Our canal boats are like floating holiday cottages so you’ll find many of the home comforts already on board, including a galley kitchen equipped with cutlery, crockery, cooking utensils, saucepans, a four burner gas cooker with an oven and grill, a microwave and a fridge with a small freezer compartment. Bed linen is supplied and you’ll also find hand towels in the bathrooms.
There’s a surprising amount of storage space on board for everything you need to bring with you. To help you prepare for your canal boat holiday, we’ve put together a list of useful items to pack:
Extra Towels – We provide both bath towels and hand towels but bringing some extra will be a good idea, especially in the wetter months!
Shopping bags – remember to pack your re-useable shopping bags as well as re-useable plastic bottles and coffee cups to help limit the amount of plastic you acquire on your holiday afloat.
DVD’s & games – for cosy nights in, bring along some cards and board games, as well some DVD’s as a good TV reception isn’t always available on the canals.
A torch – if you do venture out to the pub for the evening, it’s best to take a torch as country moorings can be incredibly dark at night #greatforstargazing.
Toilet rolls – we supply toilet roll in our loos but do bring along extra
Washing up liquid – pack an eco/aquatic-friendly washing up liquid and hand soap like Ecover or Poddy (which we sell in our boat yard shops), and make sure your shampoos and face washes are microbead free as the water you use to wash up and shower with will empty straight into the canal.
Be prepared for all weather – if it’s wet you’ll need a good waterproof jacket and a large golfing umbrella for the skipper. If it’s sunny, you’ll need a sun hat, sun glasses and sun cream. Gloves are also useful for working the locks and steering when it’s cold.
Footwear – trainers or rubber soled shoes are best for boating and lock working. And it’s a good idea to bring slippers or warm socks to wear on board.
Binoculars – one of the best things about a narrowboat holiday is the wildlife you’ll see along the way, so do pack some binoculars if you own them to enhance your wildlife spotting experience.
A canal map – there are some great canal maps available to buy in advance or in our boat yard shops, for example Nicholson’s guides are available on Amazon. You can also plan your trip online using the mapping tools on the Canal & River Trust’s website, but mobile phone signals can be patchy on the canal network.
Drinks – the water on board is drinkable but it’s worth bringing a large bottle of drinking water to top up with. And wine boxes are great space savers and safer to transport than bottles.
Condiments – if you are planning to cook on board, remember to pack some extra flavourings as well as the main ingredients, including salt & pepper, tomato sauce, herbs and spices.
Phone chargers – our boats have 240 volt 3-pin sockets powered by the on board batteries so you can charge your phones and tablets on board. But we advise you to only do this when the engine is running as there’s a limit to power available and you want to avoid draining the batteries. Blenders, cool boxes and hair straighteners can also be plugged in, but nothing above 1000 watts is permitted – so no kettles, irons, hairdryers or heaters.
Your dog’s bed – pets are welcome on board our boats, but do let us know at the time of booking and remember to bring your pet’s blanket or basket with you as they aren’t allowed on the beds or chairs. Remember to bring poo bags too!
First aid kit – we recommend you pack a basic first aid kit, including antiseptic, plasters & bandages, in case of any cuts, scrapes or sprains.
By Kevin Yarwood, Manager at our Great Haywood canal boat hire base
Spring is a glorious time to celebrate the rich and diverse wildlife living in Britain. Global warming and climate change campaigners are raising awareness of the World’s fragile eco-systems and the importance of preserving what we have by reducing waste and lowering our carbon emissions. As a company we encourage our staff and customers to support British wildlife by removing litter and plastic from the waterways wherever they see it.
The UK’s inland waterways weave through urban, suburban and rural environments taking in cityscapes, stunning scenery, historic landmarks, industrial heritage, World Heritage, museums, galleries, pubs and shops. Travelling along as just four miles per hour, from the perspective of a narrowboat, Britain is a destination with something for everyone. And in Spring, when the countryside is teeming with new life, there is no better way to witness waterside trees and hedges bursting into blossom, nest-building birds, ducklings bobbing on the water, spring lambs playing in the fields, and carpets of bluebells in waterside woodlands. The Canal and River Trust as produced a wonderful Spotters Guide to Waterway Wildlife which is well worth a read.
