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Wellness by the water

Wellness on the waterways

It is well documented that stress is bad for the health – both mental and physical. Stress has been linked to high blood pressure, raised cholesterol levels, heart disease, depression and much more. Yet many aspects of our busy modern lives contribute to feelings of stress and anxiety. This makes it all the more important to take time out to relax and decompress away from your usual responsibilities and pressures.

canal boat holiday offers the perfect antidote to the rush and bustle of the day to day. Few things can be as soothing as slowing your pace of life down to a steady three miles an hour and travelling back in time on waterways built in an age before the train or motorcar. Our historic canals will take you through stunning countryside, past welcoming waterside pubs and majestic stately homes into the heart of some of Britain’s most fascinating and beautiful cities.

So if you are feeling in need of some tranquility and calm, book yourself a narrowboat holiday from any one of our 11 canal boat hire bases dotted across England and Wales.

All Anglo Welsh’s holiday canal barges are designed with your comfort and enjoyment in mind. We have a wide range of rental narrowboats of differing styles and sizes so you can choose the barge best suited to your canal holiday wishes.

But it is not just boating on the waterways that is good for your health, there are many other canal based activities that promote mental and physical wellbeing. These activities link to the five key steps to enhancing wellbeing according to research by the New Economic Foundation:

Human connections

A mounting body of evidence shows that human connection is a vital component of wellbeing. Canals are wonderfully sociable places with everyone, whether on the water or the towpath, giving one another a wave and a smile as they pass. So, whether you go out walkingcycling or boating along the canals, you will quickly be welcomed into a friendly community of people who share a love of these beautiful inland waterways.

You can also get involved with the Canal and River Trust volunteers who give up their time to help care for and maintain the canals from painting and planting to litter picking and wildlife surveying. Alternatively, head along to one of the many wonderful events that take place along the canals with everything from group walks to photo exhibitions, special cruises and behind the scenes heritage days.

If you are on a canal boat holiday you are likely to find yourself mooring up alongside or in close proximity to other narrowboats and sharing locks. One of the joys of a narrowboat trip is making friends with fellow boaters. There is a great camaraderie on the canals so enjoy being part of it.

Get active

Most of us are far too sedentary in our daily lives due to office based jobs, cars and of course, the lure of television. While it may seem more relaxing to lounge on a sofa than get outside for a walk, the opposite is true. There is lots of research to show that exercise is one of the best ways to tackle stress, promote good sleep and boost mental wellbeing in addition to the countless physical benefits it brings.

The canals offer ideal routes for walking, running or cycling away from the noise and fumes of the roads, with more than 2000 miles of well laid towpaths snaking through green and luscious countryside.

During your canal boat holiday, step ashore and walk alongside the narrowboat for a while to stretch your legs. Since the boats cruise at walking pace, you can easily keep pace. Alternatively moor up and head off exploring on foot as there are many lovely circular walking routes to be enjoyed all the way along the waterways. With so many great pubs, historic sights, villages and towns dotted along the canals you can almost always incorporate a drink or lunch stop into your walk, run or cycle.

Exercise in virtually any circumstances will always promote good health but exercise in gorgeous tranquil surroundings is even more rejuvenating to mind, body and soul.

Take notice

The new trend for mindfulness is all about being present in the moment and aware of your surroundings rather than being constantly distracted by your mobile or anything else. Mobile technology has meant we spend a worrying proportion of our lives with our minds fixed on a small screen rather than taking in our surroundings while the pressures of work mean we are often running through future or past to do lists rather than simply living in the moment.

A canal boat holiday is a chance to put on your out of office, switch off that phone, ignore those emails, sit back and admire the wonders of the British countryside and some of our finest towns and cities from Oxford and Bath to Chester and Birmingham.

One of the joys of a canal holiday is that you are constantly on the move so there is always something new to look at, rare wildlife to spot, another lock to navigate, a swing bridge that needs working, a night-time mooring to locate, a pub with local ale to sample and more. With changing surroundings and a narrowboat to navigate, you will find yourself completely absorbed in the moment.

The same applies to any other canal based activities from walking to kayaking – they all offer an opportunity to disconnect from your inbox and absorb what is before you giving your mind a much needed refresh.

Learn

Continued learning keeps the mind sharp and boosts self-esteem, according to wellbeing studies.

