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Wildlife watching at Great Haywood

By Kevin Yarwood, manager of Anglo Welsh’s Great Haywood canal boat rental base

Our narrowboat hire base, at the junction of the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal and the Trent & Mersey Canal at Great Haywood in Staffordshire, is surrounded by countryside, trees and hedgerows, and consequently lots of wildlife too.

This year we took part in the RSPB’s annual Bird Garden Watch and spotted so many species of bird that the charity got in touch with us to check our findings.

From water birds like swans, ducks, coots, moorhens, cormorants, geese and kingfishers, to woodland and hedgerow birds like jays, sparrows, blue tits, great tits, bull finches, green finches, dunnocks and tree creepers, every day we see busy birds visiting the canal and our bird feeders.

We’ve also seen otters close by at the aqueduct, where the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal crosses the River Trent, hedgehogs and at dusk over the summer months we see bats whizzing across the water collecting their insect prey.

As well as working in this special place, I live here on a narrowboat with my family, so I’m passionate about protecting the waterway and the animals that rely on it.

For nearly two years, we’ve been selling aquatic-friendly ‘Poddy’ cleaning products, including a washing up liquid and multi-surface cleaner, in our boat yard shop.  Feedback from our customers is consistently excellent, with some asking if they can buy extra supplies to use every day at home, as well as on their narrowboat holiday.

The Canal & River Trust’s Plastics Challenge launched last May is something close to my heart and everyone here at Great Haywood is committed to keeping our own stretch of canal plastic free.  It really does make a difference if everyone works together to both litter pick any stray plastic on the towpath or in the water, and to reduce the amount of plastic we use in our everyday lives by making some simple switches like investing in re-useable drinks bottles and coffee cups.

We also have recycling facilities here at the boat yard and so canal boat holiday-makers who are keen to (and most are), can recycle at the end of their holiday.

This month we are delighted to be hosting a visit from our local primary school, so we are looking forward to passing on our love of the canal environment and all the animals and birds that depend upon it.

 

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Waterway activities to enjoy along the canals

The magic of cruising aboard a narrowboat is just one small part of what makes a canal boat holiday so special as there are dozens of other healthy and fun ways to enjoy our inland waterways. If standing at the helm of your canal boat starts to get a little monotonous or you simply want to stretch your legs, you can moor up and indulge in one of the many other family friendly activities on offer both on land and water along the canals. Or simply hand over responsibility for steering to one of your crew and have a walk alongside the narrowboat – you’ll easily be able to keep up.

Here’s our round up of just some of the popular canalside pursuits you could try out if you want to add some variety to your canal boat holiday:

Walking

The canal towpaths provide thousands of miles of beautiful walking routes crisscrossing wide expanses of stunning countryside to reach some of our most fascinating historic towns and cities. Towpaths offer easy traffic-free and largely hill free walks with plenty to admire along the way from the comings and goings of the narrowboats to wonderful varied wildlife, rambling rural vistas and charming canalside pubs. Being relatively flat and well laid with stone, the towpaths, which are lovingly maintained by the Canal and River Trust, are also very accessible to those with limited mobility, wheelchairs and scooters, which means no-one has to miss out.

Canal walks can combine stunning scenery with culture and history. Aside from its obvious physical health benefits, walking is a perfect way to unwind and take in your wonderful surroundings – and will help you work up an appetite ahead of dinner. So whether you fancy a day long trudge or a half hour amble to the pub, the canalside towpaths will not disappoint.

Cycling

Due to their gentle gradients and absence of cars, the canal towpaths offer safe and scenic cycle routes for all ages and cycling abilities. The towpath network is an ideal place to get young children into cycling without the worry of busy roads.

The canals provide green corridors through some of our biggest busiest cities and the waterside cycling paths are among the most beautiful cycling routes in the UK, connecting historic towns and villages via miles of unspoilt open countryside and farmland.

If you want to head off exploring covering many more miles than your narrowboat, with its maximum speed of three to four miles an hour, will allow then why not moor up and take your bikes out for the day.

Our guests are welcome to bring up to two bikes on their canal boat holiday as they can be strapped to the roof of the narrowboat – we just remind them to be extra careful when going through tunnels or under low bridges. If you require more bikes there are many bike hire shops along the canals so just have a look and plan your route accordingly.

