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Experience Christmas on the canals

Anglo Welsh’s reservations manager Emma Lovell offers a guide to the best winter cruising destinations this Christmas.

This winter, we are offering winter cruising* from eight of our narrowboat hire bases, giving you the chance to spend Christmas or New Year on the canals.

The canals are quieter during the winter months and people tend to make shorter journeys.  Winter canal boat hire is about enjoying being close to the water and visiting canalside pubs and attractions, rather than travelling lots of miles each day.

From a cosy narrowboat for two to a family canal boat for 12, all our boats have central heating, hot water, WiFi, TV and DVD players, so it’s always nice and warm on board.  Some of our boats also come with multi-fuel stoves for some extra special winter warmth, and there’s plenty of storage room on board, so you can bring lots of warm and wet weather clothing.

Some routes will be affected at times by the Canal & River Trust’s annual winter maintenance work, but we can provide information on any planned route closures at the time of booking.

Here’s our guide to our Top 8 narrowboat holidays for Christmas 2021:

1.    Float to through the Warwickshire countryside to Stratford upon Avon – from our narrowboat rental base on the Stratford Canal at Wootton Wawen in Warwickshire, it’s a six-hour cruise to Stratford upon Avon.  The journey takes you through the Warwickshire countryside, passing through 17 locks along the way. Once in Stratford, you can moor up in Bancroft Basin, just a short walk from this popular tourist town’s excellent choice of theatres, restaurants, markets and museums.

2.    Experience Christmas in the World Heritage City of Bath – on a short break from our canal boat hire base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Monkton Combe, you can reach moorings in Bath City Centre in around four cruising hours.  The route takes you along a section of the Avon Valley and up the Bath flight of six locks.  From moorings close to Pulteney Bridge, you can enjoy exploring this beautiful City, including the Roman Baths and medieval Bath Abbey.

3.    Cruise through the Staffordshire countryside to Fradley – heading south from our base at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal, you can reach Fradley Junction in around five hours.  The journey passes through five locks and 12 peaceful miles of Staffordshire countryside, including the Cannock Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  Places to enjoy along the way include The Wolseley Centre run by the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, the Wolseley Arms pub and the village of Handsacre with its ‘The Old Peculiar’ pub.  Once at Fradley, refreshments are available at the Canalside Café or The Swan Inn, and there are walking trails at the Fradley Pool Nature Reserve.

4.    Travel through the Shropshire Lake District to Ellesmere – from our base at Whixall on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire, it takes around four hours to reach the historic town of Ellesmere.  Along the way, the route passes Lyneal Moss and Colemere Country Park.  Once at Ellesmere, there’s a choice of independent shops and restaurants, as well as formal gardens, woods and castle grounds to explore.

5.    Navigate into the centre of Birmingham – from our base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, it takes around five hours to boat into the heart of Birmingham.  Boasting more canals than Venice and with preparations underway to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games, it’s a great time to visit Britain’s vibrant second city.  And there are no locks to pass through along the way, so this is also a good route for canal boat holiday beginners.

6.    Visit the ancient city of Chester afloat – from our base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal near Tarporley, it’s a seven-hour cruise through the Cheshire countryside to Chester.  Once there, you can visit the City’s famous 700-year old two-tired shopping galleries – the Rows.  And you can also take time to explore Chester’s Roman City Walls, Amphitheatre, riverside gardens and sparkling city centre Christmas lights.

7.    Cruise to the Eisteddfod town of Llangollen – from our base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, it takes around two hours to cruise to Llangollen.  There you can moor up in Llangollen Basin and enjoy visiting this beautiful town nestled in the Berwyn Mountains.  Things to visit include the Llangollen Steam Railway, Plas Newydd house and gardens and the Horseshoe Falls.  There’s a great choice of independent shops and places to eat, including the popular Corn Mill with stunning river and mountain views.

8.    Enjoy Christmas in historic Bradford on Avon – on a short break from our narrow boat hire base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Sydney Wharf, you can cruise to the historic market town of Bradford on Avon.  The journey takes around four hours and passes through just one lock.  Bradford on Avon, situated on the southern edge of the Cotswolds, has beautiful limestone buildings echoing those of nearby Bath.  It is packed with historic buildings, including the 14th century Tithe Barn and 15th century chapel of St Mary Tory, with amazing views across the town.  There’s a great choice of independent shops and places to eat to choose from.