One of the joys of the canals is that aside from their beauty, they are part of our national heritage and thus offer a wealth of learning opportunities for those who are interested. The canals provide insight into the transformation of Britain into the world’s first industrialised nation, they are integral to the history of many of the towns and villages they pass through and they showcase historic feats of engineering which represented the cutting edge of innovation in their time.

Nowadays the canals also offer wildlife enthusiasts ample opportunity to learn about the many rare plants and animals which grace their waters and banks.

The Canal and River Trust host dozens of events throughout the year such as talks, guided tours and exhibitions where you can learn all sorts of amazing facts about the inland waterways, their history and their present upkeep. If this is not enough, get yourself along to one of the National Waterways Museums in Ellesmere Port and Gloucester Docks, the Canal Museum or the visitor centres at the Anderton Boat Lift, the Standedge Tunnel or the soaring Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. Away from the waterways themselves, there are also endless fascinating places to visit all along their routes so you’ll never be bored, there’s always something to learn along the canals.

Give

Altruism and generosity gives us a great sense of wellbeing. Research shows people who help others are more likely to feel happy themselves. So why not contribute towards looking after these amazing waterways which bring such joy to so many people.

The canals are actually busier today than at any other time in their history with around 34,000 boats gracing their waters, providing homes, workplaces or simply holiday escapes like our own narrowboats. If you are able to give any time towards helping look after these much used and loved resources, you will be helping enhance the lives of millions of people who enjoy them every year. Most of the volunteering is also great fun, involving getting outdoors and active with likeminded people doing their bit to keep the canals in good working order.

At Anglo Welsh we are hugely grateful to all the people who contribute to these waterways which enable all our guests to enjoy magical canal boat holidays year after year.

 

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Romantic canal destinations to visit this Valentine’s Day

Roxy, who works in the Anglo Welsh Head Office, has been tailor-making canal boat holidays for Anglo Welsh clients for over four years, and she loves to match people with the perfect holiday. Who better then to advise old-school romantics on how to woo their Valentine with a perfect date on the waterways.

Travelling by narrowboat is romantic. That’s a fact. The views, the traditions and the pace of life are perfect for couples wanting to spend some quality time together, so why not treat your partner to a romantic mini-break on a ‘love boat’ this Valentine’s Day?

Anglo Welsh Holidays offers winter cruising from six narrowboat hire bases in England and Wales, and all our boats are beautifully equipped with comfy beds, contemporary kitchens, modern bathrooms and central heating, so you’ll both be snuggly and warm on board.

With the freedom to roam the waterways from your cruising love-nest you can access some of Britain’s most-loved towns and villages, without having encounter a single traffic jam. Take romantic strolls along frosty towpaths, indulge in candlelit dinners for two in waterside dining destinations and cosy up by roaring log fires in traditional country pubs.

We also offer day hire from six of our canal boat hire bases, giving the option of just taking a day out on the waterways.  Full tuition is included, so you can get the hang of steering the boat, working the locks and mooring up.  All our day boats are equipped with the facilities you need for a day afloat – cutlery, crockery, a kettle, cooker, fridge and toilet.

To help you decide where to go, with a mix of day and mini-break hire, I’ve chosen my top six romantic destinations, for Valentine’s Day.  Whether you’re looking to propose, shop for a ring or simply enjoy being together in some of the most beautiful places in the UK, read on to discover how you can wow your Valentine on their very own love boat.