Fishing

Fishing is one of the best ways to get outside, relax and concentrate your mind in the present, getting you away from your day to day worries. The rivers and canals of England and Wales are abundant in fish of many kinds which the Canal and River Trust and partners work hard to maintain and protect so enthusiasts can enjoy fishing in a sustainable way at key authorised spots. To find out which stretches of canal allow fishing, have a look at the ‘places to fish’ on the Canal and River Trust website. You will then need to buy your rod licence from the Environment Agency and apply for a permit to fish from one of the many angling clubs that help manage the fisheries or from the Canal and River Trust’s Waterways Wanderers scheme.

If you want to try out fishing for the first time, come along to one of our free ‘Let’s Fish’ events where licensed coaches teach the basics of fishing at canal and riverside locations all over the country throughout the year. Have a look at the Let’s Fish webpage to see which events might be happening on your route when you plan your canal boat holiday.

If you plan to bring your rod and enjoy a spot of fishing on your next canal boat holiday with us, just be aware that we do not allow live bait to be on board our narrowboats at any time.

Nature spotting

The inland waterways are home to a rich variety of wildlife both in the water, on land and in the air so a canal boat holiday is ideal for nature spotting or bird watching enthusiasts. Even in the heart of cities, canals provide pockets of nature which allow flora and fauna to flourish. In spring and summer the canal banks burst into life with wildflowers of every colour, shape and size while in the water itself, amphibians such as frogs, toads and newts thrive.

Do not forget to bring your binoculars and store them close at hand so you keep an eye out for creatures great and small from common canalside inhabitants such as ducks, swans and squirrels to those that are harder to spot such as kingfishers, badgers and otters.

If you are really lucky you might even catch a glimpse of the canal’s shyest residents which include stoats, hedgehogs and water voles, although this is more likely when exploring on foot as they are likely to be scared off by the sound of the boat’s engine.

You can download a free nature spotting guide from the Canal and River Trust in order to find out what animals and birds you may see during your narrowboat trip and tick them off as you spot them.

Kayaking, canoeing or paddle boarding

Want to try out a different form of waterborne vessel during your narrowboat holiday? Taking off in a canoe, kayak or on a paddleboard can be a great way to spend a morning or afternoon, viewing the canal from a very different perspective while having fun and getting some exercise. These are hobbies enjoyed by millions across the UK each year and the canals offer a wonderful safe environment in which to learn the ropes.

Exploring by canoe, kayak or paddleboard, with no engine to disturb the peace, you get closer to nature and stand a much better chance of spotting some the rare wildlife that lives in, on and around the canals. While we do not allow kayaks, canoes or paddle boards on board our holiday narrowboats, there are plenty of boat clubs and companies along the canals where you can rent them and book lessons if you are beginner in need of some tuition.

If you do go on to buy your own canoe, kayak or paddleboard that you wish to use in your own time, then you will need to ensure it is licensed to use the canals and rivers – you can apply for a license with the Canal and River Trust here. This money goes towards the ongoing maintenance of the 2000-mile canal and river network across the UK, keeping them in great condition to be enjoyed by everyone for many generations to come. It also pays for the construction and upkeep of access points, ramps and slipways that enable boaters to enjoy the inland waterways.

This is just a taster as there are not only many more wonderful canalside activities but also events, famous sights and tourist attractions dotted all the way along our waterways so you will never get bored.

Once you have an idea of your desired narrowboat holiday route, get online and have a look at the vast range of treats on offer along those stretches of canal or river. If you ever want advice on what can be found along the canals get in touch with Anglo Welsh’s expert team who have an in-depth knowledge of the inland waterway network and will always be happy to help.

 

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Enjoy canal trips at the Stafford riverway link open day

On Sunday 8 September, staff from our Great Haywood canal boat hire base will be offering visitors the chance to take a free canal boat trip at the Stafford Riverway Link Open Day event.

Kevin Yarwood, our boat yard manager at Great Haywood, explains:

“We are looking forward to welcoming visitors to the annual Stafford Riverway Link event on Sunday 8 September to enjoy a short trip along the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal aboard our day boat ‘Abi’.

“Research that shows spending time by the waterways can make you happier and more relaxed, so this is a great opportunity for families to enjoy spending time by their local waterway, experience a canal boat trip and find out more about the progress made so far by the restorers of the Stafford Riverway Link.  Once restored, the Stafford Riverway Link will reconnect the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal to the River Sow, enabling boats to once again travel into Stafford town centre.”

The Stafford Riverway Link Open Days take place on Saturday 7th and Sunday 8th September from 10am to 4pm, next to the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal just west of Bridge 101 at St Thomas Bridge, Baswich Lane, Stafford ST18 0YJ.

As well as boat trips on the Sunday, there will be stalls, games, a bar and light refreshments. Admission and car parking are both free.

