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Best spring canal boat holidays

Best spring canal boat holiday breaks in 2024

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.

Our beautiful inland waterways weave through the countryside taking in woodlands, farmland, nature reserves and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Travelling along at just four miles per hour on a canal boat holiday, there’s always something special to look out for.

In spring, when the countryside is bursting with new life, there’s no better way to see waterside trees and hedges covered blossom, nest-building birds, ducklings bobbing on the water, spring lambs playing in the fields, and carpets of bluebells in waterside woodlands.

To celebrate Britain’s natural environment, we’ve put together a guide to our best spring canal boat holiday destinations for 2024:

  1. Navigate through Shakespeare country and Warwickshire farmland 

    From our narrowboat hire base at Wootton Wawen 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.

  2. Cruise into the Peak District spotting kingfishers along the way

    On a week’s break from our barge hire base on the Trent & Mersey Canal at Great Haywood in Staffordshire, you 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.

  3. Cruise to Ellesmere to catch a glimpse of a heron chick

    On a short break from our base on the Llangollen Canal at Trevor in North Wales, on a short break (three or four nights) you can cruise to the Shropshire Lake District, teeming with water birds. 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 the Pontcysyllte and Chirk aqueducts.  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.

  4. Cruise to the gateway of the Yorkshire Dales and explore the ancient woods at Skipton Castle

    From 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 1,000 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.

  5. Drift through the beautiful prehistoric Vale of Pewsey

    From our base at Monkton Combe 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, you’ll 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).

  6. Travel to Llangollen on the edge of the Berwyn Mountains

    From Whixall, 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, you’ll travel through the beautiful Shropshire Lake District and across the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’ and now a UNESCO World Heritage site.  Once in Llangollen, you 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).

  7. Navigate the Four Counties Ring for stunning views of the Cheshire Plains  

    On a week’s break from Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire, you can travel round the popular Four Counties Ring. Travelling for around 58 hours and passing through 96 locks, this route takes you 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; 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.

  8. Take a Thames boating holiday to Abingdon and listen out for cuckoos calling

    From our Oxford barge hire base on the River Thames, 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. As well as cruising through the outskirts of the ancient City of Oxford, you’ll pass through beautiful stretches of Oxfordshire countryside, with lush meadows, stretches of bluebells woodlands alongside the river and the chance to hear cuckoos calling.  Once moored up at Abingdon, you can enjoy exploring riverside walks, parks and eateries, including the popular waterside Nag’s Head.

Click here to check availability and book.

The Canal & River Trust as produced a Spotters Guide to Waterway Wildlife.

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We are taking steps to make our holidays more sustainable

By Matt Lucas Stern, our Operations Manager

More and more people and companies are taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint and change their consumption patterns.

Here at Anglo Welsh, we’ve been looking at ways to reduce our impact on the environment.

For the last six years, all our new boats have been fitted with LED lighting and the latest engines with lower emissions.  By 2022, we aim to have replaced all on board lights with LED bulbs and in 2023, we plan to introduce our first hybrid powered boat.

This year, we’ve introduced our first electric call out van here at Wootton Wawen, and by 2030 we’d like to have replaced all our company vans with electric vehicles.

During this winter we have fitted solar panels on the roof of one of our boats, to trial here at Wootton Wawen next March.  They will be on our two berth Admiral Class boat ‘Collingwood’ and will provide power for some of the on board facilities, including the lights, fridge and television.  By 2030, we aim to have solar panels on all our new boats.  We are also looking at opportunities to fit solar panels at some of our bases, to help power our laundries and electric vehicles.

From next Spring, all our boats will be stocked with natural, eco-friendly and cruelty-free washing up liquids and cleaning products on board.

There’s so much we can do to make our holidays more sustainable, and we look forward to bringing you news of our progress as we embark on our journey to reach net zero by 2050.

In the meantime, here are our Top 10 tips to help you make your holiday more sustainable:

1.    Use green cleaning products – be kinder to the environment and aquatic life by using the eco cleaning products provided on board, and bring along microbead free toiletries.

2.    Bring your own hot drinks cups – so if you stop off to buy a coffee somewhere on your narrow boat holiday you won’t need a ‘difficult to recycle’ disposable cup.

3.    Reduce your use of plastic bottles – you can use water from the boat’s tank to make a cup of tea, but you will need to stock up on fresh drinking water, so we suggest bringing one large bottle or canteen to top up at water points.

4.    Take part in the #PlasticsChallenge – each year an estimated 14 million pieces of plastic rubbish ends up in Britain’s canals and rivers, with around 500,000 pieces flowing out into our oceans.  The Canal & River Trust is asking everyone who visits its waterways to pledge to pick up at least at least one piece of plastic litter each time we visit the waterways.

5.    Bring your own shopping bags – ready for shop-stops en route and avoid buying products with excess packaging.

6.    Plan some vegan and vegetarian recipes afloat – it’s healthier for us and the planet to eat less meat, so when you are planning your pre-holiday shop, include some meat-free meals.

7.    Shop locally – look out for farm shops and local stores selling locally grown produce that are walking distance from your canal boat holiday route, as well as pubs with menus using locally sourced ingredients.

8.    Bag all rubbish – help keep rubbish and plastic out of the waterways by making sure all your bin bags are tied securely so they can’t spill open, and make use of canalside recycling facilities along the way.

9.    Burn greener fuels – if you book a boat with a multi fuel stove, burn the fire logs provided made from recycled sawdust and wax instead of coal.

10. Become a Friend of the Canal & River Trust – to help protect and care for the waterway environment and the wildlife that lives there.

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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?

Over 55 years providing unique canal boat holidays in England and Wales.
Modern and spacious narrowboat and wide beam barge hire – from 2 to 12 berths.
Wide choice of narrowboat hire locations and canal boat holiday destinations.
Canal boat holiday routes for novices & experienced boaters.
Flexible holiday booking, no hidden costs.
Family friendly and pet friendly holidays.
Great days out on the water.
Luxury canal boat hire and Thames boating holidays.

Anglo Welsh. So much more than narrowboats

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

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