*NB Winter maintenance work can affect some routes at certain times.  Customers are advised to check at the time of booking.

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Anglo Welsh Celebrates 55 years afloat

Anglo Welsh Celebrates 55 years afloat

Carl Cowlishaw, Operations Director for Anglo Welsh, reflects on 55 years of providing great value narrowboat holidays

This year we are delighted to be celebrating our 55th birthday.  In that time, we’ve grown from a fledgling canal boat hire company, operating just two boats from Market Harborough, to one of the largest operators on the network.  We now offer over 160 narrowboats for hire from 11 bases across England and Wales.

Since we began operating, Britain’s canals have undergone an incredible renaissance, with hundreds of miles of canals restored to navigation and over £1billion invested in the network.

Tom Rolt inspired a generation to fight to save the waterways

In the 1960’s, freight carrying on our waterways had been in major decline for decades.  It was Tom Rolt’s pioneering journey on narrowboat ‘Cressy’ in 1939 and his book ‘Narrow Boat’, that inspired a generation to fight to save Britain’s ailing inland waterways network, and sparked the beginning of the canal boat holiday era.

Canal boat holidays in the 1940’s and 50’s were usually on ex freight-carrying boats, altered to provide very basic accommodation with no shower, freshwater storage, heating or insulation.  Instead, it was just camp beds, pump toilets, camping stoves and blankets.

In 1968, Barbara Castle’s Transport Act officially recognised the nation’s canals as a leisure resource, paving the way for new life to be breathed into the network.  And by the 1970’s Anglo Welsh had established itself as a fully operating hire boat company.  Back then we were running a fleet of 48 narrowboats out of four locations – Market Harborough, Trevor, Wootton Wawen and Great Haywood.

Today, after decades of investment by successive governments, and the tireless efforts of thousands of canal restoration volunteers across the country, the canal network is in great shape.  There are now over 35,000 canal boats on the network, and around 350,000 people holiday on the canals each year.

All mod cons are provided on today’s holiday hire boats

As well as a thriving network to cruise along, the standard of accommodation on board today’s purpose-built holiday narrowboats has changed dramatically.  All the essential mod cons are provided on board our purpose-built holiday narrowboats.

From central heating and hot water to TV’s, WiFi, fully-equipped kitchens, showers and flushing toilets.  Here at Anglo Welsh, we offer a range of boats – from traditional value for money narrowboats, to the very best in luxury and space afloat, with extra shower rooms and toilets, more space per person and multi-fuel stoves.

Our holidays are more popular than ever

The coronavirus pandemic has led many people to explore their local area for the first time, and discover the beauty of their local waterway.  And with staycations increasing in popularity, our holidays have never been more popular.

We look forward to welcoming you on board

We are very much looking forward to welcoming canal boat holiday-makers back to our boats and the canals.  Customer service continues to be of paramount importance to us, so whether you’re a complete novice or an experienced canal boater, our knowledgeable staff are on hand to provide all the advice you need.  We can help you to choose the best boat, departure point and route for you, and your family or friends.

On behalf of the Anglo Welsh team, we’d like to thank all our customers for coming to us for their canal boat holiday experience over the last 55 years.  We look forward to continuing to provide great value canal boat holidays, and hopefully welcoming you on board again soon!

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Celebrate a special occasion with a day afloat on your local waterway

Bookings manager, Emma Lovell, highlights Anglo Welsh’s Top 6 day boat destinations for 2021.

Whether you are celebrating a special occasion, like Mother’s Day or a birthday, or just looking for a different day out in your local area, our day boats offer the chance to enjoy a relaxing day afloat on your local waterway.

You can cruise gently along, watching out for waterway wildlife, and enjoying a picnic afloat or lunch at a canalside pub along the way.

We offer day boat hire from six of our bases, from just £99 per day for up to 10 people*. Full tuition is included, so you can get the hang of steering, working the locks and mooring up. Cruising hours during the season are from 9am to 4pm.

All our day boats are equipped with the facilities you need for a day afloat – cutlery, crockery, a kettle, cooker, fridge and toilet. There’s indoor and outdoor seating on all our day boats, so whatever the weather, you can enjoy the ever changing view.