 

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Back to school: Canal getaways for parents to enjoy

The kids are going back at school meaning parents can finally get some rest after the fun but frantic six weeks that are the summer holidays.

We think that, come September, most parents deserve – and probably need – a well-earned minibreak away from their darling children.

So if you are a parent whose children are busy at school again, why not book a quick canal getaway by way of reward for your gallant efforts to juggle work and many other commitments with keeping the little ones entertained day in day out since mid-July.

A canal boat holiday can be a perfect minibreak for a couple wanting a bit of rest and relaxation. Slow life down to a tranquil three miles per hour and drift along the historic waterways of England and Wales to admire beautiful countryside and fascinating historic towns and cities by narrowboat.

Here are some of the best canal boat holiday journeys for a child-free break for parents:

Bath to Bradford-upon-Avon

The World Heritage City of Bath is a treat for visitors of all ages but going along without the kids will enable you to really soak up all the history and culture of this stunning Georgian city at your own pace. With its famous Roman Baths, its close links with Jane Austen and museum honouring the author, its wonderful range of iconic Regency buildings and much more, Bath is a history lover’s dream. But it is also a lovely modern city to simply meander around, with great shops, restaurants and cafes at every turn, all surrounded by the lush green Somerset hills. It is an easy day cruise through a scenic Cotswold valley boasting some wonderful canalside pubs, to the equally picturesque medieval market town of Bradford-upon-Avon with its tithe barn, 13th century bridge and impressive riverside former cloth mills.

Oxford to Lechlade

The ancient university city of Oxford is bursting with history, culture and stunning colleges to be explored. You can wander around the imposing and fascinating Ashmolean – the University of Oxford’s museum of art and archaeology, founded in 1683 – or the smaller Pitts Rivers Museum crammed with artefacts and oddities from all over the world. Take a walk around some of the 38 Oxford University colleges each with their own distinct character and beauty before escaping to the lush greenery of the Oxford botanic garden. It is a tranquil two day cruise along a stunning rural stretch of the River Thames to the glorious Gloucestershire village of Lechlade, which sits in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on the edge of the Cotswolds.

Wootton Wawen to Stratford-upon-Avon

Absorb yourself in Shakespeare’s historic hometown which is just a day-long cruise from our canal boat base at Wootton Wawen. Once in Stratford-upon-Avon, treat yourselves to a delicious dinner at one of the town’s many welcoming restaurants followed by a production at one of the world renowned Royal Shakespeare Company theatres which overlook the canal basin. Spend a day exploring the medieval town with its Tudor timber-framed houses including Shakespeare’s birthplace and the 500-year-old thatched Anne Hathaway’s cottage as well as its many independent shops, pubs and cafes before enjoying a relaxed amble along the River Avon.

Stockton to Leamington Spa

Opt for a scenic rural cruise through rolling green countryside at the heart of England, from Stockton in Warwickshire to Royal Leamington Spa. On leaving our narrowboat base, descend through Stockton Locks to the village of Long Itchington with its two canalside pubs, ideal for a lunch or supper stop. Cruise through more idyllic countryside, negotiating only the Bascote Staircase locks until you reach elegant Royal Leamington Spa, with its fine examples of Regency and Victorian architecture such as Lansdown Crescent and the Parade. Browse the town’s many boutiques and shops, stop for a bite to eat in one of its 60 pubs, restaurants and bars, meander through the ornate Jephson Gardens and admire an exhibition at the Royal Pump Rooms Art Gallery and Museum.

Trevor to the Montgomery Canal

If you are wildlife enthusiasts, this is the canal boat holiday route for you. Set out from our narrowboat base at Trevor and immediately cross the jewel of the canal network, the soaring Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which carries the Llangollen canal 126ft above the River Dee valley. Just a couple of kilometres later you pass through the 459-yard Chirk Tunnel followed by the Chirk Aqueduct which takes you across the border into England. Continue heading south among the dramatic Shropshire hills until you reach Frankton Locks where you can turn onto the Montgomery Canal, affectionately known as the ‘Monty’ which snakes through wonderful unspoilt border country where you can truly escape the pressures of modern life. Much of the Monty has been designated a ‘Site of Special Scientific Interest’ due to its abundance of rare wildlife such as the floating water plantain, otters and water voles so don’t forget to bring your binoculars.

