, there’s a marina at Barnoldswick, where the Pendle Way connects to the canal, and the remains of the Rain Hall Rock Branch, where limestone was once loaded directly from the rock face onto boats.

Next the canal continues reaches Salterforth, where the historic canalside Anchor Inn offers visitors the chance to see stalactites in the cellar as well as enjoy beer and pub food.

After Salterforth, the next stretch is particularly remote and beautiful running up to the 1,640 yard-long Foulridge Tunnel, the longest on the Leeds & Liverpool. To visit the attractive village of Foulridge with its New Inn pub, narrowboat holiday-makers should moor up before entering the Tunnel.

A mile after the Foulridge Tunnel, boaters encounter Barrowford Top Lock – a flight of seven – and begin their descent from the summit level, with views of old stone farms and distant mountains to enjoy.

Soon after, Barrowford offers shops, take-aways, fish & chips, restaurants and pubs, including The White Bear Inn, as well as the Pendle Heritage Centre. Here visitors will find an exhibition on the famous Pendle Witches, a tea room overlooking the beautifully restored 18th century walled garden, the Pendle Art Gallery, and access to the Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Pendle Hill.

Now entering the outskirts of the large industrial town of Burnley, the canal remains largely urban for the next ten miles or so. The waterway was once the main artery for Burnley and its industries and the area around Bridge 130, known as the Weaver’s Triangle, is one of the best preserved 19th century industrial districts in the country.

The three-quarters of a mile long Burnley Embankment, considered to be one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’, carries the navigation 60 feet high across part of the town, offering boaters panoramic views.

There are plenty of pubs in Burnley, including The Inn on the Wharf in a weaver’s warehouse, several art centres and the Queen Street Mill Textile Museum, now Britain’s only working 19th century weaving mill.

After passing through Gannow Tunnel (559 yards long), the canal travels on through the Calder Valley and alongside the M65 motorway for a time. Hapton is the next village after Burnley, with its popular Hapton Inn serving real ale and food, then three swing bridges need to be moved as the canal travels through neat green fields bordered by drystone walls, before reaching Clayton-le-Moors (a suburb of Accrington) three miles later.

The canal now twists and turns on through Church, with the parish church of St James right on the banks of the canal, marking the central point of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal.

Just over a mile later, after more dramatic bends, the canal passes over the M65 using a concrete aqueduct, before arriving at Rishton, a small town that grew up around the cotton mills in the 19th century. There’s a choice of eateries in Rishton, including Indian restaurants, fish & chips, take-aways, the Rishton Arms beside the railway station and the Walmsley Arms offering regular live entertainment.

Two miles on and the canal enters the outskirts of Blackburn, passing canopied wharves at Eanam, now converted for businesses and a pub.

There’s plenty to do in Blackburn, including a visit to the cathedral with its striking 13ft sculpture of ‘Christ the Worker’ by John Hayward. The Museum & Art Gallery has a series of period rooms demonstrating the development of the textile industry using full size working models. And there are some superb curry houses, including Thira Restaurant, reputedly the best in town.

It takes several hours to pass through Blackburn, but there are distant views of Darwen Hill and Witton Country Park to enjoy along the way. And everywhere there are mills, mainly redundant but a reminder of the town’s cotton history.

A flight of six locks (the Blackburn locks) carry the canal nearly 55ft up on the western edge of town to 400ft above sea level with excellent views. The suburb of Cherry Tree is next, with a good range of shops and take-aways.

As the canal leaves Blackburn, it crosses a high embankment and then curls round a steep and thickly wooded valley. A mile later, the canal passes through the village of Riley Green with its excellent Royal Oak pub providing award-winning cask ales and a large menu of British pub food.

Hoghton Tower is close by, a 16th century fortified hilltop mansion, noted for its dungeons, doll’s houses, picturesque gardens and magnificent banqueting hall.

Just over a mile and a half later, now in a secluded wooded valley, the canal passes through Withnell Fold, a small estate village built to house workers at the canalside paper mills which once functioned there. On the opposite side of the canal is a nature reserve which has developed in the old filter beds and now provides habitats for waterlilies, dragonflies, newts and frogs.

Just over a mile of beautiful scenery later, and boaters encounter the top of the Johnson’s Hill flight of seven locks, set amid undulating pastureland, with a down-to-earth pub, The Top Lock, offering great food and cask ales, and a boatyard with boaters’ facilities.

Soon after the canal travels under the M61 motorway and along the edge of Chorley, passing some large textile mills. The Prince of Wales pub is a short walk from Bridge 75A, the Lock & Quay offers hearty pub food and at the Top Lock there’s great food and cask ales. It’s also well worth visiting a bakery to try a Chorley cake, similar to the Eccles cake but sweeter and fruitier.

Close to three wooded miles further, the canal reaches Adlington with a good range of shops, pubs, including The (Bottom) Spinners Arms, and a popular café at the White Bear Marina. Rivington.

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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Narrowboating in style – John Craven holidays on the Llangollen Canal

Earlier this year, we were delighted to welcome Countryfile presenter John Craven, and his two eldest grandsons for a short break narrowboat holiday, setting off from our canal boat hire base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales.

Although John has been fascinated by canals all his life and been a vice-president of a canals trust, he’d never before taken a canal boat holiday.