And if you’ve ever fancied taking a canal boat holiday, but want to experience what it’s like before committing to a short break or week away, our day boats offer a great way to dip your toe in the water.

To help you plan your day out of the ordinary on one of our beautiful canals, we’ve put together a list of our Top 6 day boat destinations for 2021:

1. Wend your way through the Shropshire countryside to Whitchurch – from our canal boat hire base at Whixall on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire, you can head to the historic market town of Whitchurch on a day afloat. The lock-free journey, which takes just over two hours, travels through six peaceful miles of countryside, passing the medieval Pan Castle. Once at Whitchurch, you can moor up to explore the town with its half-timbered buildings, independent shops and restaurants, way-marked circular walks and Brown Moss nature reserve. Prices aboard our Whixall day boat ‘Julia’ are £99 for up to 10 people on a weekday, £150 on weekends and bank holidays.

2. Potter along the Stratford Canal to Wilmcote – from our narrowboat rental base at Wootton Wawen near Henley-in-Arden in Warwickshire, day boaters can head south along the Stratford Canal. The route takes you across the impressive Edstone Aqueduct and passes through one lock before reaching the historic village of Wilmcote in around two hours. You can moor up above Wilmcote Top Lock and take a short walk into the village, where you’ll find a choice of pubs, and The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s Mary Arden Farm. Prices aboard our Wootton Wawen day boats ‘Dolly’ and ‘Charlie’ are £99 for up to 10 people on a weekday, £150 on weekends and bank holidays.

3. Cruise the Trent & Mersey to Rugeley for some Outstanding Beauty – from our narrowboat hire base at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal near Stafford, on a day out, you can reach the historic market town of Rugeley. The journey travels four miles, passes through two locks and takes around two hours. Along the way, you’ll pass the National Trust’s Shugborough Estate and Cannock Chase Forest, a designated Area of Outstanding Beauty. Once at Rugeley, you 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 or lunch at the canalside Wolseley Arms pub. Prices aboard our Great Haywood day boats ‘Daphne’ and ‘Abi’ are £99 on a weekday, £150 on weekends and bank holidays.

4. Travel through the Forest of Arden in Worcestershire – from our canal boat hire base at Tardebigge near Bromsgrove, on a day out you can cruise north along the Worcester & Birmingham Canal to Kings Norton Junction in around two and a half hours. The eight-mile, zero-lock journey passes through the remains of the Forest of Arden, with two canal tunnels along the way, including Wast Hills, which at 2,493 metres long is one of the longest in the country. There’s a choice of pubs along the way, including The Crown or The Weighbridge at Alvechurch, and the Hopwood House at Hopwood. Prices aboard our Tardebigge day boat ‘Emma’ are £99 on a weekday, £150 on weekends and bank holidays. ‘Emma’ can also be hired for a night for two people for £198, plus fuel.

5. Glide across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ for some incredible views – 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 Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. Standing at over 38 metres high and stretching for 305 metres across the Dee Valley, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, is truly one of the wonders of the waterways. After travelling across the Aqueduct, enjoying incredible views of the valley below, you can continue on to Glendrid to enjoy lunch at the Poacher’s Inn. This gentle five-mile journey with no locks, also takes you across Chirk Aqueduct and through Whitehouse and Chirk tunnels. Prices aboard our Trevor day boats ‘Jacob’, ‘Daniel’ and ‘Lotty’ are £120 on a weekday, £180 on weekends and bank holidays.

6. Cruise through the Cheshire countryside to Nantwich – from our canal boat rental base at Bunbury Wharf on the Shropshire Union Canal near Tarporley, on a day afloat you can cruise to Nantwich and back. The journey takes you through six peaceful miles of countryside, past the canalside Barbridge Inn and across the impressive Grade II* listed Nantwich Aqueduct with panoramic views across the town. With no locks along the way, the journey to Nantwich takes around two hours. Prices aboard our Bunbury day boat ‘Bella’ are £99 on a weekday, £150 on weekends and bank holidays.

There’s more information about our day hire here https://www.anglowelsh.co.uk/Our-Boats/dayboats

 

*Depending on the date of the booking, please adhere to any relevant coronavirus restrictions that may be in place

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Hire a canal boat for the day and explore the countryside afloat

This summer, great days out are going to be more important than ever after months of lockdown restrictions.