Bunbury to Chester

Set off north from our narrowboat base at Bunbury along the Shropshire Union Canal, crossing the open country of the Cheshire Plain and patchwork quilt fields. You will pass the looming ruins of Beeston Castle sitting atop its rocky crag and the delightful village of Christleton – winner of ‘best kept village in Cheshire’ – clustered around its green before reaching the medieval city walls of Chester. The canal takes you right into the heart of this historic jewel of a city, with its impressive collection of 700-year-old buildings the Rows, great shops, restaurants and cafes, and stunning sandstone cathedral all encircled by the imposing walls. The city is also host to the largest stone-built Roman Amphitheatre in Britain, scene of Britain’s largest archaeological excavation in 2005, the results of which can be seen at the Grosvenor Museum. During the summer months, you may well be able to enjoy an outdoor theatre production in the atmospheric surroundings of the amphitheatre.

Silsden to Saltaire

Sitting on the edge of the wilderness that is the Yorkshire Dales, our narrowboat base at Silsden is a perfect starting point for a breathtakingly beautiful trip along the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. Heading east, you follow the River Aire valley through dramatic hilly countryside with villages that still carry the hallmarks of their rich industrial past with good pub stop-offs. Just outside Keighley, you’ll reach the magnificent Bingley Five-Rise Locks, the steepest flight of locks in the UK honoured as one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’. This takes you into the perfectly preserved model village of Saltaire, built in 1853 by Sir Titus Salt for local mill workers and now a World Heritage Site. Admire the giant textile mill, the Salts Mill, which now houses an impressive collection of David Hockney paintings, wonder at this early example of town planning and perhaps even take a trip on the the Shipley Glen Tramway built in 1895 before heading for some refreshment at one of the many cafes and restaurants.

Tardebigge to Lapworth

Set out north east from our narrowboat base in Tardebigge in rural Worcestershire, which sits at the top of the longest lock flight in Britain, consisting of 30 locks carrying narrowboats 220 feet up and downhill over 3.5 miles. Admire this feat of historic engineering on foot before indulging in a leisurely lock-free cruise in the other direction. You’ll float through stunning Shakespeare Country, with its blend of wild countryside and cultivated landscaped until you reach the outer reaches of Birmingham where you turn onto the picturesque North Stratford canal. This takes you back into rolling farmland and wooded valleys towards pretty village of Lapworth. Step back in time and enjoy a well earned pint at the traditional canalside Blue Bell Cider House enroute. Once you’ve reached your destination, you are just a stone’s throw from two amazing National Trust owned Tudor manor houses, Packwood House with its incredible tapestries and famous yew gardens and Baddesley Clinton with its moat and walled gardens. You can easily spend a happy day exploring these properties and their gardens and parkland.

Whixall Marina to Chirk

Our new narrowboat base for 2019, Whixall marina is surrounded by miles of open countryside making it a great starting point for a truly peaceful, rural canal boat holiday. Head west along the Llangollen canal to admire several miles of uninterrupted pastoral beauty before you reach the market town of Ellesmere, named after the collection of unusual lakes which surround it, which were formed by glacial compressions at the end of the last Ice Age. Beyond that, the canal meanders west through the increasingly dramatic hills of the border country that straddles England and Wales, to reach the 710-ft long and 70-ft high Chirk Aqueduct which takes you across the River Ceiriog into north Wales. Admire Thomas Telford’s masterly construction before heading to one of the nearby pubs.

So, don’t be saddened by the prospect of summer coming to an end but celebrate everything that autumn has to offer and start planning your September canal holiday – our expert team are always on hand to help so get in touch!

 

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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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The ultimate waterway ‘Staycation’ holiday

The benefits of choosing a staycation

 British summertime has a special kind of magic. When the sun is shining, the flowers are blooming, everything is luscious and green and happy punters sit smiling outside cafés and pubs watching the world drift past, there is quite literally nowhere we would rather be.

With Anglo Welsh’s canal boat holidays, you can make the most of this happy season by exploring many of England and Wales’ most scenic destinations by narrowboat. From famous historic cities to idyllic rural getaways, our narrowboat holidays have it all, inspiring you with awe and wonder.

Travelling at a steady two to three miles an hour along our historic inland waterways, enables you to forget your worries and enjoy a more relaxed pace of life.