Equipped with a bespoke travel plan, with our help you can design your own perfect UK Spring break – choosing to take in your favourite destinations on a cruise for a few days, a week or longer. And, as narrowboats travel at low speeds burning less fuel, this is a holiday with a reduced carbon footprint.
To celebrate Britain’s natural environment, we’ve put together our Top 10 Spring canal boat holiday destinations for 2020:
Navigate through Shakespeare country and Warwickshire farmland – from Anglo Welsh’s narrowboat hire base at WoottonWawen on the Stratford Canal near Henley-in-Arden, it takes around six hours, travelling through 17 locks to reach Stratford upon Avon. Travelling over the Edstone Aqueduct and on through the pretty Warwickshire countryside, with spring lambs playing in the fields alongside the canal, boaters can stop off to visit Mary Arden’s Tudor Farm in the canalside village of Wilmcote, where Shakespeare’s mother grew up. Once in Stratford, there are overnight moorings in Bancroft Basin, perfect for enjoying all that Shakespeare’s birthplace has to offer, including riverside parks, theatres, shops, restaurants and museums.
Cruise into the Peak District spotting kingfishers along the way – on a week’s break from Anglo Welsh’s barge hire base on the Trent & Mersey Canal at Great Haywood in Staffordshire, canal boat holiday-makers can easily reach the beautiful Caldon Canal and travel into the Peak District. The journey takes boaters up to Stoke on Trent, passing Wedgewood World along the way, and, once on the Caldon, through gently rolling hills and wooded areas alongside the beautiful River Churnet. Here there’s the chance to spot kingfishers, herons, jays and woodpeckers, as well as otters which have recently returned to the area. The return journey along the Caldon to Froghall takes around 43 hours, travelling a total of 72 miles and passing through 70 locks.
Travel round the Stourport Ring through idyllic stretches of Worcestershire countryside – on a week’s break from Anglo Welsh’s canal boat rental base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, boaters can travel round the Stourport Ring. This popular circuit takes boaters on an 84-mile, 114-lock journey, in around 56 cruising hours. Much of the route is rural, cruising sections of the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal, Worcester & Birmingham Canal Navigation, River Severn, Birmingham Canal Main Line and Stourbridge canals. Rural highlights include: Kinver Edge with its extensive woodlands and National Trust Holy Austin Rock Houses; idyllic stretches of Worcestershire countryside along the River Severn; and the dramatic flight of 30 locks at Tardebigge, climbing two-and-a-quarter miles with spectacular views of the open countryside all around. This circuit also takes boaters through central Birmingham, Kidderminster and the ancient City of Worcester with its magnificent cathedral.
Cruise to the gateway of the Yorkshire Dales and explore the ancient woods at Skipton Castle – from our barge holiday hire base at Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in West Yorkshire, it takes just over three hours to reach Skipton, the ‘Gateway to the Dales’, with its medieval fortress and acres of woodland trails to explore. For nearly a thousand years Skipton Castle Woods provided fuel, food and building materials for castle inhabitants. Today there are at least 18 species of trees flourishing there, and hundreds of flowering plants, including wild orchids and bluebells in the Spring. The journey along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal to Silsden passes through the typical Yorkshire stone built villages of Kildwick and Farnhill and on into a dense wooded area famous for its bluebells and deer.
Drift through the beautiful prehistoric Vale of Pewsey – from our canal boat rental base at Brassknocker Basin on the Kennet & Avon Canal just outside Bath, it takes around 19 hours to reach Pewsey Wharf, perfect for a week afloat. Along the way, boaters pass through miles of peaceful Wiltshire countryside, with a series of waterside villages and country pubs to visit along the way. Highlights on this route include: the mighty Caen Hill Flight of 29 locks at Devizes; cruising along the edge of the ancient Savernake Forest; and the beautiful Vale of Pewsey, part of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and home to prehistoric Avebury. The journey to Pewsey and back takes around 38 hours, passing through 74 locks (37 each way).