This summer he set off with Charlie, aged 18, who apparently proved to be a “natural-born skipper” and 15-year-old Will – “the ideal lookout and rope handler”.

John’s article about his journey is published by Countryfile Magazine, 15 October 2017 www.countryfile.com

Choosing their holiday

John explains: “From the 2,000-mile network of navigable canals in England and Wales, we chose a 20-mile stretch of the Llangollen and it turned out to be a perfect microcosm of Britain’s waterways heritage. It encompassed both countries and put us to the test with two aqueducts, 57 bridges, two locks and three tunnels – quite an initiation for first-time narrowboaters piloting a 67ft craft.”

They collected their narrowboat, Askrigg, from Trevor Wharf close to the UNESCO World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which John explains has: “18 stone pillars and 19 cast-iron arches” that “carry the canal at a height of 38m (126ft) over the River Dee.”

Taking a quick course

Oliver from Anglo Welsh gave John and the boys their tuition, showing them how to handle the Askrigg, pushing the tiller right to go left and vice versa, putting the engine in reverse to stop as there are no brakes, driving on the right and pointing out “the horn (essential for warning boats coming towards us round sharp bends), the headlights (which must be switched on before entering tunnels)”.

John explains, “no licence is needed to pilot a narrowboat and after Oliver had travelled with us for a short distance to make sure we had understood his instructions, he left us to continue along on our own.”

Navigating through the Vale of Llangollen

John and his crew began their journey by heading four miles west to the Eisteddfod town of Llangollen, explaining that here the canal “runs along the steep slopes of the Vale of Llangollen and becomes so narrow in places that only one-way traffic is possible. Just to be on the safe side, Will had to run a few hundred yards ahead to make sure nothing was heading towards us and then phone me with an all-clear.”

Checking out the boat’s interior

After mooring in the marina at Llangollen, John describes the interior of their boat as “narrowboating in style” with “everything we could possibly need – two showers, a double bed and two singles, a smart kitchen with a fridge and freezer, small gas cooker, a dining table with bench seats that could convert into an extra bed, two easy chairs and a TV.”

Travelling over the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

John then describes their journey the next day across the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct: “Entering the aqueduct is one of those never-to-be-forgotten moments. It is, essentially, a 307metre-long metal trough that is just about wide enough for one boat. On one side is the towpath and on the other a sheer drop down to the valley floor – not a view for anyone with vertigo.”

John then talks about the history of the aqueduct, explaining: “It took 10 years to build and was completed in 1805, at the cost of £38m in today’s money and one navvy’s life. One of the geniuses behind it is one of my heroes: the great road and canal builder Thomas Telford and I felt honoured to be crossing a structure that he had helped to build.”

Tunnel rules

John and his crew then navigated two tunnels and he explains: “there’s a very simple, sensible rule for tunnels: if you see headlights in the dark, don’t enter.”

After the second tunnel at Chirk, they crossed the Chirk Aqueduct and soon after moored up for the night at the Poacher’s Pocket pub at Gledrid. At the pub that night they reflected that all of the 11 miles they’d covered from Llangollen “are part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and rightly so. We had pottered down tree-lined watery avenues, past wide-open countryside and across spectacular constructions.”

Operating the twin locks at New Marton

On describing day three of their journey, John says that “patience is a necessary ingredient of canal travel” said they filled their water tank from the water point whilst waiting to negotiate the twin locks at New Marton, “Charlie then guided Askrigg confidently into the locks” while John and Will operated the gates and paddles.”

To Ellesmere and back

John says: “The canal was busy in both directions all the way to Ellesmere, which kept us on our toes. But on the way back, after a night tied up next to the beautiful Blake Mere on the far side of Ellesmere tunnel, there was very little traffic and we had the waterway almost to ourselves. Apparently canals can be like that: unpredictable.”

Songs at the Aqueduct Inn

On their fourth and final night, John and his crew moored a few hundred yards from their journey’s end at the Aqueduct Inn as they had to return their boat by 9am the following morning.

He says the Aqueduct Inn is “an old pub with great food and fine views from its wooden balcony. It also provided a wonderful and unexpected finale to our adventure.

“The staff were clearing our plates away when into the bar came a large group of men in ties and blazers. Not long after entering they started to sing. It wasn’t the usual pub singalong stuff but beautiful songs with glorious harmonies and, after a short while, I began to recognise some of their faces from a Countryfile programme I had made with them years ago.

“They were members of the internationally renowned Fron Male Voice Choir and they were wetting their whistles after their regular Thursday-night practice and had decided to perform an impromptu encore in their local for a few of the regulars and Charlie, Will and me.”

Back across the Aqueduct

The next morning they took Askrigg back across the aqueduct to our narrowboat hire base at Trevor and John reflects: “It had been an exhilarating, slow-motion few days. We had glided though breath-taking countryside while being overtaken by walkers and their dogs, joggers, cyclists and kayakers canals aren’t just for narrowboats.

“Many peaceful hours of travelling had been dotted with moments of tension, certainly on my part, as I tried to master the skills needed for a method of transportation that hasn’t changed in centuries.

“We agreed it had been far more than just a short holiday. The Llangollen Canal had given us an experience we’d never forget. Why on earth had I waited so long?”