  1. Propose by a waterfall in the Welsh Mountains– from our canal barge hire base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, it takes just two hours to reach the pretty Eistedfordd town of Llangollen, nestled in the Berwyn Mountains. As well as providing a choice of romantic settings to propose, including the famous Horseshoe Falls, Llangollen offers lovers regular markets packed with local produce to saunter through hand-in-hand and a number of romantic waterside dining venues, including the popular Corn Mill.
  2. Choose a ring in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter – from our canal boat rental base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, it takes five hours to reach over-night moorings in the centre of Birmingham, where lovers can moor up and head to the famous Jewellery Quarter to find the perfect engagement or eternity ring. There are plenty of places to wine and dine in Brindleyplace, including Marco Pierre White’s restaurant at the top of The Cube, serving ‘spectacular steaks and signature cocktails’ with stunning views across Birmingham.
  3. Experience panoramic views from Nantwich Aqueduct – from our canal boat hire base at Bunbury Wharf on the Shropshire Union Canal near Tarporley, you can hire a boat for the day and cruise south for six sedate miles to the historic town of Nantwich. Here boaters can glide across the town’s impressive Grade II* listed aqueduct to enjoy panoramic views across the town.  With no locks along the way, the journey to Nantwich takes around two hours.  There are moorings next to the aqueduct and choice of places to eat, including The Waterside Café.
  4. Read Shakespeare’s Sonnets in Stratford – on a short break from our narrowboat hire base at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal in Warwickshire, canal boat holiday-makers can cruise through the Warwickshire countryside to Stratford upon Avon, the birthplace of Shakespeare. Once there, you can moor up in Bancroft Basin to a great choice of dining venues, including the waterside Carluccio’s, book a Tower Tour at the Swan Theatre to enjoy panoramic views of Stratford and visit Shakespeare’s Birthplace to find out more about the Bard, his romantic plays and his love poems.
  5. Enjoy a rural retreat in Staffordshire – from our narrowboat rental base at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal in Staffordshire, you can hire a day boat and cruise quietly through the Staffordshire countryside to the historic market town of Rugeley. The journey travels four miles, passes through two locks and takes around two hours.  Along the way, the route passes the National Trust’s impressive Shugborough Estate, the beautiful Cannock Chase Forest, the Wolseley Arms canalside pub and the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust’s Wolseley Centre.
  6. Cruise through the Shropshire Lake District – from our narrowboat rental base at Whixall on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire, on a short break you can head west along the Llangollen Canal to Ellesmere, in the heart of the Shropshire Lake District. The journey to Ellesmere takes around two-and-a-half hours, cruising through eight miles of stunning countryside, and passing Lyneal Moss and Colemere Country Park along the way.  Once at Ellesmere, you can moor up and explore the famous Mere with its romantic historic castle, woodland paths and fascinating wildlife.

Our 2020 winter short breaks (three or four nights) start at £535*, and £740* for a week.  Or you could choose to just hire a boat for the day from one of our six boat yards offering day hire, with prices from just £99.

Plus, from our Tardebigge narrowboat hire base on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromgsrove, our day boat ‘Emma’ has a cosy cabin for two and can be hired for just one or two nights.  Overnight boat rental prices aboard ‘Emma’ start at £198*.

*Fuel is charged based on use, circa £10-15 per day.  A £50 fuel deposit for short breaks is taken at the time of booking.  £90 for a week.

 

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New Year, new hobby: Narrowboating!

The New Year is a great time to take up new hobbies and activities, to learn a new skill. It is an opportunity for a fresh start.

New Year’s resolutions should not be about self-denial and restrictions but about positive fulfilment, expansion, self-discovery and learning. A new hobby is a wonderful way to boost your wellbeing and re-energise life when things are feeling a little stale.

After the overindulgence of Christmas and New Year’s Eve most of us are seeking some more wholesome interests and activities to nourish our mind, body and soul.

So why not take up narrowboating as your new hobby for 2020!

Canal boat holidays for beginners

If you book a canal boat holiday with Anglo Welsh you will be taken through all the basics in order to set you up for your first ever narrowboat cruise.

Any narrowboat holiday veteran will admit to being a little nervous the first time they found themselves in control of their own canal barge but our expert instructors will ensure you have all the knowledge you need to quickly become an adept skipper.

Before you set off from our narrowboat hire base, you will be taught how to start the engine, fill up with water, steer, moor up and work the canal locks. They will also talk you through canal etiquette and rules such as where and when to drive, speeds, how to leave locks behind you, best places to moor up and more.

All our narrowboats have manuals on board for guests to check anything or you can even give our engineering team a ring 24 hours a day for further advice. Since most canal boats cannot move at more than three miles per hour, being at the helm is a relaxing rather than stressful experience.