But choosing a staycation as your summer holiday also offers numerous other advantages. Here, we explore why holidaying on home ground can be such a great choice:

Green and pleasant land

Let’s face it, nowhere is more beautiful than the British countryside in summer. This is of course largely down to the large amount of rainfall we experience for most of the year which creates fertile verdant landscapes. The rolling green hills, patchwork quilt fields, oak woodland, river valleys and babbling streams offer a picturesque backdrop that is hard to beat. Of course, you can find grander and wilder scenery overseas, higher mountains, bigger rivers, enormous forests, but bigger does not always mean better. In fact, when travelling by narrowboat on a canal with limited time, shorter distances between destinations can be something of a relief. The small scale of England and Wales mean you enjoy incredible variety of landscapes in a very small area, travelling between mountains and sweeping flood plains in a couple of hours. The abundance of wild flowers, shrubs and trees which burst into life from spring onwards adorns our canal routes, adding to the picture postcard effect. Many of Anglo Welsh’s most popular canal boat holiday routes actually take you through areas of National Parks – such as the Leeds and Liverpool canal between Silsden and Burnley – or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty – the Kennet and Avon canal between Bath and Bradford on Avon, for instance.

Wealth of history and culture

There is a reason that Britain has a booming tourism industry with around 40 million people from all over the world flocking here every year – it is because the UK has an incredible array of historical and cultural wonders to visit and admire. Few nations can boast the rich concentration of castles, stately homes, heritage buildings, ancient monuments, museums, galleries, theatres – even the canals themselves are historic with some sections such as the majestic Pontcysyllte Aqueduct named as a World Heritage Site. You can hire our canal boats from cities such as Oxford and Bath, renowned for their breath-taking historic architecture, motor your way into the heart of medieval Chester and Stratford-upon-Avon or float up to the walls of Warwick or Skipton Castles. There is so much to see and do along the canal routes, we could spend a year listing the attractions and still have more to mention.

No flights

Staying in the UK means you cut out the most tiresome part of any holiday – the flights. No 3am alarm call, no hastily devoured overpriced coffee and croissant, no check-in queues, no airport security and lastly, no cramped airplane in which the seats appear to have been designed to fit a six-year-old. Instead, you can indulge in a relaxed start to your holidays. After a leisurely breakfast, jump in the car – or bus or train depending upon which canal boat base you are starting from – and make your way with no stress to your intended destination ready to collect the keys to your narrowboat at 3pm and run through your training and briefing, before you float away. You start your holiday feeling fresh and cheerful not sleep deprived, crabby and possibly even jet lagged.

Less travel time

Running on from the point above, by staying in the UK, it is likely you will significantly reduce your travel time. This is particularly helpful if you have limited holiday days and do not wish to devote at least two of them to simply getting to your destination and back. A staycation will at most require a car, bus or train journey of a few hours. With 11 Anglo Welsh canal boat bases to choose from as your starting point, all in wonderful locations scattered across England and Wales, you will always be able to select a route that minimises your travel time to no more than a couple of hours.

Easier with the kids

For all the reasons above and more, a staycation is a great option if you are bringing children along. Young kids do not respond well to long journeys cooped up in a car or airplane – especially if they have been woken up at 3am for it. It is often when you most need the little ones to behave themselves that they start acting up, creating a stressful and tiring journey for all involved. If you choose a narrowboat holiday for your staycation, the kids will love the novelty of life afloat and because you are constantly on the move, they’ll have far less chance to get bored and start misbehaving.

Take your pets along for the ride

If you are not crossing any international borders, there is no reason why your four legged friends shouldn’t join you on holiday. Dogs, cats and other animals are often much loved members of the family so it is unsurprising people do not like leaving them behind. As well as the guilt, made worse by their sad faces as the luggage is packed, there is also often a significant cost to having them well looked after in your absence. At Anglo Welsh we welcome pets on our narrowboats with the first pet travelling for free. Dogs in particular hate being separated from their owners – or pack – for even a short time so why not include them in the fun. With its focus on the great outdoors, a narrowboat holiday is perfect for dogs, with plenty of space and wonderful walks all along the canals. For more on why a canal boat makes a perfect pet friendly holiday and our top tips on bringing along your furry friend, read on here.

No language barrier

By staying in the UK you remove any potential for awkward misunderstandings or stress due to language barriers. While some people welcome the challenge of taking on a new language, most of us are left babbling incoherently while steadily reddening with embarrassment as we try and order a coffee in broken French or Spanish. The British are notoriously bad at foreign languages, let’s not deny it. So, holiday in the UK and unwind in your mother tongue. You’ll no longer have to worry about being served a completely different dish to the one you wanted or nodding at a series of instructions and hand gestures only to set off in completely the wrong direction. There’s no doubt, it is more relaxing when you actually understand what everyone is talking about.