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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Anglo Welsh’s Top 9 October Half Term Breaks

  1. Visit the Rock Houses 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, close to the National Trust’s Holy Austin Rock Houses. Said to be the last occupied cave-dwellings in England, these houses dug into the base of the sandstone escarpment were inhabited until the 1960s. 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.
  2. Explore creatures of the night at the Pitt Rivers Museum. From our Oxford base, it’s a tranquil three-hour cruise along the River Thames to moorings at Hythe Bridge, perfect for a short break exploring Oxford, including the extraordinary Pitt Rivers Museum. This Museum is home to one of the world’s finest collection of anthropology and archaeology, including shrunken heads from the Amazon and the famous ‘witch in a bottle’. From Monday 23 to Wednesday 25 October, 1-4pm the Pitt Rivers will be hosting special October Half Term activities ‘Bats, Cats, Witches and Charms’, exploring creatures of the night, magic charms and solving mysteries.
  3. Travel across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ to the Shropshire Lake District. Just five minutes from our canal boat hire base on the Llangollen Canal at Trevor in North Wales, the incredible Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is truly one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’. Its cast iron trough is carried 38 metres high above the Dee Valley on 19 hollow pillars and in 2009 it was granted World Heritage status, putting it on an equal footing with the Taj Mahal. On a short break from Trevor, boaters can cross the aqueduct and head east to the Ellesmere Lakes, also known as the Shropshire Lake District.
  4. Enjoy 1,000 years of history at Warwick Castle. From our Stockton base on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, Warwick and its magnificent medieval castle is a day’s cruise away. Developed from the original castle built by William the Conqueror in 1068, Warwick Castle offers visitors ‘flight of the eagle’ shows, trebuchet firing displays, Horrible Histories Maze, Kingmaker exhibition, Castle Dungeon tour, Princess Tour and ramparts to climb. Over the October Half Term holiday (21-31 October), special Haunted Castle activities include the spectacular Fire Joust, spooktacular shows at the Dead Centre Stage, the search for magic potions at The Witches Tower and a Halloween Trail.
  5. Cruise to the spectacular flight of locks at Devizes. From our base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at in Bath, it’s a 10-hour, eight-lock cruise to Fox Hanger Wharf at the base of the mighty Caen Hill flight of 29 locks at Devizes, one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’. Once here, the historic market town of Devizes is a short walk away, with its Wadworth Brewery Visitor Centre and famous shire horses making daily deliveries, plus a range of shops, pubs and restaurants, including the ‘Peppermill Restaurant’ and the historic Bear Hotel. Along the way, narrowboat holiday-makers can stop off to explore the beautiful river and canalside town of Bradford on Avon, home to the magnificent 14th monastic stone Tithe Barn, with its amazing timber cruck roof.
  6. Visit Shakespeare’s Birthplace. From our base at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal in Henley in Arden, it’s a delightful six-hour, 17-lock cruise journey through the Warwickshire countryside to Bancroft Basin, in the centre of Stratford-upon-Avon. From here, it’s a short walk to a range of shops, restaurants, pubs, cafes and museum’s, including Shakespeare’s Birthplace on Henley Street. Visitors to the Museum can walk in Shakespeare’s footsteps and explore the house where he was born, grew up and spent the first five years of his marriage, hearing tales of Shakespeare’s family life and enjoying live theatre on demand.
  7. Discover the World of Wedgwood. From our hire boat yard at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal in Staffordshire, it’s a 14-mile, 12-lock journey to the wonderful ‘World of Wedgwood’ at Trentham Lock. Here an interactive visitor centre celebrates British craftsmanship with the Wedgewood Museum, Factory Tour, shopping, food and special family activities, including ‘Spooky Pottery Painting’ over the October Half Term holiday (23-29 October).
  8. See David Hockney’s paintings at Salts Mill. From our base at Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in West Yorkshire, it takes seven hours to reach Sir Titus Salt’s model town at Saltaire, now a World Heritage Site. Here, the Yorkshire industrialist Sir Titus Salt built a textile mill and village to house his workers by the River Aire. Today, the ‘1853 Gallery’ at Salts Mill is houses a permanent exhibition of over 300 works by the Bradford born artist David Hockney, including his ‘Arrival of Spring’ series.
  9. Experience the ‘Enchantment of Chester Zoo’. From our base at Bunbury, Chester Zoo is an eight-hour journey, travelling 15 miles through the rolling Cheshire landscape and the centre of the historic city of Chester, and passing through 10 locks. Over the October Half Term holiday (21-31 October) ‘The Enchantment at Chester Zoo’ event encourages families to help break the sorcerer’s spell to send the zoo to sleep, seeking out moths, sloths, giraffes and orangutans to gather clues and save the Zoo!

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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Bigger, brighter and better – the new Anglo Welsh 2018 brochure is available now!

As one of the UK’s biggest and best canal boat holiday companies Anglo Welsh prides itself on responding to feedback from its customers, and if 60 years’ careful listening has revealed one thing it’s that anticipation is an integral part of the holiday experience.

And when it comes to the buzz of anticipation, nothing wets the holiday taste buds more than a beautifully designed brochure from Anglo Welsh that is jam-packed with practical information, recommended circuits, glowing testimonials and stunning images of the UK’s historic waterways.

As an added bonus, our brand-new 2018 brochure has more pages than ever and a fresh look and feel – it’s more welcoming, more colourful, and above all, it’s designed to inspire anybody who loves narrowboats and canal holidays.

