These boats offer extra space and facilities, as well as exacting standards of craftsmanship, comfort and finish. They will have accommodation for up to four people in two cabins (which can be made up as either doubles or singles), and two spacious bathrooms. They will have a substantial saloon area with a large TV, WiFi, multi-fuel stove, full radiator central heating, and a spacious kitchen with modern fittings and LED lighting.
Their striking blue and gold livery has been designed with Admiral Nelson in mind, in memory of our late Director Tim Nelson Parker, an incredible character who was devoted to the canals.
We launched our first Admiral Class boats in 2020, building on the popularity of our Heritage, Constellation and Bond Class luxury canal boats. All these boats offer increased space per person, and particularly high standards of comfort and finish.
2022 Admiral Class prices start at £875 for short break, £1,210 for a week.
Here’s a list of all our luxury narrow boats available to hire at our various bases in 2022:
· Bath – Codrington (four berth Admiral Class), Pheonix (four berth Constellation Class), Gloria (four berth Bond Class), Silvia (six berth Bond Class), Bradbury (six berth Bond Class), Sagittarius (10 berth Constellation Class) and Langton (12-berth Bond Class).
First pets are free on our holidays so you don’t have to leave your furry friend behind!
Narrowboats provide a floating holiday home so it’s possible to take all sorts of pets on the canals.
Canal boat holidays are especially great for dogs, with plenty of towpath walks and dog-friendly canalside pubs to visit, but over the years, we’ve accommodated many other kinds of pets, including rabbits, cats, hamsters, caged birds and goldfish.
First pets go for free on all our holidays, and we charge a £25 supplement for a second pet on a short break, £35 for a week.
Guide dogs go free of charge. We allow a maximum of two pets, plus a guide dog, but all bedding and pet facilities must be provided by the owner(s).
We recommend our cruiser stern boats for holidays with a dog, as there’s more room ‘on deck’ for the dog and the rest of the family to enjoy watching the world go by.
Now for some do’s and don’ts:
Do bring your dog’s bed to help them feel at home and don’t leave your dog unattended on board. Don’t let your dog swim in the canals, especially when there are ducklings, signets, goslings and other water bird chicks about and don’t forget to pack your poo bags!
To celebrate the fact our holidays are pet-friendly, we’ve put together our Top 10 destinations for animal lovers:
Cruise to Cannock Chase for acres of dog walking trails – on a short break from our barge hire base on the Trent & Mersey Canal at Great Haywood in Staffordshire, you can easily reach Cannock Chase Forest where there are miles of walking trails enjoy, as well as a dog activity trail. Once a Royal Forest, Cannock Chase is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with over 6,800 hectares of landscapes to explore. There are mixed deciduous woodlands, coniferous plantations and healthlands, which are home to a wide variety of animals and insects, including a herd of fallow deer, a number of rare and endangered birds, including migrant nightjars, as well as butterflies, bats and reptiles. The Wolseley Centre and Nature Reserve is next to the Trent & Mersey Canal at Wolseley Bridge, just two miles and two locks from Great Haywood, and offers a great gateway to Cannock Chase.
Cruise to the foot of the Caen Hill Flight – from our canal boat rental base at Brassknocker Basin on the Kennet & Avon Canal just outside Bath, on a short break (three or four nights) you can travel to Fox Hanger Wharf, at the foot of the mighty Caen Hill flight of locks in Devizes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways. Along the way, you’ll pass through miles of peaceful Wiltshire countryside, with a series of villages and dog-friendly country pubs to visit along the way, including The Cross Guns at Avoncliff, the Barge Inn at Bradford on Avon and the Barge Inn at Seend. Once at Caen Hill, you can moor up and explore the flight and its large side ponds, which provide a fantastic haven for wildlife. Full of fish, the side ponds provide an ideal habitat for dragonflies, butterflies and many types of water fowl – from swans, ducks and geese, to coots, moorhens, herons and cormorants. The journey to Fox Hanger Wharf and back takes around 19 hours, passing through 16 locks (eight each way).