Save money

Last but not least, by cutting out lengthy travel arrangements, currency exchange and possibly child or pet care, you could save yourself a lot of money by opting for a staycation in the UK. This will leave you with more funds to channel towards the important things such as sightseeing, fun activities, food and drink – all of which will really add to the overall holiday experience. If you choose an Anglo Welsh canal boat holiday, you will essentially be provided with a floating home and fully equipped kitchen so you can also save hard earned cash by preparing and enjoying meals onboard rather than relying on restaurant food. With so many wonderful things to see and do along the waterways you should be able to reach virtually everything you want on foot.

If all this hasn’t persuaded you that a holiday in the UK is the best option, then have a peruse of our website to look at the different canal boat bases and routes available which will take you through some of the most stunning countryside Britain has to offer.

If you want to discuss your preferences and requirements with one of our team to get some expert advice on which locations and boats would best suit you, please don’t hesitate to give us a ring.

 

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Summer holiday fun taking place along the canals

Summer holiday fun taking place along the canals

Summer holiday season is almost upon us and what better way to spend it then hiring a narrowboat and floating gently along a beautiful historic canal.

If you are planning a canal boat holiday this summer, it is worth doing some research into the many fun events and attractions you could reach by narrowboat.

Our historic waterways come alive during the summer holiday season so wherever you want your canal boat hire to start from, we can guarantee there will be something fun or interesting within easy cruising distance.

With so much to see and do along the canals, there is something for every generation to enjoy. So, if you are planning a canal barge holiday for the whole family, don’t worry, there will be plenty to keep the kids entertained.

Here are a few of our top choices for summer holiday fun along the canals this year:

 

Bath Carnival, Saturday, 13th July, Kennet and Avon Canal

Nearest Anglo Welsh canal boat hire bases: Bath and Monkton Combe

A little earlier than most school summer holidays but worth including just the same as each year Bath Carnival bring the streets of this historic city to life in a colourful celebration of diverse world cultures. Flamboyant floats, costumes, music and dancing thrill the crowds and leave the whole city wanting to party.

 

Bristol Harbour Festival, Friday 19th to Sunday 21st July, River Avon

Nearest Anglo Welsh canal boat hire base: Bath

Bristol’s harbourside plays host to the city’s biggest free festival which combines art, music and performance while showcasing the city’s maritime heritage. The floating harbour is lined by stages and stalls selling fantastic local food and drink with live music, shows, workshops, boat trips and more fun for all the family.

 

Manchester MCM Comic Con, Saturday 27th and Sunday 28th July, Bridgewater Canal

Nearest Anglo Welsh canal boat hire base: Bunbury

Dig out your favourite superhero costume and geek out at the UK’s biggest pop-culture event. Comic Con returns to Manchester with a blockbuster weekend of special guests including Guardians of the Galaxy’s Michael Rooker as well as TV, movies, comic books and cosplay that can be enjoyed by parents and children alike.

 

Afternoon tea at Anderton Boat Lift, Sunday 28th July, the Trent and Mersey Canal

Nearest Anglo Welsh canal boat hire base: Bunbury and Great Haywood

Admire this historic feat of engineering while sipping on afternoon tea and wolfing down delicious dainty sandwiches and cakes in a perfect afternoon out. The special ‘afternoon tea experiences’ include a look around the magnificent 144-year-old boat lift followed by a boat trip on the River Weaver and a delicious afternoon tea in the lift view marquee.

 

Gifford Circus at Stonor Park, Thursday 25th July to Monday 29th July, River Thames

Nearest Anglo Welsh canal boat hire base: Oxford

The famous Gifford Circus will be bringing its new show Xanadu to Stonor Park in Henley. Inspired by the 70s flower power movement, the new show promises to be a spectacular evening of incredible acrobatics, jaw-dropping aerial tricks alongside clowns, musicians and even horses. Enter the magic wonderland that is Gifford’s Big Top and wait to fall under their spell.

 

The Oxford Shakespeare Festival, running until Saturday 10th August, River Thames

Nearest AngloWelsh canal boat hire base: Oxford

Enjoy one of the Bard’s masterpieces in the dramatic open air surroundings of Oxford Castle and Prison’s courtyard. There is tragedy and comedy on offer depending on your preference. Tomahawk Theatre presents Macbeth from 1st to 27th July while Siege Theatre performs Twelfth Night from 29th July to 10th August.

 

Summer festival at World of Wedgwood, Saturday, 10th and Sunday 11th August, Trent and Mersey Canal

Nearest Anglo Welsh canal boat hire base: Great Haywood

After the popularity of the monthly market, World of Wedgewood is extending it into a two-day celebration of mouth-watering food and drink and artisan crafts. More than 50 stalls will be showcasing the best edible delights from local suppliers alongside hand-crafted products to a backdrop of great live music throughout the weekend.