As autumn nights draw in, who doesn’t enjoy relaxing on the sofa in front of a warm fire and starting to plan next year’s holidays? In fact, with so many Anglo Welsh boats to choose from and so many enticing canal routes on offer, make that quite a few autumn nights on the sofa visualizing your next narrowboat adventure.

The new 50 page brochure reveals a choice of more than 160 modern and spacious narrowboats with all the mod cons, including details of the all-new Heritage class boats which will be added to the Anglo Welsh fleet in 2018. And with 10 bases spread across England and Wales, you will be spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing your starting point.

From the adrenalin rush of the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct in Wales or the Foxton Locks in Leicestershire to the more leisurely experience of cruising through Stratford-upon-Avon, Oxford or Bath, your Anglo Welsh canal boat holiday can take you to some of Britain’s most emblematic cities and popular World Heritage sites.

Still can’t make up your mind where to go? Then the brochure’s selection of stunning photos from our #canaladventures2017 Instagram Photography Competition should also provide plenty of food for thought as you plan your 2018 adventure.

Needless to say, the brochure also includes all the practical information you could possibly need, from pricing for long holidays, short breaks and day hires, to how to book, how to prepare for your trip, and how to find out about regular offers and special promotions.

The Anglo Welsh 2018 brochure contains a wealth of information on canal boat holidays and fascinating portraits of the UK’s most popular waterway destinations – all you have to do now is snuggle up on the sofa, let your imagination run free, and then book the canal holiday of your dreams.

To order your free copy of the 2018 Anglo Welsh Brochure call our friendly booking team on 0117 304 1122 or if you prefer, download a copy here.

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Anglo Welsh’s Top 10 Canal Boat Holidays for 2018

1. Step back in time at the Black Country Museum. From our Tardebigge base on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, it’s an eight-hour, three-lock journey to moorings outside the 26-acre open-air Black Country Living Museum, which celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2018. Here visitors can meet costumed characters explaining what it was like to live and work in one of the world’s most heavily industrialised landscapes, explore period shops and homes, have a drink in the ‘Bottle & Glass Inn’, test their times tables in a 1912 school lesson, sample the Museum’s famous traditionally cooked 1930’s-style fish and chips, take a ride on a vintage tram or bus or take a trip ‘into the thick’ to experience life in an 1850’s coal mine.

2. Glide across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ to Ellesmere. Just five minutes by boat from our canal boat hire base on the Llangollen Canal at Trevor, the incredible Pontcysyllte Aqueduct carries canal boat holiday-makers 38 metres high in the air above the River Dee. The aqueduct’s cast iron trough is supported on vast iron arched ribs and 19 hollow pillars. As well as in being one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’, in 2009 it was granted World Heritage status, putting it on an equal footing with the Great Barrier Reef and Taj Mahal. On a short break from Trevor, boaters can cross the aqueduct and then continue east to explore the Mere at Ellesmere, formed by the remains of glaciers during the Ice Age, now full of wildlife to watch and walking trails to follow.

3. Cruise to the Cotswolds. From our Oxford base, it’s a tranquil nine-hour, seven-lock cruise west along the River Thames to the pretty market town of Lechlade on the edge of the Cotswolds, perfect for a midweek break. Along the way, boaters can enjoy views of mile upon mile of peaceful Oxfordshire countryside, passing through small villages and hamlets along the way, including Radcot with its Swan Hotel and Civil War Garrison Earthworks, and Kelmscott with its picturesque Plough Inn and beautiful Grade I listed riverside Kelmscott Manor, once the inspirational Cotswold retreat of William Morris.

4. See the spectacular flight of locks at Devizes. From our base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at in Bath, it’s a 10-hour, eight-lock cruise to Fox Hanger Wharf at the base of the mighty Caen Hill flight of 29 locks at Devizes. With 16 of the locks stacked in a row, the Caen Hill flight is an impressive sight and rightly considered to be one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’. Once here, the historic market town of Devizes is a short walk away, with its Wadworth Brewery Visitor Centre and famous shire horses making daily deliveries, and a range of independent shops and restaurants, including the ‘Peppermill Restaurant’ and ‘Dolcipani Bakery’.

5. Travel round the Avon Ring. From our base at Wootton Wawen on the narrow Stratford Canal in Henley in Arden, on a 10-day or two-week break, narrowboat holiday-makers can tackle the epic Avon Ring, cruising for 58 hours and passing through 131 locks. From Wootton Wawen, boaters first head to Stratford upon Avon, a delightful six-hour, 17-lock cruise journey through the Warwickshire countryside, to connect to the River Avon. From here, the Ring follows the downstream course of the River Avon through Evesham and then Tewkesbury, where it joins the River Severn for 16 miles to Worcester. The route then travels up the Worcester & Birmingham Canal to its junction with the Stratford Canal at Kings Norton, with the mighty Tardebigge flight of 30 locks to negotiate along the way. Boaters then head south along the Stratford Canal back to return to Wootton Wawen, passing through the village of Lapworth and the edge of the Forest of Arden.

6. Get close to nature at Fradley. From our base at Great Haywood in Staffordshire, on a short break canal boat holiday, boaters can cruise along the Trent & Mersey Canal to Fradley Junction and back, a journey which takes six hours and passes through five locks. Picturesque Fradley offers visitors guided walks, a café and country pub, as well as the award-winning Fradley Pool Nature Reserve, which is home to an abundance of creatures and offers visitors a bird-hide and pond-dipping platforms. Along the way, boaters pass the Shugborough Estate with its stunning Georgian Mansion House and walled garden, the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust’s Wolseley Centre with 26 acres of beautiful grounds to explore, and Rugeley with its choice of pubs, including the canalside Mossley Tavern.