Cruise to Ellesmere for some heron spotting – from our narrowboat hire 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 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. Moscow Island on The Mere in Ellesmere is home to the Heron Watch Scheme, where cameras allow visitors to watch the birds build nests and raise chicks. If you are on a four-night break, you will also have time to cruise to the pretty town of Llangollen, passing The Sun at Trevor, a traditional Welsh country pub and winner of the Rover Dog Friendly Awards in 2019.
Explore the gardens and the ancient topiary at Packwood House – from our canal boat rental base at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal near Henley-in-Arden, it’s a seven-mile, 31-lock and 10-hour journey to Lapworth Lock No 6, a half-mile walk from the National Trust’s beautiful Packwood House. Packwood’s magnificent gardens boast stunning herbaceous borders (including the unusual North African Cabbage Trees), a bountiful Kitchen Garden, Memorial Orchard, wildflower meadows and the iconic Yew Garden, where according to legend, the 350-year old trees represent the ‘Sermon on the Mount’. Dogs are welcome at Packwood on leads in the car park, on public footpaths across the estate, on the café terrace and in the barnyard. The house and formal gardens are only for humans.
Travel round the Stourport Ring and the up the longest lock flight in the country – on a week’s break from our canal boat rental base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, you 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, Tardebigge is the longest lock flight in the country.
Boat to the historic village of Wrenbury and back -from our canal boat hire base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire it takes around six hours, passing through 11 locks, to reach Wrenbury Mill on the Llangollen Canal. The journey takes you along 10 miles of waterway through quintessential Cheshire farmland and countryside. The historic village of Wrenbury, which is on the South Cheshire Way offers lots of countryside walks. It’s also a registered conservation area with plenty of wildlife to watch out for, particularly in the gardens of the Grade II listed St Margaret’s Church, and there’s a choice of pubs to visit: the canalside Dusty Miller, and the Cotton Arms in the village of Wrenbury.
Cruise along the River Thames into the Cotswolds – from our narrowboat hire base on the River Thames at Oxford, on a four-night mid-week break, you can take a tranquil nine-hour, seven-lock Thames boating holiday travelling west to the pretty market town of Lechlade on the edge of the Cotswolds. Along the way, boaters travel through miles of peaceful Oxfordshire countryside, with plenty of dog walking opportunities. Places to visit include the village of Radcot with its 800-year old bridge across the Thames, dog-friendly bar in the Ye Olde Swan Hotel and Civil War Garrison Earthworks, and Kelmscott with its Grade I listed Kelmscott Manor, once the Cotswold retreat of William Morris, and popular Plough Inn.
Watch out for wildlife on the Montgomery Canal – from our canal boat rental base at Whixall Marina, on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire, it takes around six hours to reach Frankton Junction, where the Llangollen Canal meets the Montgomery Canal. This beautiful canal, which runs for 38 miles between England and Wales, is recognised as a Special Area of Conservation, making it one of the most important sites for wildlife in Europe. Currently only around half the Montgomery Canal is navigable, including a seven-mile section from Frankton Junction to Gronwyn Wharf. The restoration of a further section from Gronwyn Wharf to Crickheath is expected to be completed later this year. From Whixall, the journey to Gronwyn Wharf and back takes around 20 hours, travelling through 34 miles of beautiful countryside and passing through 16 locks (eight each way). Along the way, you can look out for many types of waterway birds, animals and insects, including dragonflies, damselflies, the shy nocturnal otter, Daubenton’s bats skimming over the water at dusk, and the critically endangered water vole.
Travel round the Warwickshire Ring – from our canal boat hire base at Stockton, on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, you can travel round the Warwickshire Ring, one of the most popular canal cruising circuits in Britain. Cruising sections of the Grand Union, Oxford, Coventry and Birmingham & Fazeley canals, the Warwickshire Ring covers 104 miles, passes through 120 locks and takes around 60 hours to navigate. It can be done in a week, but a 10-day or two-week break gives more time for sight-seeing. Passing through many miles of countryside, with fields and ancient meadows and the occasional sleepy village for much of its length, the route also takes you through the vibrant city centre waterfronts of Birmingham. Destination highlights along the way include: the pretty canal village of Braunston; the awesome flight of 21 locks at Hatton; the splendid medieval Warwick Castle; and Birmingham’s Brindleyplace with its impressive National Sealife Centre.