 

National Waterways Museum, Horses at work day, Sunday, 11 August, Llangollen Canal

Nearest Anglo Welsh canal boat hire bases: Whixall and Trevor

The museum at Ellesmere Port is hosting a special day to pay homage to the special role of horses in the history of the waterways. Go along to see boats being towed along the canal by horses in the traditional style as well as lots of other horse related activities.

 

The Oxford Proms, Saturday, 10th August and Thursday, 15th August, River Thames

Nearest Anglo Welsh canal boat hire base: Oxford

Treat yourself to some of the best live classical music you’ll ever hear with one of these two amazing Oxford Prom concerts, both featuring virtuoso pianist Maki Sekiya. The first, the Hall of Fame Classic concert at University Church of St Mary the Virgin will showcase Beethoven and Shostakovich. The second, The Magic of Mozart, held at the same venue, will, as the name suggests celebrate the work of the Austrian musical genius.

 

Chester Zoo Little Explorers Outdoor Adventure Club, various dates from 20th July to 17th August, Shropshire Union Canal

Nearest Anglo Welsh canal boat hire base: Bunbury

Chester Zoo is doing its bit to foster the next generation of David Attenboroughs with weekly clubs throughout the holidays for children aged 5 to 8, exploring different types of wildlife: 20 July, Feathery Friends; 27 July, Brilliant Bugs; 3 August, Pond Creatures; 17th August, Mammal Detectives. It is also a great chance for mum and dad to do a bit of sightseeing in peace and quiet.

 

On the Beach’s Great Northern Summer, running until Saturday, 31st August, Bridgewater Canal

Nearest Anglo Welsh canal boat hire base: Bunbury

Great Northern Square has been transformed by a giant sandpit containing 50 tonnes of sand and wood rounds which will keep children happy for hours. The sandpit provides the focal point for a whole summer of family friendly activities such as markets, play sessions, yogathons and more.

 

Drayton Manor Theme Park Summer of Fun, Saturday 20th July to Sunday 1st September, Birmingham and Fazeley Canal

Nearest Anglo Welsh canal boat hire base: Great Haywood

With over 100 rides and a 15 acre zoo, Drayton Manor is a theme park the whole family can enjoy and it is hosting a ‘summer of fun’ throughout the holidays. It even boasts Thomas Land where younger children can spend a day meeting Thomas and his friends and testing out rides like Bertie Bus and Toby’s Tram Express. With special events and family activities to be announced throughout the summer, Drayton really does have every age group covered.

 

Cadbury World, Freddo’s Treasure Trove Stage Show, Saturday, 20th July to Sunday 1st September, Worcester and Birmingham Canal

Nearest Anglo Welsh canal boat hire base: Tardebigge

This temple to chocolate making is presenting a special show throughout the summer starring a living, breathing version of Freddo, which is a guaranteed hit with the little ones. The show, included in the normal ticket price, invites you to set sail with Captain Freddo and learn what it takes to become a pirate on the Seven Seas. Lean how to walk and talk like a pirate, or risk walking the plank!

 

National Sealife Centre, daily until Sunday, 8th September, Birmingham Canal Navigations Mainline or Gas Street Canal Basin

Nearest Anglo Welsh canal boat hire base: Tardebigge and Great Haywood

This awe-inspiring Norman Foster-designed aquarium where you can see more than 60 strange, beautiful and fascinating creatures of the deep, is hosting a special ‘Pirates and Mermaids’ underwater treasure hunt adventure to keep the kids entertained this summer.

 

Warwick Castle Falconer’s Quest, daily until Sunday, 3rd November, Grand Union Canal

Nearest Anglo Welsh canal boat hire base: Stockton and Wootton Wawen

Experience the UK’s biggest birds of prey show at one of the best preserved medieval castles in Britain. Kids and adults alike will be wowed as up to 70 birds of prey take to the skies in an action packed dynamic display of aerial avian acrobatics. The shows will take place daily throughout the summer and into Autumn.

 

Skipton Castle re-enactment events, weekends throughout summer, Leeds and Liverpool Canal

Nearest Anglo Welsh canal boat hire base: Silsden

This magnificent medieval castle hosts a series of re-enactment events throughout summer which will transport you back centuries to witness dramatic episodes from British history. On the 20th to 21st July you can experience life as it would have been in Skipton during the Wars of the Roses, on the 3rd to 4th of August you can watch the Civil War Regiment prepare for battle against the Parliamentarian army and on the 17th to 18th August watch 12 century knights display their fighting prowess.