If you are looking for ways to entertain your family locally this summer, how about hiring a canal boat for the day? It’s easy to learn how to steer a narrowboat and full tuition is included in our day boat hire packages.

All the family will enjoy cruising gently through the countryside, watching out for wildlife along the way, learning how to steer the boat and navigate the canals, as well as stopping off for towpath walks and waterside picnics along the way.

Here at Anglo Welsh, we offer day boat hire at six of our canal boat hire bases, including Trevor on the Llangollen Canal, which, subject to guidance from the Welsh government, will reopen on 13 July*.

Day boat hire is now open at all our English bases and all our day boats are equipped with cutlery, crockery, a kettle, fridge, cooker and a toilet so you can pack a picnic and head out for the day with everything you need. Prices start at £99 per day for up to 10 people.

Here’s a guide to our day boat hire option available this summer:

Cheshire: our day boat ‘Bella’ operates from our boat hire base at Bunbury Wharf on the Shropshire Union Canal near Tarporley. From there, you 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. Prices for up to ten people are £99 on a weekday, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.

Shropshire: our day boat ‘Julia’ is available to hire from our canal boat hire base at Whixall on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire. From Whixall, you can either head east to Whitchurch, or west to Ellesmere. The lock-free journey to the historic market town of Whitchurch takes just over two hours, and travels through six peaceful miles of countryside, passing the remains of the medieval motte and bailey Pan Castle. Alternatively, the journey to Ellesmere takes around three hours, cruising through eight miles of stunning countryside, passing Bettisfield Windmill, Lyneal Moss and Colemere Country Park along the way. Day boat hire prices are £99 for up to 10 people on a weekday, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.

Staffordshire: our day boats ‘Daphne’ and ‘Abi’ are available to hire from our narrowboat hire base at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal near Stafford. From there, you can either travel south to the historic market town of Rugeley, or north to the village of Sandon. The journey to Rugeley travels four miles, passes through two locks and takes around two hours. Along the way, you’ll pass the National Trust’s impressive Shugborough Estate, the Cannock Chase Forest Area of Outstanding Beauty the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust’s Wolseley Centre. Alternatively, the journey north to Sandon takes you through five miles of peaceful Staffordshire countryside, passing through just three locks along the way. Prices are £99 for up to 10 people on a weekday, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.

Warwickshire: our day boats ‘Dolly’ and ‘Charlie’ operate out of our narrowboat rental base at Wootton Wawen near Henley-in-Arden in Warwickshire. From there, you can either head south along the Stratford Canal to the historic village of Wilmcote, or north to Lowsonford. The two-hour journey to Wilmcote crosses the impressive Edstone Aqueduct and passes through just one lock. Alternatively, the journey to the village of Lowsonford takes three hours, travelling eight miles and passing through eight locks along the way. The route passes through fields and wooded sections, the remains of the Forest of Arden. Prices are £99 for up to 10 people on a weekday, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.

Wrexham (from 13 July): our day boats ‘Jacob’, ‘Daniel’ and ‘Lotty’ operate out of our canal boat hire centre at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales. On a day afloat, we recommend you cruise across the incredible Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which stands at over 38 metres high and offers boaters incredible views across the Dee Valley below. After travelling across the Aqueduct, you can continue on to Gledrid. This gentle five-mile journey with no locks, also takes canal boaters across Chirk Aqueduct and through Whitehouse and Chirk tunnels. Alternatively, you can head to Llangollen, reaching the town in around two hours. Prices are £120 on a weekday, £160 on weekends and bank holidays.

Worcestershire: our day boat ‘Emma’ is available to hire from our canal boat hire base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove. On a day out, you can cruise north along the Worcester & Birmingham Canal to Kings Norton Junction in around two-and-a-half hours. The eight-mile, zero-lock journey passes through fields, wooded sections and two canal tunnels, including Wast Hills, which at 2,493 metres long is one of the longest in the country. Day boat hire from Tardebigge costs £99 on a weekday and £140 on weekends and bank holidays.