See David Hockney’s Dachshunds at Saltaire – on a short break from Anglo Welsh’s canal boat hire base at Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool in West Yorkshire, you can reach the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Saltaire. Founded on the banks of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal near Bradford in 1851 by Sir Titus Salt, as a place for his woollen mill to operate and works to live, today Salts Mill has a number of galleries, including the stunning David Hockney Gallery. This beautiful exhibition space shows both permanent and temporary collections of the Bradford-born artist’s work, including prints of some of the portraits he has made of his beloved Dachshunds, Stanley and Boogie. Unfortunately dogs aren’t allowed in Salts Mill so if you bring your dog, you’ll have to take it in turns to visit.
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.
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.
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 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.
Top 5 Valentine’s Day Romantic Narrowboat Holiday Destinations Afloat on the UK Canals
Anglo Welsh The Narrowboat Company offer winter cruising from a number of bases, so why not treat your loved one to a love boat this Valentine’s Day?! Cuddle up together on a cosy boat for two, stop off at country pubs along the way, take romantic strolls along frosty towpaths and visit exciting waterside destinations for candlelit dinners for two. All our boats have central heating and some also have their own multi-fuel stoves, so it’s always warm and toasty on board.
Here are our top five romantic destinations for this Valentine’s Day:
Pop the question 40 metres up! Our Trevor base is close to the incredible World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which carries canal boats 40 metres high above the River Dee to enjoy spectacular views. From Trevor, on a short romantic break canal boat holiday-makers can reach the pretty town of Llangollen, dining at the popular Corn Mill or travel to Ellesmere to explore the beautiful Vale of Llangollen and Shropshire Lake District. On a week’s break out of Trevor, boaters can travel on to Wrenbury or Barbridge.
Wine & dine in Birmingham. Our Tardebigge base is a five-hour lock-free journey from the centre of Birmingham, where lovers can moor up at Gas Street Basin and saunter into town for theatre, museums and fine dining.
Read Shakespeare’s Sonnets in Stratford. From our base at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal, Stratford upon Avon, birthplace of Shakespeare, is a six-hour cruise away. Once there, boaters can moor up in Bancroft Basin and visit the Swan Theatre and the town’s many eateries. On a week’s break, narrowboat holiday-makers can travel the Birmingham Mini Ring.
Find rural retreats in Staffordshire. On a short break from our base at Great Haywood on the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal, boaters can enjoy mile-upon-mile of rural seclusion and head to the pretty canalside village of Fradley, with quiet country pubs and Fradley Pool Nature Reserve, a site of special importance for its biodiversity.
Enjoy a history trail in Chester. Our base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal is just seven hours by boat from the medieval City of Chester. Once there, boaters can moor up and walk the two-mile circular Eastgate Clock Treasure Trail, visiting ‘The Cross’ in the centre of Chester, quaint streets, the Roman walls, the River Dee, the iconic Eastgate Clock, Cathedral and The Rows. On a week’s break from Bunbury, boaters can cruise to Llangollen and back.
Our team of helpful and friendly canal holiday experts are available to take your booking. Please call us 0117 304 1122.
‘Barging Round Britain’ with canal lover John Sergeant
Narrowboat enthusiasts andJohn Sergeantfansalike will soon be celebrating as the man who shimmied his way into the nation’s hearts on ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ returns to our screens in April with anew series of ‘Barging Round Britain’. And as anyone who watched the first series will testify, Sergeant moves rather more gracefully on waterways than he ever did on the ballroom floor!
“Canal boating is a classic holiday,” says the former political correspondent, who traces the fascinating history of canals, meeting lock builders and families living on houseboats, and witnessing stunning architectural feats. “The British canal network is romantic and quite mysterious. You don’t know where these things are going and then you suddenly come across a tunnel that can go on for a mile – it’s pretty incredible.”
In his most spectacular journey in series one Sergeant cruised over the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, a thin bridge of water that carries the Llangollen Canal 126 feet over the River Dee in north-east Wales. “Going over the Aqueduct was a highlight. Amazing!” Sergeant recalls. Completed in 1805, this skinny passage is the longest and highest aqueduct in Britain, and took ten years to build. “It’s like a pencil,” he continues. “You look at it and you think, ‘This isn’t going to work,’ because there are no rails or anything. It’s magic.”
