Welcoming the New Year with an Admiral Class cruise
As the Operations Director of Anglo Welsh, it’s always valuable to take one of our boats out on a family break, looking at it from a customer’s point of view. So, with Christmas Day enjoyed, myself, my partner Claire, my two boys Jacob and Daniel, plus our two dogs George and Cooper, set off on one of the brand-new Admiral Class boats from Great Haywood the day after Boxing Day.
With the boat packed up with everything we needed for our planned three-day cruise to Wootton Wawen, we headed off at 8am. All of us were excited to see what the next few days brought, although the weather forecast did not look like it was going to be kind to us. I’d instructed all to pack warm clothes, waterproofs and suitable footwear. It was only myself who didn’t listen, and I forgot my coat. As we were passing Tesco in Rugeley, we moored up and I made a dash to purchase an emergency coat – best £35 I’ve spent!
We headed down on the Trent & Mersey route, which took us up towards Fradley Junction to join the Coventry Canal as our plan of action was to moor in Fazeley for the night. We arrived there at 5pm having had a great day cruising along, chatting, eating turkey sandwiches, Christmas cake and plenty of hot drinks along the way. The boys and the dogs also love the quiet pace of life and it was great to see them all enjoying the fresh air.
Once moored at Fazeley, in the well-equipped kitchen Claire was able to make us all a lovely two-course dinner and a very enjoyable game of Monopoly was had. The kitchen facilities on board are excellent and have all the items needed to cook throughout the trip, with Claire commenting that the only thing missing was a dishwasher!
After a great night’s sleep by all in the comfortable beds, we set off again at 7.30am and headed through Birmingham. It’s fair to say that this part of Birmingham is not necessarily the prettiest, and Daniel hoped it would take us via the nicer side of Brindley Place, but that was unfortunately not possible on this route. It was interesting to cruise under the M6 though, as you get to see a very different side to Birmingham by boat as opposed to by car. We cruised all day, enjoying the scenery and wildlife with Jacob fishing along the way, then we were able to moor at Catherine de Barnes when we arrived about 5pm. Whilst I sorted out the boat and popped to the local shop, Claire and Daniel walked the dogs. Then back to the boat for another hot meal and a second round of Monopoly and Jenga. It was so warm on the boat during the evening with the central heating on board, we didn’t even need to light the multi-fuel stove during the trip! The Admiral Class four-berths have two bathrooms and the hot showers are excellent, just what you need after a day of cruising along.
On our final day, we were all up early and headed off in the rain at 7.30am towards Knowle Locks. Such a beautiful location which made for some great photos, it was a shame it was raining so hard and we did all get quite wet, but we just had to see the funny side of this! It’s definitely somewhere I’d like to visit again in the dry. The scenery on the third day was stunning as we joined the Stratford Canal, and with all the pretty locks, it made for a really special day. Jacob and Claire were mainly on lock duty, perfected after going through over 40 during the 3 days, whilst Daniel kept the dogs entertained on the boat. We arrived at Wootton Wawen around 4pm and so were bang on our original plan.
After such a busy year, it was a brilliant way to unwind and relax before seeing the New Year in. We had lots of fun, relaxation, games, ate very well and had all the fresh air that we needed. Everyone, including the dogs, came away from this break feeling refreshed and ready to see what 2022 brings us all.
Our brand-new four-berth Admiral Class boats ‘Duncan’ and ‘Curzon’ are joining our fleet at Wootton Wawen and Great Haywood this March, and ‘Codrington’ will join the fleet at Bath in mid-April. Our Reservations Team are taking bookings for these boats now, so if you’d like to come aboard, please give them a call on 0117 304 1122.
We are taking steps to make our holidays more sustainable
By Matt Lucas Stern, our Operations Manager
More and more people and companies are taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint and change their consumption patterns.
Here at Anglo Welsh, we’ve been looking at ways to reduce our impact on the environment.