Travel to Llangollen on the edge of the Berwyn Mountains – from Anglo Welsh’s canal boat rental base at Whixall Marina, on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire , it takes around 12 hours to reach the pretty town of Llangollen. Along the way, boaters travel through the beautiful Shropshire Lake District and across the incredible Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’ and now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Once in Llangollen, boaters can moor up to enjoy exploring this pretty town nestled on the edge of the Berwyn Mountains, including its regular markets packed with local produce, choice of independent shops and restaurants, steam railway and famous Horseshoe Falls. The journey to Llangollen and back passes through just four locks (two each way).
Navigate the Four Counties Ring for stunning views of the Cheshire Plains – on a week’s break from our narrowboat rental base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire, boaters can travel round the popular Four Counties Ring, one of the most rural canal cruising circuits. Travelling for around 58 hours and passing through 96 locks, this route takes canal boat holiday-makers through the counties of Staffordshire, the West Midlands, Cheshire and Shropshire and travels sections of the Trent & Mersey, Staffordshire & Worcestershire and Shropshire Union canals. Rural highlights include: panoramic views from the flight of 31 locks (also known as ‘Heartbreak Hill’) between Middlewich and Kidsgrove on the Trent & Mersey Canal; stunning views of the rolling Cheshire Plains on the Shropshire Union Canal; acres of farmland on the Middlewich Branch; wildlife spotting at Tixall Wide on the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal; and the National Trust’s Shugborough Hall with its extensive waterside gardens.
Cruise to the Shropshire Lake District and catch a glimpse heron chick – from our narrowboat hire base on the Llangollen Canal at Trevor in North Wales, on a short break (three or four nights) boaters can cruise to the Shropshire Lake District, teeming with water birds and other wildlife. The journey to the medieval market town of Ellesmere, in the heart of the Shropshire Lake District, takes around seven hours, passing through just two locks and over two magnificent aqueducts, including the famous Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. This Wonder of the Waterways, carries the Llangollen Canal 38 metres high above the Dee valley, with magnificent views of the valley and Welsh Mountains beyond. Formed thousands of years ago by the melting of the glaciers during the retreating ice age, the meres of the Shropshire Lake District, including The Mere at Ellesmere are particularly beautiful in Spring. And every Spring, Moscow Island on The Mere is home to the Heron Watch Scheme, with cameras allow visitors to watch the birds build nests and raise chicks.
Take a Thames boating holiday to Abingdon and listen out for cuckoos calling – from our barge hire base on the River Thames near Oxford, it takes around five hours, passing through six locks and travelling 15 miles to reach the historic riverside market town of Abingdon – perfect for a short break Thames boating holiday. Along the way, as well as cruising through the outskirts of the ancient City of Oxford, boaters pass through beautiful stretches of Oxfordshire countryside, with lush meadows, stretches of woodlands alive with bluebells alongside the river and the chance to hear cuckoos calling. Once moored up at Abingdon, boaters can enjoy exploring riverside walks, parks and eateries, including the popular waterside Nag’s Head
Travel through the Northamptonshire countryside to Stoke Bruerne – on a mid-week (four night) break from our canal boat rental base at Stockton, on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, narrowboat holiday-makers can cruise to the pretty Northamptonshire village of Stoke Bruerne and back. The journey takes around 12 hours, travelling 28 mostly rural miles and passes through 16 locks, as well as the 2813-metre long Blisworth Tunnel. Once in Stoke Bruerne, visitors can enjoy a choice of canalside pubs, browsing the intriguing waterway history collections at the Canal Museum and following the village’s charming woodland walk and sculpture trail.
A brief history of the canals of England and Wales
A canal boat holiday takes you back in time. It is a journey through history as you float along waterways constructed in a bygone era of horse-drawn transport.