Once you have experienced the joy of a canal boat holiday for the first time, we’re willing to wager a decent sum, you will be back for more. Here are just some of the reasons why:

Sociable and family friendly

Narrowboat holidays are perfect for families or groups of friends of all ages and tastes since the canal barges to hire range from sleeping just two up to 12 people. There is a huge range of things to see and do on canal boat holidays setting off from any of our 11 narrowboat hire bases. They all offer very different styles of narrowboat cruise, meaning there really is something for everyone. You can enjoy walking, cycling, kayakingvisit stately homes, castles, historic towns and villages, explore parks and gardens or simply relax on board and admire stunning countryside rolling past. If you choose a canal boat holiday with us, you are also welcome to bring along your beloved pets to live aboard so even they do not have to miss out on the fun.

Explore Britain

A canal boat holiday is a perfect way to explore some of the most beautiful areas of Britain, with more than 2000 miles of navigable waterways snaking their way through unspoilt countryside and historic cities, towns and villages. How far you explore largely dependent on how long you have for your canal boat holiday as narrowboats move at a stately pace, but even a couple of days is enough to cover some ground. As you are always on the move, mooring in a different spot each day with new places and things to admire and explore, there’s no excuse for getting bored.

Wellbeing

It is a very calming and mindful experience being on the water, focused on the present moment, whether steering the narrowboat or taking in the gorgeous surroundings. With so many people now suffering from stress, a canal boat holiday is the perfect way to unwind away from the rush and bustle of your day to day existence. The canals crisscross miles of idyllic countryside and are teeming with wildlife so a narrowboat holiday allows you to get outside, be one with nature and breathe the clean air while listening to birdsong. Choose one of the more rural canal routes for a truly tranquil narrowboat holiday experience. Persistent stress is very bad for our health so a canal break in 2020 may be just the thing you need to boost your mental and physical wellbeing.

History geeks dream

The canals are a key part of our nation’s industrial heritage, with the vast majority built more than 200 years ago. They were originally constructed as the most efficient method of transporting large bulky goods prior to the advent of the railways. That is why there is such a high concentration of canals in the old industrial heartlands around the West Midlands and North West. This makes a canal boat holiday a history lover’s dream come true as you are quite literally floating through history. You can admire many historic feats of engineering, from the soaring grandeur of the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, completed in 1805 and the Anderton Boat Lift, completed 1875 to the Dudley Tunnel, completed 1791. Beyond the canals themselves, are the historic villages, towns and cities through which they pass as well as stately homes, castles and museums all of which are easily accessible from the waterways. If you have an interest in the UK’s heritage then a narrowboat holiday is the one for you.

So, don’t bother with self-denial, instead embrace this fantastic new hobby for 2020 and discover the magical world of narrowboating.

 

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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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Enjoy winter christmas cruising with Anglo Welsh

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

Whether you want to head to a festive waterfront destination or escape from it all in a quiet rural backwater, Christmas on the canals offers a very special experience.  All our winter canal boat hire bases offer a choice of routes, and plenty of historic rural pubs with roaring log fires to stop off at along the way.

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 and cosy on board.  Some of our boats also come with multi-fuel stoves for some extra special winter warmth.

Our prices over Christmas and New Year start at start at £495 for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four people, weekly hire from £705.

 

 

Here are our Top 6 Christmas and New Year breaks afloat for 2019:

  1. Cross ‘The Stream in the Sky’ to the Shropshire Lake District – from our canal boat rental base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, you can travel through the Welsh Mountains by canal boat to Ellesmere and back, passing over the incredible World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct along the way. This magnificent feat of Victorian engineering carries the canal 30 metres high above the Dee Valley, with amazing views to enjoy.  Historic pubs to enjoy along the way include The Poacher’s Pocket pub at Gledrid and the Aqueduct Inn at Froncysyllte.  Once at Ellesmere, at the centre of the Shropshire Lake District, you can moor up to visit the Mere created 10,000 years ago by the retreating ice age, now home to an abundance of wildlife.
  2. Cruise through the Staffordshire countryside to Fradley – heading south from our narrowboat holiday hire base at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal in Staffordshire, you’ll reach Fradley Junction in five hours. Here the Trent & Mersey Canal meets the Coventry Canal.  The journey to Fradley passes through 12 peaceful miles of Staffordshire countryside, and just five locks.  Places to enjoy along the way include The Wolseley Centre run by the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, the Wolseley Arms, Cannock Chase Forest and the village of Rugeley with its canalside Mossley Tavern.  Once at Fradley, you’ll find refreshments at the Canalside Café or The Swan Inn and walking trails at the Fradley Pool Nature Reserve.
  3. Float to through the Warwickshire countryside to Shakespeare’s Stratford – from our narrowboat rental base aon the Stratford Canal at Wootton Wawen, near Henley-in-Arden in Warwickshire, it’s a picturesque six-hour cruise through the Warwickshire countryside to Shakespeare’s Stratford. Once there, you can moor up in Bancroft Basin in the centre of Stratford-upon-Avon to enjoy festive fun in the home of Bard, including twinkling Christmas lights, regular markets, carol singers, Christmas menus at a wide range of restaurants and performances of Shakespeare’s ‘King John’ at the Swan Theatre.
  4. Travel into Birmingham for festive fun afloat – from our canal barge holiday hire base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, it takes just five hours to cruise into the centre of Birmingham. With no locks to pass through along the way, it’s a great route for canal boat holiday beginners. Once there, you can moor up in Gas Street Basin, close to Brindleyplace to enjoy Christmas in Britain’s Second City, including ‘Snow White’ at the Hippodrome, ‘Grandpa’s Great Escape Live’ at the Birmingham Arena (23, 24 & 26 Dec), The Big Wheel and Ice Rink at Centenary Square and the Frankfurt Christmas Market at Victoria Square (until 23 Dec).
  5. Visit historic Chester for some Christmas sparkle – from our narrowboat hire base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal near Tarporley in Cheshire, it takes around seven hours, passing through nine locks, to reach the historic city of Chester. Along the way, the route passes through 12 miles of beautiful Cheshire countryside and the popular Ring O’Bells canalside pub at Christleton. Once moored up at Northgate visitor moorings next to the Roman City Walls, special festive events to enjoy in Chester include performances of Peter Pan at the Storyhouse Theatre, the Christmas Tree Festival at Chester Cathedral, the Lantern Parade at Chester Zoo (until 23 Dec), the Chester Christmas Market (until 22 Dec) as well as fabulous City Centre Christmas lights and sparkling shops at the Grosvenor Shopping Centre.
  6. Cruise through the Shropshire countryside to historic Whitchurch – from our barge holiay rental base at Whixall on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire, it takes around four hours to reach the pretty historic town of Whitchurch. Along the way, the route passes Whixall Moss, a Mecca for wildlife, and Pan Castle just outside Whitchurch.  Special Christmas events in Whitchurch include performances of Aladdin in the Civic Centre (26-30 Dec), the Crib Festival at St Alkmund’s Church, sparkling Christmas lights and festive menus at many of the town’s eateries, including the Wheatsheaf Hotel and Black Bear pub.

*NB some of our routes will be affected by winter maintenance work on the canal network.

 

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Anglo Welsh Heritage Class – Supporting the Chelsea Pensioners

Anglo Welsh Heritage Class – the best of both worlds

Anglo Welsh now offers two luxury four-berth ‘Heritage Class’ boats for hire: ‘Poppy’ on the Stratford Canal at Wootton Wawen; and ‘Lily’ on the Llangollen Canal at Trevor.

These beautiful luxury canal boats offer all the very best in modern narrowboat facilities, as well as some extra special heritage features.

Facilities on board these spacious boats with semi-traditional sterns include: central heating; LED lighting; two full-size shower rooms; spacious beds with sprung mattresses; a fully fitted galley; TV; DVD; and WiFi.

Heritage features include: port holes; side doors; a Belfast sink; brass fittings; tongue and grove dark stained woodwork; ivory coloured ceilings; and a cratch cover above the front deck for extra protection against the elements when needed.

In partnership with our Sponsor ‘Panda Sanctuaries’ we will continue to expand the Heritage fleet over the coming years.

                             Proud to support the Chelsea Pensioners

 

Anglo Welsh is supporting the Chelsea Pensioners by pledging 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.

Allan McLaren of The Chelsea Pensioners explains: “War and conflict take their toll on a soldier’s body and mind.  Mental and physical scars often only surface in later years.

“The Royal Hospital Chelsea and the Chelsea Pensioners are delighted Anglo Welsh have chosen to support our Active Aging Appeal.  Your support will help The Royal Hospital Chelsea provide the best possible care for those willing to risk their lives yesterday to give us the freedom we enjoy today.  Our new activity centre will enable more Pensioners to stay active, pursue hobbies and interests every day to enhance their mental and physical well-being and combat isolation.”