For the last six years, all our new boats have been fitted with LED lighting and the latest engines with lower emissions. By 2022, we aim to have replaced all on board lights with LED bulbs and in 2023, we plan to introduce our first hybrid powered boat.
This year, we’ve introduced our first electric call out van here at Wootton Wawen, and by 2030 we’d like to have replaced all our company vans with electric vehicles.
During this winter we have fitted solar panels on the roof of one of our boats, to trial here at Wootton Wawen next March. They will be on our two berth Admiral Class boat ‘Collingwood’ and will provide power for some of the on board facilities, including the lights, fridge and television. By 2030, we aim to have solar panels on all our new boats. We are also looking at opportunities to fit solar panels at some of our bases, to help power our laundries and electric vehicles.
From next Spring, all our boats will be stocked with natural, eco-friendly and cruelty-free washing up liquids and cleaning products on board.
There’s so much we can do to make our holidays more sustainable, and we look forward to bringing you news of our progress as we embark on our journey to reach net zero by 2050.
In the meantime, here are our Top 10 tips to help you make your holiday more sustainable:
1. Use green cleaning products – be kinder to the environment and aquatic life by using the eco cleaning products provided on board, and bring along microbead free toiletries.
2. Bring your own hot drinks cups – so if you stop off to buy a coffee somewhere on your narrow boat holiday you won’t need a ‘difficult to recycle’ disposable cup.
3. Reduce your use of plastic bottles – you can use water from the boat’s tank to make a cup of tea, but you will need to stock up on fresh drinking water, so we suggest bringing one large bottle or canteen to top up at water points.
4. Take part in the #PlasticsChallenge – each year an estimated 14 million pieces of plastic rubbish ends up in Britain’s canals and rivers, with around 500,000 pieces flowing out into our oceans. The Canal & River Trust is asking everyone who visits its waterways to pledge to pick up at least at least one piece of plastic litter each time we visit the waterways.
5. Bring your own shopping bags – ready for shop-stops en route and avoid buying products with excess packaging.
6. Plan some vegan and vegetarian recipes afloat – it’s healthier for us and the planet to eat less meat, so when you are planning your pre-holiday shop, include some meat-free meals.
7. Shop locally – look out for farm shops and local stores selling locally grown produce that are walking distance from your canal boat holiday route, as well as pubs with menus using locally sourced ingredients.
8. Bag all rubbish – help keep rubbish and plastic out of the waterways by making sure all your bin bags are tied securely so they can’t spill open, and make use of canalside recycling facilities along the way.
9. Burn greener fuels – if you book a boat with a multi fuel stove, burn the fire logs provided made from recycled sawdust and wax instead of coal.
10. Become a Friend of the Canal & River Trust – to help protect and care for the waterway environment and the wildlife that lives there.
Anglo Welsh’s reservations manager Emma Lovell offers a guide to the best winter cruising destinations this Christmas.
This winter, we are offering winter cruising* from eight of our narrowboat hire bases, giving you the chance to spend Christmas or New Year on the canals.
The canals are quieter during the winter months and people tend to make shorter journeys. Winter canal boat hire is about enjoying being close to the water and visiting canalside pubs and attractions, rather than travelling lots of miles each day.
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 on board. Some of our boats also come with multi-fuel stoves for some extra special winter warmth, and there’s plenty of storage room on board, so you can bring lots of warm and wet weather clothing.
Some routes will be affected at times by the Canal & River Trust’s annual winter maintenance work, but we can provide information on any planned route closures at the time of booking.
Here’s our guide to our Top 8 narrowboat holidays for Christmas 2021:
1. Float to through the Warwickshire countryside to Stratford upon Avon – from our narrowboat rental base on the Stratford Canal at Wootton Wawen in Warwickshire, it’s a six-hour cruise to Stratford upon Avon. The journey takes you through the Warwickshire countryside, passing through 17 locks along the way. Once in Stratford, you can moor up in Bancroft Basin, just a short walk from this popular tourist town’s excellent choice of theatres, restaurants, markets and museums.
