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Top 10 Waterway Wildlife Hotspots

Our beautiful network of inland waterways were once the transport arteries of the Industrial Revolution, but today they have become green corridors and provide homes for hundreds of species of animals.

When enjoying your canal boat holiday, whether you are cruising through the countryside or waterside towns and cities, you can spot anything from ducks, moorhens and dragonflies, to kingfishers, otters and water voles.

Many areas of our canals and rivers have been designated as important nature sites, recognising the valuable habitats they provide.  To celebrate the wildlife of the waterways, we’ve put together a list of our Top 10 waterside wildlife hotspots:

  1. Chimney Meadows, Oxfordshire – the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust’s largest nature reserve in Oxfordshire runs alongside the River Thames, close to Shifford Lock. This vital refuge for wading birds has walking trails, bird hides and a picnic area.  Part of an ancient landscape created by the River Thames and shaped by centuries of farming, these remote and tranquil wildflower meadows have a remarkable diversity of plant-life and are home to nationally declining wading birds such as curlew.  When visiting, you can also look and listen out for cuckoos, barn owls, lapwing, fieldfare, redwing, snipe, brown hares, water voles and otters. Travelling from our Oxford canal boat rental base on the River Thames at Eynsham, you can take a Thames boating holiday and reach Chimney Meadows in just under four hours, cruising for 10 miles and passing through two locks.
  2. Hatton Locks, Warwickshire – this stunning flight of 21 locks in the Warwickshire countryside offers a great place to watch out for wildlife. As well as ducks, moorhens and swans, you might see house sparrows and grey wagtails at the water’s edge, and on a warm day, grass snakes and slow worms.  Setting off from our canal boat rental base on the Stratford Canal at Wootton Wawen, you can reach the bottom of the Hatton Flight in around eight hours, passing through 17 locks along the way.
  3. Fradley Pool Nature Reserve, Staffordshire – at Fradley Junction, where the Coventry Canal meets the Trent & Mersey Canal, the picturesque Fradley Pool Nature Reserve is a great place for a family day out. There are walking trails, sculpture trails, places to picnic, as well as a choice places to eat and drink.  Look out for ducks and swans, as well as terrapins basking in the sunshine and bats if you are there at dusk.  Heading south from our canal boat hire base at Great Haywood, you can reach Fradley Junction in around five hours, cruising along 12 peaceful miles of the Trent & Mersey Canal and passing through just five locks.
  4. Ellesmere, Shropshire – the pretty market town of Ellesmere on the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire is located right next to The Mere, a large lake packed with wildlife. There are woodland walks, places to eat, drink and picnic, a sculpture trail and adventure playground.  Keep an eye out for many of types of birds, including kingfishers, yellow hammers, tree sparrows, lapwing, sand martins and ringed plovers.  Watch out for wading birds like curlew, greenshank, godwit and whimbrel, as well as herons using the heronry on Moscow Island.  Setting off from our narrowboat hire base on the Llangollen Canal at Trevor, you can reach Ellesmere in around seven hours, passing through just two locks along the way.  And from our new canal boat rental base at Whixall, Ellesmere is just three-and-a-half hours away by boat.
  5. Caen Hill Locks, Wiltshire – the flight of 29 locks on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Devizes in Wiltshire, includes the spectacular run of 16 locks falling in a straight line up Caen Hill. Travelling from our canal boat hire base at Brassknocker Basin near Bath, it takes around 10 hours, passing through eight locks to reach the bottom of the Caen Hill flight.  Along the way, look out for kingfishers, mute swans, coots, moorhens and herons.  Once at Caen Hill, the newly planted Jubilee Woodland is already providing excellent habitat for birds, water voles have been spotted in the Caen Hill side pounds, along with otters and the rare chaser dragonfly.
  6. Marple Locks, Derbyshire – the flight of 16 locks on the Peak Forest Canal at Marple are surrounded by beautiful countryside and stretches of ancient woodland – home to many types of woodland bird. You can also enjoy fantastic views across the Peak District from here.  From our narrowboat hire base on the Shropshire Union Canal at Bunbury, boaters can reach the bottom of the Marple Flight in around four days, travelling 68 miles and passing through 36 locks.  The Marple Flight is on the spectacular Four Counties Ring, which takes around 58 hours cruise if you set off from Bunbury, or 55 hours from Great Haywood.
  7. Prees Branch Canal, Shropshire – This tranquil arm of the Llangollen Canal provides a haven for waterway wildlife, including water plants, dragonflies, damselflies, birds and water voles. Our new canal boat rental base at Whixall Marina is on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal and next to the Whixall Moss Nature Reserve, a large wetland site which is home to a range of wading birds, rare plants, butterflies and dragonflies.  From Whixall, you can travel to Ellesmere on a short break (three or four nights) or Llangollen on a week’s narrowboat holiday, passing over the magnificent World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct along the way.
  8. Consall Forge, Staffordshire – on the beautiful Caldon Canal in the Churnet Valley, next to Consall Nature Park, Consall Forge is a great place to spot wildlife, including water birds, woodland birds and birds of prey. You can moor up to explore the nature trails here and choose from a variety of places to eat, drink, including the popular canalside Black Lion Inn.  From our canal boat rental base at Great Haywood, you can reach Consall Forge in around 20 hours, travelling 33 miles through beautiful countryside, and passing through 34 locks – perfect for a week’s holiday afloat.
  9. Bittell Reservoir, Worcestershire – Built to supply water for the Worcester & Birmingham Canal, today Bittell Reservoir is a SSSI and is home to an abundance of wildlife. Over 200 species of water bird have been recorded here, including wintering wading birds and waterfowl, breeding birds such as the great crested grebe, little ringed-plover and grasshopper warbler. Rare silt shoreline plants such as slender spike rush and mudwort can be found here, along with the rare mud snail and five different species of dragonfly. The Bittell Arm and Lower Reservoir can be reached in just under two hours from our canal boat hire base on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal at Tardebigge.
  10. Bingley, West Yorkshire – the fields either side of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal at Bingley are full of wildflowers, including Arum Lily, Yellow Flag Iris and Cuckooflower, and the canal itself is home to dragonflies, damselflies, and many water birds. Setting off from our narrowboat hire base on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal at Silsden, you can reach the Bingley Five Rise Lock Staircase, one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways, in just over three hours.