‘Barging Round Britain’isn’t Sergeant’s first go at being a helmsman, but the joys of dawn on a narrowboat are new territory. “I’m overnighting at least once on every trip,” he says, remembering a scene where he appears in his dressing gown on an empty canal. “There’s something amazing about waking up to complete silence. In one place there was nothing – nothing that way and nothing the other way. Just total peace and calm.”
“I’m very interested in history and there are moments when you get a real feel for the past on a narrowboat. It’s astonishing to have the canals still there and be able to use them. There’s no real equivalent. If all the steam trains were still working and you could go by steam all over Britain then that would be. But we can actually do that with canals. OK, they’re not horse-drawn, but the sensation and sights are exactly the same as when they were built. That is really something.”
Why not hire a narrowboat from Anglo Welsh’s base at Trevor on the Llangollen canal and follow John Sergeant’s “amazing journey” over the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct? Our team of friendly canal holiday experts are available to take your booking. Please call us on 0117 304 1122.
Series two of ‘Barging Round Britain’ is on ITV from April 22. The first series is now available on DVD and the accompanying book, ‘Barging Round Britain: Exploring the History of our Nation’s Canals and Waterways’ has recently been published in paperback.
Behind the scenes at Anglo Welsh. The family that plays together stays together.
Listening carefully to our loyal customers tells us that people keep coming back to Anglo Welsh because of our fantastic range of narrowboats located at convenient bases on the most picturesque waterways in England and Wales. It also tells us that people value our customer service very highly. In particular, they appreciate the unwavering passion of our canal-loving team.
“People really appreciate being greeted by a familiar smiling face when they hire a boat,” says Carl Cowlishaw, Anglo Welsh’s Operations Manager, “and we do have an uncommonly large number of long-serving staff at our bases. There must be something in the water at Anglo Welsh – excuse the pun – but once people join us, they never want to leave!”
Carl himself soon qualifies for a gold watch, despite still being a youthful 42. “I am now in my 28th year on the canals,” he says, almost wistfully. “I first started working at Anglo Welsh in Great Haywood as a Saturday lad when I was 14. The plan was to earn enough money to catch the bus to Woolworths in Stafford and buy the latest chart singles. If memory serves me right, one of them was ‘I Should Be So Lucky’ by Kylie Minogue!”
“My musical taste has changed a bit since then,” he continues, “but my love of narrowboats and the sheer pleasure of being around canals hasn’t, and I think that applies to many Anglo Welsh stalwarts. Yes, we take our work seriously, but being around boats and on the canals also gives us enormous pleasure. They say ‘the family that plays together stays together’ and that definitely applies to the enjoyment you get as part of the Anglo Welsh family.”
Carl has been Operations Manager at Anglo Welsh since 2005, but before that he’d occupied just about every role going: apprentice, engineer, boat painter, hire fleet manager, base manager. Much to his chagrin, he now spends as much time on the road as on the water. “I visit all ten Anglo Welsh bases at least once a month and also spend time at our Bristol head office where bookings and customer enquiries are handled. But it’s not all admin, I get to monitor the winter maintenance and our boatbuilding programme, and I still try to get out on one of our boats at least once a week.”
So howhas the narrowboat sector changed in Carl’s three decades at Anglo Welsh? “People definitely expect a lot more these days,” he says. “To give you one example, we’ve installed wi-fi on the entire Anglo Welsh fleet for 2016. But in 40 years as a leading hire boat operator some things have hardly changed at all. People still come to us because they value the UK’s waterway heritage and enjoy the gentle pace of canal holidays. And they appreciate Anglo Welsh because we offer a large choice of boats and locations but still maintain the personal touch people expect from a great holiday.Early bookings are at a record-breaking high this year, so we’re busy preparing the fleet for an exciting summer season. And hopefully, our customers are looking forward to renewing acquaintances with some familiar faces!”
Our team of experienced and friendly canal holiday experts are available to take your booking.
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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