2. Experience Christmas in the World Heritage City of Bath – on a short break from our canal boat hire base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Monkton Combe, you can reach moorings in Bath City Centre in around four cruising hours. The route takes you along a section of the Avon Valley and up the Bath flight of six locks. From moorings close to Pulteney Bridge, you can enjoy exploring this beautiful City, including the Roman Baths and medieval Bath Abbey.
3. Cruise through the Staffordshire countryside to Fradley – heading south from our base at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal, you can reach Fradley Junction in around five hours. The journey passes through five locks and 12 peaceful miles of Staffordshire countryside, including the Cannock Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Places to enjoy along the way include The Wolseley Centre run by the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, the Wolseley Arms pub and the village of Handsacre with its ‘The Old Peculiar’ pub. Once at Fradley, refreshments are available at the Canalside Café or The Swan Inn, and there are walking trails at the Fradley Pool Nature Reserve.
4. Travel through the Shropshire Lake District to Ellesmere – from our base at Whixall on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire, it takes around four hours to reach the historic town of Ellesmere. Along the way, the route passes Lyneal Moss and Colemere Country Park. Once at Ellesmere, there’s a choice of independent shops and restaurants, as well as formal gardens, woods and castle grounds to explore.
5. Navigate into the centre of Birmingham – from our base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, it takes around five hours to boat into the heart of Birmingham. Boasting more canals than Venice and with preparations underway to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games, it’s a great time to visit Britain’s vibrant second city. And there are no locks to pass through along the way, so this is also a good route for canal boat holiday beginners.
6. Visit the ancient city of Chester afloat – from our base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal near Tarporley, it’s a seven-hour cruise through the Cheshire countryside to Chester. Once there, you can visit the City’s famous 700-year old two-tired shopping galleries – the Rows. And you can also take time to explore Chester’s Roman City Walls, Amphitheatre, riverside gardens and sparkling city centre Christmas lights.
7. Cruise to the Eisteddfod town of Llangollen – from our base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, it takes around two hours to cruise to Llangollen. There you can moor up in Llangollen Basin and enjoy visiting this beautiful town nestled in the Berwyn Mountains. Things to visit include the Llangollen Steam Railway, Plas Newydd house and gardens and the Horseshoe Falls. There’s a great choice of independent shops and places to eat, including the popular Corn Mill with stunning river and mountain views.
8. Enjoy Christmas in historic Bradford on Avon – on a short break from our narrow boat hire base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Sydney Wharf, you can cruise to the historic market town of Bradford on Avon. The journey takes around four hours and passes through just one lock. Bradford on Avon, situated on the southern edge of the Cotswolds, has beautiful limestone buildings echoing those of nearby Bath. It is packed with historic buildings, including the 14th century Tithe Barn and 15th century chapel of St Mary Tory, with amazing views across the town. There’s a great choice of independent shops and places to eat to choose from.
*NB Winter maintenance work can affect some routes at certain times. Customers are advised to check at the time of booking.
Carl Cowlishaw, Operations Director for Anglo Welsh, reflects on 55 years of providing great value narrowboat holidays
This year we are delighted to be celebrating our 55th birthday. In that time, we’ve grown from a fledgling canal boat hire company, operating just two boats from Market Harborough, to one of the largest operators on the network. We now offer over 160 narrowboats for hire from 11 bases across England and Wales.
Since we began operating, Britain’s canals have undergone an incredible renaissance, with hundreds of miles of canals restored to navigation and over £1billion invested in the network.
Tom Rolt inspired a generation to fight to save the waterways
In the 1960’s, freight carrying on our waterways had been in major decline for decades. It was Tom Rolt’s pioneering journey on narrowboat ‘Cressy’ in 1939 and his book ‘Narrow Boat’, that inspired a generation to fight to save Britain’s ailing inland waterways network, and sparked the beginning of the canal boat holiday era.