The vast majority of the canals in England and Wales were built at the dawn of industrialisation as the most efficient way of transporting the raw materials and goods going in and out the new factories.
This makes a narrowboat holiday a history lover’s dream come true as they can admire the antique engineering and the many sights, towns and cities along the routes which have all played notable roles in creating the modern Britain we know today.
To get you started, here we take you on a brief history of the canals of England and Wales.
While the UK was the first country to develop a nationwide canal network, the Chinese claim the title of being the earlier pioneers of inland waterways, constructing the Grand Canal of China in the 10th century. Most early canals were extensions of natural rivers.
The first canals of England and Wales were built by the Romans who dug the Fossdyke connecting Lincoln to the River Trent around AD50 and the nearby Car Dyke which ran southwards towards Cambridge.
Other early waterways of the medieval and post medieval period were constructed during to shorten, extend or link river routes such as the Exeter Canal, built in 1566 which featured the first pond locks in Britain.
But the golden age of canal building began as the Industrial Revolution took hold during the second half of the 18th century, with the construction of the Bridgewater Canal.
Golden age of canal building
Completed in 1776 under the watchful eye of engineer James Brindley, the Bridgewater Canal connects Runcorn, Manchester and Leigh. It was created in order to carry coal from the Duke of Bridgewater’s mines at Worsley into the industrial heart of Manchester where demand for coal to power the mills was soaring.
The Bridgewater Canal sparked a flurry of canal building during the half century that followed its construction. During an age of horse drawn transport and antiquated mud tracks for roads, the canals provided a highly efficient way to transport large quantities of goods. One horse could pull a canal boat carrying around 30 tonnes of cargo – more than ten times the amount that could be transport via a one horse cart.
The efficiency of the Bridgewater Canal meant the price of coal in Manchester dropped by nearly two thirds within a year of its opening. The waterway repaid the cost of its construction within a few years, proving the viability of canals.
Other industrialists began to follow suit and James Brindley suddenly found himself constantly in demand. He is largely responsible for the ‘Grand Cross’, the two thousand miles of canals linking the four great rivers of England – the Severn, Mersey, Humber and Thames.
There were two key canal building periods, from 1759 to the early 1770s and from 1789 to around 1800 when trains began to dominate.
The Oxford Canal was completed in 1790, linking the coal mines and factories of the Midlands with London via the Thames while the Ellesmere Canal completed in 1805 and later incorporated into the Chester, Montgomery, Shropshire Union and Llangollen canals, helped link the Mersey and the Severn.
Thomas Telford took over from Brindley as the leading canal engineer of the late 18th century designing incredible landmarks including the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct which soars over the River Dee.
The epicenter of canal building was in the industrial West Midlands and North West. Birmingham and the Black Country boasted an intricate network of 160 miles of canals, known as the Birmingham Canal Navigations, most of which survive today.
Funding for the canals was raised largely through private investors keen to reap the promised high returns. But by the end of the 18th century the flurry of canal building was over. Virtually all Britain’s canals were completed by 1815 when attention began to turn to the development of steam powered railway locomotives.
In the early 19th century the canals continued to be the preferred method for transporting bulky heavy goods while the new railway lines focused on passengers and lighter cargo. But as the century progressed the railways were developed into a national network, out competing the canals in both cargo volumes and speed, forcing tolls down so that the canal companies went into terminal decline.
The emergence of the motorcar in the early 20th century and development of an improved reliable road system was another blow to the commercial appeal of the canals.
As most of the canals fell out of commercial use and the companies that had maintained them shut down or were bought out, the waterways themselves were left to wreck and ruin.
In 1947 under the post-World War II Labour government, Britain’s canal and railway systems were nationalised. In the decades that followed, the canals were gradually restored and reopened, primarily for leisure purposes. Restoration projects have been largely undertaken by enthusiastic volunteer groups and local canal societies and trusts.