There’s more information about our day hire here https://www.anglowelsh.co.uk/Our-Boats/dayboats

*At the time of publication, government guidance to control the spread of the coronavirus in England allows two households to cruise together, plus their ‘support bubble’. And in Wales two households will be able to join together to form an “extended household” and would be able to cruise together. For more information about visiting the canals safely at this time, go to https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/enjoy-the-waterways/safety-on-our-waterways/coronavirus

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Narrowboating through the years: canal boats of the past, present and future

All our holiday canal boats here at Anglo Welsh are narrowboats – based on the traditional barges designed specifically to navigate the narrow canals of England and Wales. Of course, our rental narrowboats have been built with the comfort and convenience of our guests as the primary focus so while the exteriors are that of a traditional narrowboat, all our barges are fitted out with contemporary luxuries and appliances.

Narrowboats are an evocative sight, harking back to Britain’s industrial past. Just as most of the canals have changed little since their construction in the 18th century, the basic design of narrowboats has also remained largely the same for more than 200 years.

Here we thought we would offer a brief history of the narrowboat as well as looking at what the future may hold for canal boats.

But first, to clarify, purists tend to refer to the old working boats as ‘narrow boats’ and the leisure craft that are now such a common sight on the canals as ‘narrowboats’. For simplification, we will refer to narrowboats throughout.

Origins of the narrowboat

The term narrowboat referred to the working boats built since the 18th century when the canals became the primary method for transporting large or bulky goods to and from factors to key ports or markets as industrialisation took hold.

It now also describes more modern narrowboats which are more often used as pleasure boats or homes but whose structure follows the same design.

The narrowboats were designed to ensure they could fit through the locks and under bridges with a minimum width of seven feet (2.1 metres).

Until the second half of the 18th century inland waterway craft design and size varied widely according to where in the country they were travelling. The concept of a standardised boat about 7-ft wide and 70-ft long is attributed to famous canal engineer James Brindley.

He agreed a deal with the Trent and Mersey Canal Company to build the locks on their canal to take boats of those dimensions. This was much too narrow to allow most boats then using the rivers the canal linked to. It set a precedent becoming the standard lock size for the rest of the Midlands canals meaning all boats wishing to use the canal network then had to meet these criteria.

The evolution of the narrowboat

During the canals’ heydays from the late 18th to early 20th centuries, hundreds of companies were operating narrowboats to transport goods all over England and Wales. All the original wooden narrowboats were horse drawn, hence all canals having a towpath running their entire length.

Originally boatmen would leave their families at home onshore while they went and worked the waterways for several weeks at a time. As the 19th century progressed and canal companies were squeezed by competition from the railways, real wages fell and that became financially impossible. This meant boatmen’s families often travelled with them on the boats working as unpaid crew living in very cramped conditions.

More fortunate were the independent self-employed boatmen who owned their own vessel and were known as ‘Number Ones’.

Steam engine powered narrowboats began to appear in the latter part of the 19th century, mostly used for the longer distance journeys between London and the east and west Midlands. Steamers often worked non-stop day and night to meet their strict schedules.

The problem with steam power was the engine and coal took up a lot of space reducing the cargo capacity and they required a much bigger crew – seven men for a steam and tow barge.

One of the leading narrowboat companies Fellows Morton & Clayton Ltd (FMC) began experimenting with gas engines in the early 1900s and in 1912 fitted a Bolinder engine onto a narrowboat called ‘Linda’.

When this proved a success all future narrowboats were fitted with Bolinder engines, some of which are still used today.

The inland waterways were nationalised in 1948 and carrying companies including FMC and the Grand Union Canal Carrying Company Ltd transferred their fleets over to the newly formed British Transport Commission which later became the British Waterways Board and is now the Canal and River Trust.

During World War Two and the years that followed it, the canals were allowed to fall into disrepair with many becoming impassable. In the 1960s the British Waterways Board ceased most of its narrowboat carrying work and many vessels were left abandoned.

But it was around this time that work to restore the canals began to gain momentum. Since the 1960s hundreds of miles of canals as well as many historic engineering features have been repaired and are now enjoyed by people up and down the country as a wonderful recreational resource. The inland waterways are now used by more boats than at any other time in their history with most used as leisure vessels for canal boat holidays and day trips. But there are also many boats that provide floating homes, offices and there are still working boats carrying goods from place to place.

Many of the earliest pleasure boats were converted former working narrowboats but over time most boat building yards diversified into purpose building pleasure craft with sturdy steel hulls. This is the model of our wonderful fleet of narrowboat hire boats at Anglo Welsh.