 

For more information about the Appeal, visit https://www.chelsea-pensioners.co.uk/

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Autumn Canal Events

What to look forward to along the canals this autumn

As the leaves turn rust red and the sinking sun casts long shadows across golden fields, the steady slide towards winter is arguably the most beautiful time of year.

Autumn is also the season of Halloween and Bonfire Night before the festive march towards Christmas begins.

There are dozens of fun events to look forward to between now and Christmas along the inland waterways of England and Wales so with half term approaching, this is an ideal time of year to embark on a canal boat holiday

Dig out your scarf and gloves, wrap up warm and head off on a magical narrowboat cruise before winter fully closes in.

Here are some of the fun events to consider if you are planning an autumn canal boat holiday:

Birmingham canal 250th anniversary, Old Turn Junction in Birmingham

2nd and 3rd November

Birmingham canal network

Nearest Anglo Welsh narrowboat hire base: Tardebigge

Accessible during a longer canal boat holiday from Great Haywood and Wootton Wawen

It is 250 years since the first canal reached Birmingham, a city now celebrated as boasting more waterways than Venice. Commemorate this landmark birthday by joining in a cruise, organised by the Bimingham Canal Navigation (BCN) Society, from Windmill End into central Birmingham. After a midday celebration at Old Turn Junction, boats can parade around to Cambrian Wharf or through Gas St Basin. This will be a must see for any canal and boating enthusiasts.

Stoke Bruerne autumn floating market, Stoke Bruerne, Northamptonshire

16th and 17th November

The Grand Union canal

Nearest Anglo Welsh narrowboat hire base: Stockton

Accessible during a longer canal boat holiday from Wootton Wawen

The Roving Canal Traders Association (RCTA) will be hosting its floating market in the pretty village of Stoke Bruerne, also home to the Canal Museum, making it an ideal stop off on a narrowboat holiday. The RCTA brings together an eclectic group of craftsmen and traders who travel the inland waterways selling their wares. It is the perfect place pick up some quirky holiday souvenirs and unusual gifts.

Birmingham Christmas floating market, Brindley Place, Birmingham

5th to 8th December

Birmingham canal network

Nearest Anglo Welsh narrowboat hire base: Tardebigge

Accessible during a longer canal boat holiday from Great Haywood and Wootton Wawen

Early December will see the return of this wonderful festival floating market during which the RCTA boats will line both sides of the canal at Brindley Place, offering unique Christmas shopping opportunities not to be found on any high street. This is an ideal way to rouse those festive feelings as the Christmas season gets into full swing.

Santa Cruises at the Anderton boat lift in Northwich, Cheshire

30th November to 24th December

Trent and Mersey Canal and River Weaver

Nearest Anglo Welsh narrowboat hire base: Bunbury

Accessible during a longer canal boat holiday from Trevor and Whixall Marina

Join Father Christmas and his helpers aboard the Edwin Clark trip boat this December and enjoy a festive cruise on the River Weaver. The trip will include storytelling, festive songs and, of course, each child will be presented with their very own present from Santa.

Meet Father Christmas at the National Waterways Museum in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire

7th to 24th December

Shropshire Union Canal

Nearest Anglo Welsh narrowboat hire base: Bunbury

Accessible during a longer canal boat holiday from Trevor and Whixall Marina

The ultimate festive canal holiday stop off, young visitors can drop in on Father Christmas’s grotto, to meet the man himself and watch his elves in action. Santa will share some stories and present each young visitor with an early Christmas gift. There will be another chance to meet Santa while enjoying a bite to eat in his special Christmas café. The ticket will also give you access to the rest of the museum’s fascinating collection.

It is worth noting that the Anglo Welsh narrowboat hire bases at OxfordBathMonkton CombeSilsden and Stockton all close down for winter from the 1st November. This is so that our team can carry out vital maintenance on the boats to ensure they are in tip top condition for the next season.

If you want more information or advice on great canal boat holiday routes or how best to reach any of these events and locations on an Anglo Welsh narrowboat, please don’t hesitate to contact our team by phone or email – they will be happy to help.

 

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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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