The canals are now managed by the Canal and River Trust, the successor to British Waterways, which actively supports many of the ongoing restoration projects. The Inland Waterways Association is a charity which also promotes the ongoing protection and conservation of the canals.
Commercial traffic is still permitted on a few key canal routes but the vast majority of waterways are now enjoyed by pleasure craft such as our own Anglo Welsh narrowboats.
There are said to be more boats using the British canals today than at any other point in their history.
Key sights of historic interest and engineering on the canals
Here are a few of the key sights which represented historic feats of engineering during the golden age of canal building and are still well worth a visit during a canal boat holiday today:
Enjoy canal trips at the Stafford riverway link open day
On Sunday 8 September, staff from our Great Haywood canal boat hire base will be offering visitors the chance to take a free canal boat trip at the Stafford Riverway Link Open Day event.
Kevin Yarwood, our boat yard manager at Great Haywood, explains:
“We are looking forward to welcoming visitors to the annual Stafford Riverway Link event on Sunday 8 September to enjoy a short trip along the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal aboard our day boat ‘Abi’.
“Research that shows spending time by the waterways can make you happier and more relaxed, so this is a great opportunity for families to enjoy spending time by their local waterway, experience a canal boat trip and find out more about the progress made so far by the restorers of the Stafford Riverway Link. Once restored, the Stafford Riverway Link will reconnect the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal to the River Sow, enabling boats to once again travel into Stafford town centre.”
The Stafford Riverway Link Open Days take place on Saturday 7th and Sunday 8th September from 10am to 4pm, next to the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal just west of Bridge 101 at St Thomas Bridge, Baswich Lane, Stafford ST18 0YJ.
As well as boat trips on the Sunday, there will be stalls, games, a bar and light refreshments. Admission and car parking are both free.
All aboard! New narrowboats being introduced for 2019 canal holidays
Winter is behind us and that means the new canal boat holiday season is finally here! We’ve been hard at work over winter to ensure the best possible choice of narrowboats for your 2019 canal adventures. So, we are excited to announce the launch of a series of new canal barges this season which will ensure we continue to offer an unbeatable range of narrowboat holidays for all our guests.
Here’s an introduction to the beautiful new narrowboats that will be gracing our historic waterways in coming months:
Heritage Class expands with Poppy at Wootton Wawen
After the huge success of our first ‘Heritage Class’ canal barge Lily which was launched last year, we are thrilled to be expanding the fleet with Poppy. The Heritage Class boats are designed and built in the style of the narrowboats of the past, with traditional livery, round portholes, wooden interiors with brass fittings and a fuel fire. However, don’t be fooled by the boats’ old-fashioned appearance, they are still fitted out with all the modern features needed to ensure your comfort and convenience from central heating to full size shower rooms, TV, DVD and WiFi. The Heritage Class boats offer the best of both worlds.
With two bedrooms offering four berths, a fully equipped galley – or kitchen in landlubber speak – dining area and lounge, Poppy is perfect for families and groups of friends wanting to drift back in time to a bygone era along the canals of England and Wales.
Constellation Class welcomes three news boats, Gemini, Scorpius and Sagittarius
This Constellation class has proven so popular since its creation in 2016, it has expanded very year and 2019 is now exception. This year will see the introduction of three new canal barges that each sleep up to 10 guests across four bedrooms so are idea for larger group holidays.
The Constellation Class narrowboats boast light modern interiors, comfy leather seats in the lounge and fully equipped galley kitchens with a cooker and hobs, fridge-freezer and microwave. With so much space for sleeping and storage, the large Constellation Class boats are popular for longer canal boat trips of a week or more.
Weir Class grows with Grafton at Whixall Marina
The smaller Weir Class boats which sleep just two to four people have been a big hit with couples wanting a relaxing, romantic break. Grafton will be launched at Whixall Marina on the lovely Shropshire Union Canal on Friday, 5th April. With its one double bedroom, bathroom and kitchen-living space, measuring just 48-ft in length, Grafton, like the other Weir class narrowboats are much easier to handle and maneouvre than some of their larger counterparts making them great starter boats. They are also a good choice in peak season when the canals get very busy and space is at a premium.