The future of canal boats

The canals now host a colourful variety of vessels, from former lifeboats to fiberglass motorboats of all shapes and sizes. Enthusiasm for our historic waterways as a beautiful resource for boats, runners, cyclists, kayakers, nature lovers and more, shows no signs of abating. There are ongoing projects to restore and open up new stretches of the canals with volunteer groups up and down the country who give up their free time to maintain and clear these historic routes.

The popularity of narrowboats and other canal vessels as floating homes has soared in the last decade as rising rents have encouraged people to look for more creative living options. This shows no signs of abating – nor does the popularity of narrowboat holidays. Our holiday narrowboats vary greatly in size to suit different groups with some sleeping just two people while others have berths for up to 12 as well as different levels of luxury and style according to guests needs.

The key change we are likely to see in coming years is the move towards much more environmentally viable narrowboats, in terms of the materials used to build and maintain them, the appliances used onboard and the fuel used to power them. We are likely to see the diesel engines that currently dominate replaced by more green powered forms of propulsion. Electric engines, solar panels and wind turbines will become the norm. That way we can all continue to enjoy the canals for many more years to come while at the same time, protecting the environment.

 

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Amazing Canal Facts

Amazing canal facts worth reading ahead of your narrowboat holiday

 

There are more than 2000 miles of navigable canals and rivers throughout England and Wales, making up an intricate network which enables boats to travel the length and breadth of the country. Between them, these inland waterways boast 1,569 locks, 53 tunnels, 3112 bridges, 370 aqueducts and 74 reservoirs. Most were built more than 200 years ago and have fascinating stories to tell as well as featuring many historic feats of engineering which still wow visitors today. This is a large part of what makes a canal boat holiday so magical – a narrowboat takes you on a journey through history and human endeavor.

If you are considering a canal boat holiday, why not first have a read of these amazing canal facts which will only add to the wonder of your cruise along these historic waterways.

1) The oldest working canal in the UK is about 1,900 years old

The Fossdyke Navigation which runs between Lincoln and the River Trent at Torksey was built by the Romans in around AD 120 and is still in use today. Extending 11.3 miles, with one lock, the Fossdyke formed part of a key transport route from Peterborough to York.

It is said to have been used by the invading Danes and the Normans to carry stone to build Lincoln Cathedral in the 11th century. The canal was revamped under King Henry I in 1121 but then fell into disrepair and silted up until, by the 17th century, it was virtually impassable. In 1744 a proper channel was restored and maintained and the canal has remained navigable ever since.

2) The longest canal tunnel in the UK runs for more than 5000 metres – or 3.5 miles

The Standedge Tunnel on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal is the longest, deepest and highest canal tunnel in Britain. Built over 16 years from 1794 to 1811, it stands at 196 metres above sea level, at a depth of 194 metres underneath the Pennines. The canal was closed to traffic in 1943 and re-opened in May 2001. Moor up during your canal boat holiday and learn more about this 19th century wonder of engineering at the Standedge Tunnel and Visitor Centre.

3) Britain’s longest aqueduct extends more than 300 metres – or 1000 ft

Deservedly described as the jewel in the crown of Britain’s canals, the awe-inspiring Pontcysyllte Aqueduct carries narrowboats on the Llangollen Canal at a soaring 38 metres – 126 ft – above the River Dee, offering stunning views of the valley and surrounding hills. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999, the 18-arch aqueduct was designed by legendary civil engineer Thomas Telford and built between 1795 and 1805.

Located right next to the Anglo Welsh narrowboat hire base at Trevor, this is a spectacular way to start or finish a canal boat holiday from this idyllic location.

4) The longest lock flight in the UK is 30 locks long

The Tardebigge lock flight enables Worcester and Birmingham Canal to ascend 67 metres (220 feet) over a 2.25 mile stretch. Built between 1808 and 1815, the lock flight enabled an extension of the canal from Birmingham to the River Severn at Worcester to be completed. Until the lock ladder was constructed, originally with a boat lift in place of the 3.4-metre (11 feet) top lock, the canal only travelled as far the Old Wharf next to Tardebigge Tunnel.

The Canal and River Trust offers a certificate of achievement to any boaters that complete the journey through the 30 locks so why not make it your challenge for your next canal boat holiday. Find out how you can claim yours here.