7. Find a ‘Window on the World’ at Ellesmere Port. From our base on the Shropshire Union Canal at Bunbury, the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port is a 21-mile, 16-lock cruise away, travelling through the rolling Cheshire landscape and the vibrant City of Chester along the way. The Museum’s historic boat collection, docks, warehouses, forge, stables and workers cottages, bring the past vividly to life with costumed characters and guided tours, and its new ‘Window on the World’ augmented reality exhibition lets visitors see and hear the real stories of what the port was like in its heyday.

8. Amble along the Ashby Canal. From our Stockton base on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, narrowboat holiday-makers can travel up the North Oxford Canal to the tranquil Ashby Canal, which meanders lock-free through quiet countryside. The journey there and back takes 44 hours and passes through 14 locks, so it’s perfect for a gentle week afloat. The Ashby Canal stretches 22 miles from Marston Junction on the Coventry Canal near Nuneaton to Snarestone. Along the way, the canal line touches the western edge of Bosworth Field, where Richard III lost his crown to Henry Tudor in 1485. The hawthorn bushes at Stoke Golding are said to be where Richard’s crown was discovered following the battle.

9. Visit the World Heritage village at Saltaire. From our base at Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, on a short break boaters can travel to Sir Titus Salt’s model town at Saltaire, a journey which takes seven hours and passes through 11 locks. Now a World Heritage Site, Sir Titus Salt built the textile Mill and entire village for his mill workers, with the new mill opening in 1853. Today, Salt’s Mill is home to examples of the work of Bradford born artist David Hockney, Victoria Hall hosts a range of special events and the Shipley Glen Cable Tramway takes visitors on a pleasant woodland ride up to Shipley Glen, a stunning local beauty spot.

10. Moor up on Bristol’s Floating Harbour for a culture fix. From our base at Monkton Combe on the Kennet & Avon Canal in Somerset, Bristol’s Floating Harbour is a 10-hour, 13-lock cruise away, passing through the gorgeous World Heritage City of Bath, along the way*. Once in Bristol, narrowboat holiday-makers can moor up and explore the Harbour’s many cutting-edge museums and art centres, including the Arnolfini centre for contemporary arts, which hosts an exciting programme of visual arts, performances, dance, film and music events, and the Watershed arts cinema and cultural centre. *route suggested for experienced narrowboaters

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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And the winner is … ‘Tea for the Tillerman’ wins Anglo Welsh’s Canal Adventures 2017 Photo Challenge

Most people would agree that the picturesque waterways of England and Wales are just one big Instagram shoot waiting to happen, so when Anglo Welsh asked the Great British Public to post their finest canal-themed images online we were confident of a decent response – especially as the #CanalAdventures2017 winner would bag a fabulous Canon EOS 1300D digital camera worth £300.

But for decent response read spectacular response!

Images of old boats, new boats, dawn vistas, dusk vistas, rural towpaths, urban moorings, veteran skippers, narrowboat novices, kids with ducks, dogs with kids, stunning landscapes … we were bowled over by the variety and vibrancy of your photos.

Sifting through close to a thousand Instagram and Facebook posts was a pleasure, but choosing one winner was a real challenge. Here at Anglo Welsh we know a pretty canal pic when we see one, but to help us make an informed decision we invited photographers from design agency, Jazzbones Creative, to join us on the judges’ panel.

In the end, whimsical prettiness edged out funny, dynamic or hip in the shape of Brian Phillimore’s lovingly crafted image of a narrowboat stern on the Kennet and Avon Canal, inspired, he admits, by the Cat Stevens song ‘Tea For The Tillerman’.

An honourable mention goes to three runners-up, all winners of an HP Sprocket Photo Printer worth £100 – Gary Sargent for his shimmering view of Ainscough Mill on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, Andy Stevens’ evocative portrait of a night mooring at The Lock Inn on the River Avon, and Maggie and Ryan Duncan’s chiaroscuro take on the Anglo Welsh narrowboat Silver Ghost.

A huge thank you for all your images and watch this space for news of more exciting canal-themed competitions with fabulous prizes, courtesy of Anglo Welsh, the narrowboat experts.

Click here to view the #CanalAdventures2017 online gallery. To book a canal holiday on any of Anglo Welsh’s picturesque canal circuits, please contact our friendly customer team on 0117 304 1122.

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Spotlight on the Canals – the Macclesfield Canal

Spectacular Pennine views, ‘snake’ bridges, impressive stone aqueducts, striking rock formations, Victorian mills and country pubs.

One of the last narrow canals to be built, and the first to be awarded Green Flag status, the beautiful tree-lined Macclesfield Canal runs for 28 miles from its junction with the Peak Forest Canal at Marple in Cheshire, to the Trent & Mersey Canal at Kidsgrove in Staffordshire.

Passing mostly through green and rural surroundings, the canal follows the natural contours of the land, passing along the side of the most westerly Pennine hills through High Lane, Higher Poynton, Bollington, Macclesfield and Congleton.