 

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Celebrate National Parks Week Afloat (22 – 29 July)

Canal boat holidays offer the chance to explore some of Britain’s most beautiful countryside, including several of our wonderful National Parks. Cruising gently along at just four miles per hour is the perfect way to relax, unwind and take in the scenery.

To celebrate National Parks Week this week (22-29 July), we’ve put together our ‘Top 3 National Park Canal Boat Holidays’:

  1. Potter through the Peak District to Froghall and back. On a week’s break from our narrowboat hire base at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal, it’s a 43-hour return journey to Froghall Basin and back, travelling a total of 72 miles through 72 locks. To make this journey, boaters first head north along the Trent & Mersey Canal to Stoke-on-Trent, to connect onto the Caldon Canal at Etruria. As the Caldon Canal leaves Stoke, it begins to pass through gently rolling hills, wooded areas and past old mills and then alongside the beautiful River Churnet, where boaters can look out for kingfishers, herons, jays and woodpeckers, as well as otters which have recently returned to the area. At Cheddleton, the Flint Mill Museum is open on selected weekends and the Black Lion pub offers refreshment. After Cheddleton, the canal enters ever more remote countryside and merges with the River Churnet at Oakmeadow Ford Lock, where the valley becomes too narrow for both. At Consall Forge, once home to forges, furnaces and slitting mills, boaters will find the secluded Black Lion pub, said to be one of the waterway network’s most iconic pubs. From Consall, the canal leaves the River Churnet, soon reaching Flint Mill Lock, where the channel narrows, woodlands close in and the canal’s sense of isolation grows, before reaching the 69-metre long Froghall Tunnel.
  2. Travel along the edge of the Yorkshire Dales to Gargrave. From our canal boat hire base at Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in West Yorkshire, it takes around seven hours, passing through three locks and travelling 12 miles to reach Gargrave on the River Aire – perfect for a short break. The journey takes canal boat holiday-makers through the typical Yorkshire stone built villages of Kildwick and Farnhill, as well as Skipton with its fascinating medieval castle. From Gargrave, visitors can access the Yorkshire Dales National Park where 680 square miles of some of England’s finest walking country can be explored, including deep valleys, open moorland and rugged hills with very little habitation. On a week’s break, canal boat holiday-makers can travel on to Foulridge, winding along the contours of the side of Airedale, with breath-taking views of the Yorkshire Dales.
  3. Cruise along the Peak Forest Canal to Whaley Bridge. From our canal boat rental base at Great Haywood, it takes around 30 hours, travelling 57 miles and passing through 31 locks to reach Whaley Bridge at the head of the beautiful Peak Forest Canal – perfect for a 10-day or two-week break. The route begins by heading north along the Trent & Mersey Canal, passing through the pretty market town of Stone, Stoke on Trent with its Potteries Museum and the 2675-metre long Harecastle Tunnel, before joining the Macclesfield Canal at Hardings Wood. From there, the journey takes boaters along the full 28 miles of the beautiful Macclesfield Canal with spectacular views over the Cheshire Plain, and passes through Congleton and Macclesfield, before reaching Marple. From here, boaters can connect onto the Peak Forest Canal and travel on to historic Whaley Bridge and Bugsworth Basin, once one of the largest inland ports on the English canal network.

To book a holiday or break on any of Anglo Welsh’s fleet, call our friendly booking team on 0117 304 1122.

 

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Celebrate National Pet Month With a Canal Boat Holiday

To celebrate National Pet Month, here at Anglo Welsh canal boat holidays we are waiving our second pet price of £35 on holidays booked from today to depart throughout April.

First pets are already free as part of all our holiday packages, and narrowboat holidays are especially great for dogs – with plenty of towpath walks, dog-friendly canalside pubs and other canines to meet along the way. As well as hundreds of dogs, we’ve accommodated many other kinds of pets aboard our floating holiday homes, including cats, rabbits, hamsters, caged birds and goldfish.

Here are our top tips for taking your dog on a barge holiday:

  1. Go for an open cruiser-stern. When considering which of our narrowboats to hire, it’s a good idea to go for the cruiser-stern style back, rather than semi-trad option, as there’s more room ‘on deck’ for the dog and the rest of the family to enjoy watching the world go by.
  1. Bring your furry friend’s bed. To help them feel at home and keep them off the beds on board!
  1. Don’t leave your dog unattended on board. It’s best to keep your pet with you, but if you do leave Fido behind for a short time to go shopping, bring an appropriately-sized crate as its own ‘safe space’.
  1. Boost their buoyancy. A doggy life-jacket is a good idea, especially for canal barge holiday first-timers, and it’s best to choose one with a wide belly-strap and easy-to-grab handle.
  1. Pack your poo bags. Our 2,000-mile network of navigable canals and rivers offers a wonderful world for dogs to explore but please pick up anything your dog might drop and pop it in a bin.
  1. Be extra safe. By keeping your dog on a short lead around busy spots like locks and bridges and making sure they wear their collar with an ID tag
  1. Watch out for wildlife. Don’t let your dog swim in the canals, especially when there are ducklings, signets, goslings and other water bird chicks about.

 

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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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