5) The longest UK canal runs for 137 miles

The Grand Union Canal links London with Birmingham via Milton KeynesNorthampton and Leamington Spa and would take about 74 hours to cruise the whole length non-stop. It winds its way through rolling countryside, idyllic towns and villages with 158 locks and striking historic features including the Iron Trunk Aqueduct, the steep Hatton Lock Flight and The Canal Museum at Stoke Bruerne.

The name of the canal offers a clue as to its origins, for it was not built as one waterway but was the result of connecting existing waterways to create an uninterrupted link between the industrial heartlands of Birmingham and the west midlands with the capital.

The longest canal in Britain built as a single waterway is the Leeds & Liverpool Canal at 127 miles long.

6) The newest canal in the UK was completed in 2002

The Ribble Link canal was opened just 17 years ago to connect the previously isolated Lancaster Canal with the rest of the national inland waterways network. It runs for just four miles from Preston to the River Ribble which then connects to the Leeds and Liverpool canal.

With nine locks, the Ribble Link is tidal so only navigable at certain times with advance booking needed as all boats must be helped through. A link between the Lancaster Canal and the wider canal network was first discussed 200 years ago but due to costs and engineering challenges did not come to fruition until 2000 with the help of a grant from the Millennium Commission.

7) Britain’s shortest canal is just 22 metres – or 72 feet – long

The Wardle Lock Branch of the Trent & Mersey Canal consists of just one 72ft-long lock and a few yards of canal on either side. It was built in 1829 to link the Trent and Mersey Canal with the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal.

8) A cow once swan the whole length of the Foulridge Tunnel

In 1912 a cow named Buttercup fell into the Leeds and Liverpool Canal near the southern end of the tunnel which carries the waterway for a mile under the Lancashire countryside. Rather than climb out of the canal as normal, Buttercup swam all 1500 metres to Foulridge at the northern end. On arrival, Buttercup was revived with brandy by locals drinking at the nearby Hole in the Wall pub.

9) Canals have plugs, literally

In 1978, a group of British Waterways workers who were dredging the Chesterfield Canal pulled up a chain which had a heavy lump of wood attached to the end. As the entire canal between Whitsunday Pie Lock and Retford Town Lock began to empty away into the River Idle, they realised they had pulled out a long forgotten canal plug.

10) There are more boats now on the UK canals than at any other time in history

While Britain’s industrial heydays of 18th and 19th century are generally viewed as the golden age of canals, there are actually more craft on our waterways today. Despite the canals being used by far less commercial traffic, they have become a mecca for pleasure craft and a growing number of people opting for floating homes. There are now around 34,000 boats on Britain’s canals and rivers, which provide homes, workplaces and holidays for millions of people. We are proud that Anglo Welsh can claim to be the proud owners of 160 of these vessels providing wonderful narrowboat holidays for people up and down the country.

 

 

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.

Early history

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 famous potter Josiah Wedgewood commissioned the construction of canals to transport his goods from the Staffordshire factories to Manchester and Birmingham. He was instrumental in the building of the Trent and Mersey Canal which was completed in 1777.

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, MontgomeryShropshire 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.

Decline

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.

Reinvention

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:

The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, completed in 1805, the Llangollen Canal

Nearest Anglo Welsh narrowboat hire base: Trevor

 

The Anderton Boat Lift, completed 1875, the Trent and Mersey Canal and River Weaver

Nearest Anglo Welsh narrowboat hire base: Bunbury

 

The Barton Swing Aqueduct, built 1893, Bridgewater Canal

Nearest Anglo Welsh narrowboat hire base: Bunbury or Silsden

 

Chirk Aqueduct, completed 1801, Llangollen Canal

Nearest Anglo Welsh narrowboat hire base: Trevor

 

Foxton Inclined Plane, opened 1900 and dismantled 1928, Grand Union Canal

Nearest Anglo Welsh narrowboat hire base: Stockton

 

Dudley Tunnel, completed 1791, Dudley Canal

Nearest Anglo Welsh narrowboat hire base: Great Haywood and Tardebigge

 

Blisworth Tunnel, completed 1805, Grand Union Canal

Nearest Anglo Welsh narrowboat hire base: Stockton

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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.

Early history

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 famous potter Josiah Wedgewood commissioned the construction of canals to transport his goods from the Staffordshire factories to Manchester and Birmingham. He was instrumental in the building of the Trent and Mersey Canal which was completed in 1777.