Approved by an Act of Parliament in 1826, the Macclesfield Canal was designed to provide a direct link between Manchester, the Potteries and the Midlands, reducing journey times. It also served cotton mills, quarries and coal mines around Macclesfield, Congleton and the Peak District.

The coming of the railways soon outcompeted the canal, but it was still used for some freight carriage until the 1960s, and as a local cruising club had already been using the waterway for many years, its leisure potential was already established, so it remained navigable.

With its spectacular views over the Cheshire Plain, the Macclesfield Canal provides the most elevated (the top level is 518 feet above sea level, one of the highest navigable levels in the country), and perhaps the most beautiful section of the Cheshire Ring. With just one flight of locks at Bosley, the Macclesfield Canal enjoys miles of lock-free cruising either side.

Narrowboat holiday-makers cruising gently along, soaking up the scenery and admiring the historic structures that line its route, including Victorian mills and warehouses, its original stone milestones and six ‘change’ or ‘snake’ bridges, where the towpath changes sides of the canal, allowing horses to move over without having to be untied from the boat.

Best for beginners

From our base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal near Tarporley in Cheshire, on a week’s break boaters can travel to Macclesfield and back, cruising for a total of 40 hours and travelling through 94 locks.

After travelling south two miles to Barbridge Junction, with its marina and Olde Barbridge Inn, canal boat holiday-makers should then head up the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal to join the Trent & Mersey at the historic market town of Middlewich.

This quiet waterway, with just four locks along its 10-mile length, travels peacefully through the Cheshire countryside. Along the route, the Badger Inn at Church Minshull, just a short walk from the canal, is a popular place to stop and there are also plenty of pubs and restaurants to enjoy at Middlewich.

From Middlewich, boaters should head south along the Trent & Mersey Canal to the Macclesfield Canal, a 12-mile journey which passes through 28 locks of the 31 which form ‘Heartbreak Hill’, raising the canal 280ft up from the Cheshire Plains.

Along the way, the route passes the Sandbach Flashes SSSI at Ettiley Heath, Wheelock with a choice of pubs, and Hassall Green with its Potters Barn working pottery.

The next village is Rode Heath with its Royal Oak pub and Rode Hall, one of Cheshire’s most exquisite country houses.

Hardings Wood Junction, where the Trent & Mersey meets the Macclesfield Canal, is unusual – an early canal’spaghetti junction’. The Macclesfield leaves the Trent & Mersey on the south side, then crosses it on Poole Aqueduct after the Trent & Mersey has fallen through two locks. The Macclesfield then crosses Red Bull Aqueduct to begin its journey to Marple.

It’s a busy area with Canal & River Trust moorings and plenty of pubs, including The Blue Bell and Red Bull Hotel.

Turning north up the Hall Green Branch of the Macclesfield Canal, after just over a mile, boaters reach Hall Green Stop Lock, not far from The Bleeding Wolf pub at Scholar Green, with a good reputation for home cooked food.

Travelling through glorious open countryside, a mile further along at Bridge No.87 the canal passes the family-run Rising Sun, where walkers can pick up the Gritstone Walking Trail, offering stunning views of the Cheshire Plain from its gritstone ridges.

Just under a mile later, from the towpath at Bridge 86, boaters can moor-up and pick up a footpath to the National Trust’s iconic moated Tudor Manor house, Little Moreton Hall. Or walk cross the canal at Bridge 86 and head to Mow Cop (Mow is pronounced as in cow) to see the striking ‘Old Man of Mow’ rock formation crowning the ridge of hills that run parallel to the canal.

Over the next two miles, as it approaches Congleton, the canal crosses two impressive stone aqueducts – the first at Watery Lane, close to the Horseshoe Inn, and second at Dog Lane, close to Congleton Wharf and the award-winning Beartown Tap pub.

There are shops close to Bridge 75, including a fish & chips shop, and two beautiful ‘snake bridges’ follow. A mile later at bridge 71, a footpath runs to the top of the Cloud, an impressive local fell.

Three miles later, the route reaches the foot of Bosley Locks, a flight of 12 deep locks which raise the canal level by 118ft to over 500ft above sea level. Once through the locks, the canal soon approaches the village of Gawsworth, home of the striking Gawsworth Hall Tudor Manor House, then Oakgrove in the foothills of the Pennines.

Just over two miles later, having passed the villages of Lyme Green and Sutton Lane Ends with is Church House Inn and Lamb Inn, the canal reaches Macclesfield.

The best place to moor to explore the town, once one of the leading silk producing centres, is south of Bridge 37, close to the Hovis Mill, birthplace of the famous flour. Here visitors will find cobbled streets, a medieval Market Place, the Silk Museum Heritage Centre, Silk Museum & Paradise Mill, and plenty of shops and pubs, including the canalside Puss in Boots and the beer-specialist Macc Bar.

As the canal continues north, reaching Bollington in just over two miles, the Middlewood Way is never far from the canal, following the course of the ‘Macclesfield, Bollington and Marple Railway’.

At Bollington, The Dog & Partridge and The Vale Inn are close to the impressive stone Bollington Aqueduct, and high on a hilltop to the south east of the town is the White Nancy monument, erected by the Gaskell family to commemorate the Battle of Waterloo.

The next stretch runs through beautifully quiet and unspoilt countryside, winding northwards along the summit level, crossing several valleys on embankments with impressive aqueducts.