All the Anglo Welsh narrowboats are designed to provide a perfect floating holiday home for families, couples and friends who want to explore the canals of England and Wales without compromising on comfort and convenience. The holiday hire narrowboats have gas ovens, bridges, TV, DVD players, central heating and kitchens equipped with everything needed to cook and enjoy a meal for everyone onboard. Bedding, towels, tea towels and bottled gas is provided. Some boats have additional features such as microwaves, sofas, dressing tables so always check the layout and specifications of the vessel before booking to ensure it has everything you need.
This Mother’s Day (11 March 2018), why not spoil your Mum with a relaxing day on the water, enjoying a picnic afloat or pub lunch along the way.
Anglo Welsh offers day boat hire from five of its bases, from just under £10 per person. Full tuition is included, so if you’re new to canal boating, you can get the hang of steering, mooring up and working the locks.
All our day boats are equipped with cutlery, crockery and a kettle and most also have a toilet, cooker and fridge.
Here are our Top 5 day boat destinations to visit afloat for 2018:
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 across the Aqueduct, boaters can continue on to Glendrid to enjoy lunch at the canalside Poacher’s Inn. This gentle five-mile journey with no locks, also takes canal boat hirers across Chirk Aqueduct and through Whitehouses and Chirk tunnels. Day boat hire from Trevor starts at £120 for up to 10 people, £160 on weekends and bank holidays.
Potter along the Stratford Canal to Wilmcote – From our boat yard at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal near Henley-in-Arden, boaters can head south, crossing the impressive Edstone Aqueduct and passing through one lock, to reach the historic village of Wilmcote – a journey which takes around two 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, or visit 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.
Travel the Trent & Mersey to Rugeley – From our narrowboat hire base at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal near Stafford, day boaters can cruise four miles, passing through two locks to reach the historic market town of Rugeley. Along the way, day boat hirers pass the National Trust’s stunning Shugborough Estate, and the popular Wolseley Arms pub at Wolseley Bridge. The journey to Rugeley takes around two hours and once there, boaters can moor up to explore the town or turn at bridge 68 and head back to Wolseley to visit the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust’s Wolseley Centre and have lunch at the pub. Day boat hire from Great Haywood starts at £99 for up to 10 people, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.
Cruise ‘The Shroppie’ to Nantwich Aqueduct – From our base at Bunbury Wharf on the Shropshire Union Canal near Tarporley, canal boat hirers can cruise south for six sedate miles, and travel across the impressive Grade II* listed Nantwich Aqueduct with panoramic views across the town. Dating back to 1826, Nantwich Aqueduct, which carries the canal over the A534 Chester Road, was designed by the famous canal engineer Thomas Telford. With no locks along the way, the journey to Nantwich takes around two hours. There are moorings next to the aqueduct and choice of places to eat close to the canal, including Street Nantwich and Firenze Bar & Restaurant on Welsh Row. Day boat hire from Bunbury starts at £99 for up to 10 people, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.
Travel through rural Worcestershire – From our canal boat hire base at Tardebigge near Bromsgrove, day boaters can cruise north along the Worcester & Birmingham Canal to Kings Norton Junction, passing through fields, woods and two tunnels, including one of the longest canal tunnels in the country – Wast Hills. 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 and it 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 a holiday or break on any of Anglo Welsh’s fleet, call our friendly booking team on 0117 304 1122.
We offer a range of different types of holidays such as City Breaks, Relaxation Cruises and Popular Destinations
So why choose Anglo Welsh?
More than 55 years providing unique canal boat holidays.
Modern & spacious narrowboat holiday fleet – from 2 to 12 berths.
Wide choice of narrowboat hire locations and canal.
Canal boat holiday routes for novices & experienced boaters.
Flexible holiday booking, no hidden costs.
Family friendly holidays, pets also welcome.
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