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, MontgomeryShropshire 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.

Decline

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.

Reinvention

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:

The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, completed in 1805, the Llangollen Canal

Nearest Anglo Welsh narrowboat hire base: Trevor

 

The Anderton Boat Lift, completed 1875, the Trent and Mersey Canal and River Weaver

Nearest Anglo Welsh narrowboat hire base: Bunbury

 

The Barton Swing Aqueduct, built 1893, Bridgewater Canal

Nearest Anglo Welsh narrowboat hire base: Bunbury or Silsden

 

Chirk Aqueduct, completed 1801, Llangollen Canal

Nearest Anglo Welsh narrowboat hire base: Trevor

 

Foxton Inclined Plane, opened 1900 and dismantled 1928, Grand Union Canal

Nearest Anglo Welsh narrowboat hire base: Stockton

 

Dudley Tunnel, completed 1791, Dudley Canal

Nearest Anglo Welsh narrowboat hire base: Great Haywood and Tardebigge

 

Blisworth Tunnel, completed 1805, Grand Union Canal

Nearest Anglo Welsh narrowboat hire base: Stockton

 

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Winter at Wootton Wawen

By Matt Lucas Stern, boat yard manager at Wootton Wawen

The canals and our boat yard are quieter during the winter months, but not too quiet here at Wootton Wawen as we continue to offer canal boat hire for winter cruising.

Although some of our routes will be affected by winter maintenance on the canals, which this year will include spot dredging on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal, there are no works planned for the Stratford Canal, so our immediate routes remain open.

As the canals are even more peaceful during the winter months they can offer a great way to get away over Christmas. We still see plenty of wildlife here during the winter, including many hedgerow birds like black birds, great tits and robins, as well as plenty of ducks, coots, moorhens, geese, herons and swans, including a couple of resident Australian black swans.

Stratford is probably the most popular Christmas and New Year destination from our boat yard.  The Christmas lights, carol singers and markets make it a very special place to be over the festive period.

Alternatively, boaters can head north from our boat yard and find a choice of pubs with roaring log fires and Christmas menus, including the popular Crabmill at Preston Bagot and the Fleur de Lys at Lowsonford.  And the Yew Tree Farm Shopping Village and Café here at Wootton Wawen is always a fun place to visit during the Christmas build-up.  It’s great for stocking up on Christmas lunch goodies.

I live aboard my boat here at Wootton Wawen with my dog Caesar, so as well as working by the water I’m also lucky enough to live on the water too. Caesar is a miniature English bull terrier who is 14 months old.  He seems to love the life on the canal and walking along the towpath. But he is terrified of ducks!

A dog is a great addition to your crew on any narrowboating holiday as they will enjoy it just as much as you.  Just make sure you keep a close eye on them – Caesar floats about as well as a stone.

I have a 1993 Mike Heywood narrowboat with a Lister air-cooled mid-engine. I’ve started to rebuild my boat’s traditional boat man’s cabin as a homage of the old ways on the canal network.  But there’s plenty of scumbling and roses and castles left to go yet!

 

 

With careful planning, my boat stays cosy and warm even during the coldest nights. I have gas central heating – just like all our hire boats.  I also have a multi-fuel stove, something which some of our hire boats also have, including our luxury Heritage Class boat ‘Poppy’.

‘Poppy’ arrived here at Wootton Wawen at the beginning of the 2018 boating season.  Since then she has consistently wowed her hirers with the extra space and facilities she provides for holiday groups of up to four people.  She’s 66ft long – so almost as long as our 12-berth boats.  She has two cabins which can either be configured as doubles or singles and she also has two bathrooms with full size showers.

Anglo Welsh has a history of supporting the military (we offer 15 per cent off our holidays to all service personnel) and we wanted to do something special for the Chelsea Pensioners.  So as well as naming our Heritage Class boat ‘Poppy’ we have pledged to give £10 to The Royal Hospital Chelsea and Chelsea Pensioner’s Active Ageing Appeal for every booking made on ‘Poppy’ between 1 November 2019 and 1 November 2020.

 

And from next March, we’ll be adding ‘Collingwood’ to our Wootton Wawen fleet – the first of four new luxury Admiral Class boats.  She will be 57ft and will offer spacious accommodation for two people.  We look forward to welcoming her here next Spring!

 

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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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