At Four Lane Ends, the canalside Miners Arms offers excellent food and at Higher Poynton, The Boar’s Head offers traditional home-made food, real ale and fireside dining.

From the Boar’s Head, it’s a two-mile walk to the National Trust’s magnificent Italianate Palace, Lyme Park, famously featured in the BBC’s ‘Pride & Prejudice’ as ‘Pemberley’, home of Mr Darcy. The Anson Engine Museum with a tearoom and shop, is also a short walk from the Boar’s Head.

After travelling over another massive embankment and aqueduct, the last three miles of the Macclesfield Canal passes through High Lane with a choice of pubs, as well as Hawk Green and Goyt Mill, before reaching its junction with the Peak Forest Canal at picturesque Marple.

Best for experienced boaters

On a longer holiday, the 97-mile, 92-lock Cheshire Ring is a popular circuit, taking in a complete range of canal scenery, including the spectacular views of the Pennines from the Macclesfield Canal, gentle rolling Cheshire countryside and the lively city centre of Manchester.

From the top of the Macclesfield Canal at Marple, boaters tackling the Cheshire Ring should continue north up the Peak Forest Canal, travelling eight miles, through 16 locks and two tunnels before reaching the Ashton Canal at Ashton-under-Lyne.

Along the way, boaters will go down the Marple lock flight, which drops the canal down by 214ft, and over the stunning three-arched Marple Aqueduct over the River Goyt, now a Scheduled Ancient Monument. As Ashton is approached, the route becomes less rural, passing through industrial Hyde before reaching Dunkinfield Junction and Portland Basin, nicknamed the ‘weavers rest’, as so many weavers reputedly drowned themselves here during hard times.

The Cheshire Ring route then continues west along the Ashton Canal, passing through the densely built-up areas of Droylsden and then Manchester, before meeting the Rochdale Canal at Fairfield Junction and then on to the Bridgewater Canal at Castlefield, a total distance of eight miles, passing through 27 locks.

Along the way, the Beswick flight of four locks stands next to the Sportcity Stadium (home to Manchester City Football Club) and boaters can see Thomas Heathwick’s ‘B of the Bang’ sculpture, which marks the success of the 2002 Commonwealth Games.

From Castlefield, the Bridgewater Canal travels south west to Lymm, covering 13 miles with no locks. Here, the town’s 17th century Cross is just yards from the canal in the centre of this attractive and hilly little town.

From Lymm to Preston Brook it’s another 10 miles with no locks, passing through Stockton Heath, where the 21-mile Delamere Way parallels the canal for a time as it journeys from Frodsham to Warrington, via Delamere Forest.

From Preston Brook Junction, where the Bridgewater meets the Trent & Mersey Canal, it’s a further seven miles to Anderton, with one lock and three tunnels, including the 1,239 yard Preston Brook Tunnel.

The Anderton Boat Lift, nicknamed ‘The Cathedral of the Canals’, perches up on the hill like some giant metal spider. This magnificent Victorian edifice, which reopened in 2002 after a massive £7million restoration project, lifts or lowers narrowboats 50ft between the River Weaver and the Trent & Mersey Canal in two huge water tanks.

There are 10 miles and four locks between Anderton and Middlewich Junction, where the route passes close to Marbury Country Park, then the Lion Salt Works at Marston before travelling through the historic town of Northwich, where the Rivers Weaver and Dane meet.

Once back at Middlewich the Cheshire Ring is complete and it’s another 12 miles and four locks, travelling down the Middlewich Branch and a short section of the Shropshire Union Canal, back to our narrowboat hire base at Bunbury. In total, travelling the Cheshire Ring from our Bunbury base takes 60 hours, passing through 102 locks, and from our Trevor base it takes 102 hours, passing through 140 locks.

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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Top 10 gardens to visit afloat

Gardens are great places to visit on a canal boat holiday, offering beautiful vistas, cafes serving dishes made with produce grown on site, and places for quiet contemplation and inspiration.

There are dozens of beautiful gardens to visit within easy reach of our canals and rivers, so we’ve put together our Top 10 gardens to enjoy afloat:

  1. Enjoy spectacular views of Snowdonia from the gardens of Plas Newydd, close to the Llangollen Canal in North Wales…the gardens at Plas Newydd House in Llangollen are set within 169 acres of woodland and parkland, where the setting, geology and climate allow extraordinary plants to flourish. Tender exotics grow in the Menai Courtyard, alpines and dwarf shrubs in the sun room terrace, dahlias and agapanthas in the Italianate Terrace, magnolia in the Rhododendron Garden, aromatic eucalypts in the Australasian arboretum and spring flowers alongside the cascades of Rill Garden. From our narrowboat hire base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal, it takes just two hours to reach Llangollen.
  2. Find the oldest botanic garden in Britain, close to the Oxford Canal in Oxford…founded in 1621 as a garden growing plants for medicinal research, the University of Oxford Botanic Garden now contains over 8,000 plant species in a 1.8 hectare site at Rose Lane, close to the City Centre. The Garden offers family friendly trails and ‘Botanic Backpacks’ full of activities and equipment to help visitors get more from their walk around the Garden and its Glasshouses. From our Oxford boat yard on the River Thames at Eynsham, Oxford can be reached in three-and-a-half hours, travelling through four locks.
  3. See the ancient topiary at Packwood House, close to the Stratford Canal at Lapworth…according to legend, the 350-year old trees in Packwood’s iconic Yew Garden represent the ‘Sermon on the Mount’. Packwood’s beautiful gardens also boast stunning herbaceous borders, with a wide variety of colourful plants, including its unusual North African Cabbage Trees, as well as a bountiful Kitchen Garden, wildflower meadows, an orchard and a gorgeous rose walk leading to the cafe. From our canal boat hire base at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal near Henley-in-Arden, it’s a 7-mile, 31-lock and 10-hour journey to Lapworth Lock No 6, half-a-mile’s walk from Packwood.
  4. Stroll around the award-winning Trentham Gardens, close to the Trent & Mersey Canal at Stoke on Trent…voted ‘BBC Countryfile’s Garden of the Year’ in 2015, the make-over of the Italian Gardens at Trentham was led by renowned garden designer Tom Stuart-Smith, while the Rivers of Grass and Floral Labyrinth gardens were designed by the eminent Dutch plantsman, Piet Oudolf. As well as a series of themed gardens, visitors to Trentham can enjoy a walk around the Capability Brown designed central mile-long lake and the vast new wildflower meadows, as well as taking the Fairy Trail through woodland, a maze and gardens where the fairies live. There’s also an adventure playground, trip boat and miniature train. From our boatyard at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal near Stafford, it takes approximately 10 hours to reach Stoke bottom lock No. 36, travelling 13 miles, through 13 locks.
  5. Discover over 60 varieties of heritage apples at Hill Close Gardens, close to the Grand Union Canal in Warwick…this two-acre site features the remains of Victorian leisure gardens, originally laid out in the mid-19th The delightful 16 individual hedged gardens feature brick summerhouses, ornamental plantings, and a range of vegetables and fruit trees, including more than 60 varieties of heritage apples. From our narrowboat hire base at Stockton on the Grand Union Canal, it’s a seven-hour, 20-lock journey to Warwick.
  6. Relax in the Walled Garden at Churches Mansion, close to the Shropshire Union Canal at Nantwich…the immaculately maintained Walled Garden at the stunning Elizabethan timber-framed Churches Mansion is mainly laid to lawn. It has well stocked borders of cottage garden flowers and shrubs, as well as specimen fruit trees, including mulberry, walnut, pear, cherry and plum. There is also an oak tree, magnificent magnolia tree and trailing wisteria wrapped around a first floor balcony. From our boatyard at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal, Nantwich is just six miles away.
  7. Find peace in the Botanic Gardens at Winterbourne House on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal in Edgbaston…owned by the University of Birmingham, this seven-acre garden oasis is a rare surviving example of an Edwardian Arts and Crafts suburban villa garden. Home to over 6,000 different plant species, the Grade II listed garden was lovingly created by Margaret and John Nettlefold in the early 1900’s, using the books of Gertrude Jekyll as inspiration. Offering colour and interest throughout the year, visitors will find a beautiful walled garden, magnificent borders, glasshouses and a sandstone rock garden. From our canal boat hire base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, it’s an 11-mile journey to Edgbaston, and with no locks along the way, the journey takes just four-and-a-half hours.
  8. Follow the Sculpture Trail at Saltaire Gardens on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal near Bradford…designated World Heritage Status in 2001, Sir Titus Salt’s model village at Saltaire in West Yorkshire hosts an annual festival, which includes an Open Gardens & Sculpture Trail event (9-10 September 2017). Built in the Italianate style, Salts Mill is the main feature of the village and is now home to an art gallery dedicated to the work of David Hockney. Salt also built houses, a school, church, hospital and a park for his textile mill workers. The Park, which is open all year round, has 14 acres of lawn with lovely walks, flower beds and a bronze statue of Sir Titus Salt erected in 1903 to celebrate 50 years of the opening of the Mill and Salt’s 100th. From our boatyard at Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, it takes seven hours, passing through 12 locks to reach Saltaire.
  9. Explore the Grade I listed Italianate garden at Iford Manor, close to the Kennet & Avon Canal at Bradford on Avon…the romantic terraced hillside garden at Iford Manor, with stunning views across the Iford valley, was designed by architect and landscape gardener Harold Ainsworth Peto, who lived there from 1899 to 1933.   Peto was particularly attracted to the charm of old Italian gardens, characterized by cypresses, broad walks, statues and pools. The garden’s striking features include a Loggia, Great Terrace, Casita and Cloisters. Our canal boat hire base at Bradford on Avon is just one lock and two miles from Avoncliffe, where footpaths lead to Iford Manor.
  10. Visit the Rose Garden at Rode Hall, near the Macclesfield Canal at Hall Green…set in a beautiful landscape designed by Humphry Repton in 1790, Rode Hall’s extensive grounds include a formal rose garden designed by Nesfield in 1860, terraced rock garden, woodland garden and a two-acre walled kitchen garden. Drifts of snowdrops grace the estate at the beginning of the year and spring boasts a large variety of rhododendrons and azaleas, followed by a stunning display of ancient bluebells. From our canal boat hire base on at Great Haywood near Stafford, it’s a two-day journey, cruising 25 miles, through 18 locks to reach Hall Green Lock on the Macclesfield Canal, where a footpath leads to Rode Hall & Garden.

To book one of Anglo Welsh’s superbly equipped canal boats, please contact our Booking Team on 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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