 

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Explore our Top 6 Military Destinations Afloat

Explore our Top 6 Military Destinations Afloat

Britain’s 3,000-mile network of canals and navigable rivers provide canal boat holiday-makers fantastic waterway adventures, with access to hundreds of exciting destinations in waterside villages, towns and cities along the way.

To celebrate Armed Forces Day on Saturday 29 June, and the 15% discount we give to members of the Armed Forces, we’ve put together a list of our Top 6 canal boat holiday destinations with military links:

  1. Discover the Hack Green Secret Nuclear Bunker – from our canal boat rental base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire, it takes around three-and-a-half hours, travelling nine miles and passing through just two locks, to reach moorings close to the Hack Green Secret Nuclear Bunker Museum. This fascinating blast-proof underground bunker was once of the nation’s most secret defence sites, and would have been the centre of Regional Government had nuclear war broken out.  It was decommissioned in 1993, and today it offers visitors the chance to see the government’s preparations for nuclear war as well as the largest public display of nuclear weapons in Europe.
  2. Browse the nine galleries of the Royal Armouries Museum – from our narrowboat hire base at Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, it takes around 17 hours to cruise to Leeds City Centre, home of the Royal Armouries Museum, passing through 28 locks along the way. Home to the national collection of arms and armour, there are thousands of objects from across the world to admire displayed in nine galleries, including the ‘War Gallery’ which houses a longbow from the wreck of the Mary Rose, a Maxim Machine Gun, a model of the Battle of Agincourt and the oldest surviving European horse armour.
  3. Explore over 900 years of history at Oxford Castle – from our canal boat hire base at Eynsham on the River Thames near Witney, it takes around three-and-a-half hours, passing through three locks, to reach moorings in the centre of Oxford, just a ten-minute walk from Oxford Castle. This imposing 11th century earthwork motte-and-bailey castle was founded by the Norman baron Robert D’Oilly the elder in 1071.  Most of the fortress was destroyed in the English Civil War and by the 18th century, the remaining buildings had become Oxford’s local prison.  Tours of the Castle are led by costumed character guides who lead guests up the Saxon St George’s Tower for panoramic views of the city, as well as deep underground to the 900-year old crypt, through the austere confines of the 18th century Debtor’s Tower and Prison D-Wing, and up the Mound of the castle.
  4. Find out about the last cavalry charge at the Warwickshire Yeomanry Museum – from our narrowboat hire base at Stockton on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, it takes seven hours, passing through 20 locks to reach the county town of Warwick, home of the Yeomanry Museum. This small museum, based in The Court House, on Jury Street in Warwick, celebrates the history of the Warwickshire Yeomanry from 1794 to 1956, including the last classic unsupported Cavalry Charge of the Great War, with a collection of uniforms, weapons, medals and memorabilia.
  5. Get close to medieval warfare at Chirk Castle – from our narrowboat hire base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, it takes just over an hour to reach Chirk, passing over the incredible Pontcysyllte Aqueduct along the way, which this year celebrates 10 years of World Heritage Status. The National Trust’s Chirk Castle, one of a chain of fortresses built on the Welsh-English border by Edward I, is a 30-minute walk up from the canal. Started in 1295, Chirk Castle features round ‘drum’ towers that allowed archers a wide firing field and created a ‘killing zone’ where the fields of fire overlapped. The towers are wider at ground level making it difficult for siege towers and battering rams to get close.  Visitors today can explore lavishly furnished rooms, the Adam Tower – complete with its two-level dungeons, medieval toilets and murder holes – and enjoy walking through the Castle’s lovely gardens and parkland full of ancient trees, wildflowers and birds.  Chirk can also be reached on a week’s holiday from our new canal boat hire base on the Llangollen Canal at Whixall.
  6. Learn about the siege of Skipton Castle – from our canal boat rental base at Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in West Yorkshire, it takes just over three hours (travelling six miles with no locks) to reach Skipton with its 900-year old fortress, one of the most complete and best preserved medieval castles in England. Visitors to this impressive stone castle, which withstood a three-year siege during the Civil War, can climb from the depths of the Dungeon to the top of the Watch Tower, exploring the magnificent Banqueting Hall, Kitchen, Bedchamber and Privy in between.  Skipton Castle also has some fabulous woodland walking trails to explore. For nearly a thousand years these woods provided fuel, food and building materials for the castle’s inhabitants.  Today, there are at least 18 species of trees to admire there, as well as hundreds of flowering plants, including wild orchids and bluebells.

 

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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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