Canal boat holidays in the 1940’s and 50’s were usually on ex freight-carrying boats, altered to provide very basic accommodation with no shower, freshwater storage, heating or insulation. Instead, it was just camp beds, pump toilets, camping stoves and blankets.
In 1968, Barbara Castle’s Transport Act officially recognised the nation’s canals as a leisure resource, paving the way for new life to be breathed into the network. And by the 1970’s Anglo Welsh had established itself as a fully operating hire boat company. Back then we were running a fleet of 48 narrowboats out of four locations – Market Harborough, Trevor, Wootton Wawen and Great Haywood.
Today, after decades of investment by successive governments, and the tireless efforts of thousands of canal restoration volunteers across the country, the canal network is in great shape. There are now over 35,000 canal boats on the network, and around 350,000 people holiday on the canals each year.
All mod cons are provided on today’s holiday hire boats
As well as a thriving network to cruise along, the standard of accommodation on board today’s purpose-built holiday narrowboats has changed dramatically. All the essential mod cons are provided on board our purpose-built holiday narrowboats.
From central heating and hot water to TV’s, WiFi, fully-equipped kitchens, showers and flushing toilets. Here at Anglo Welsh, we offer a range of boats – from traditional value for money narrowboats, to the very best in luxury and space afloat, with extra shower rooms and toilets, more space per person and multi-fuel stoves.
Our holidays are more popular than ever
The coronavirus pandemic has led many people to explore their local area for the first time, and discover the beauty of their local waterway. And with staycations increasing in popularity, our holidays have never been more popular.
We look forward to welcoming you on board
We are very much looking forward to welcoming canal boat holiday-makers back to our boats and the canals. Customer service continues to be of paramount importance to us, so whether you’re a complete novice or an experienced canal boater, our knowledgeable staff are on hand to provide all the advice you need. We can help you to choose the best boat, departure point and route for you, and your family or friends.
On behalf of the Anglo Welsh team, we’d like to thank all our customers for coming to us for their canal boat holiday experience over the last 55 years. We look forward to continuing to provide great value canal boat holidays, and hopefully welcoming you on board again soon!
Enjoy a family adventure afloat this summer, closer to home
By Emma Lovell, Anglo Welsh’s Reservations Manager
England and Wales are criss-crossed by hundreds of miles of beautiful inland waterways to explore afloat. They take narrowboat holiday-makers through some of our best loved countryside, and into the heart of some our most famous waterside towns and cities.
Narrowboat holidays are great for families, bringing everyone together for an adventure afloat. From steering the boat, and working the locks, to planning the route and the stops, everyone can get involved.
Pets are welcome aboard all our boats and the first pet travels free, so your dog, hamster or budgie can enjoy the floating holiday home break too!
Anglo Welsh offers narrowboat holidays from 11 starting points across England and Wales. So, whether you want to stay close to home and explore your local waterway, or travel further afield to see another part of the country, we have hundreds of routes and destinations to choose from.
From views of the dramatic Welsh mountains on the Llangollen Canal, to meadows full of birdsong alongside the majestic of the River Thames, we’ve put together a list of our Top 10 narrowboat holidays for families this summer:
1. Cruise to the Shropshire Lake District – from our narrowboat hire base on the Llangollen Canal at Trevor in North Wales, on a short break you can cruise to Ellesmere, in the heart of the Shropshire Lake District. The journey takes around seven hours, passing through two locks, two tunnels and over two magnificent aqueducts, including the famous UNESCO World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. This Wonder of the Waterways, carries the Llangollen Canal 38 metres high above the Dee valley, with magnificent views of the valley below, and Welsh Mountains beyond.
2. Navigate through Shakespeare country to Stratford upon Avon – from our narrowboat hire base at Wootton Wawen, on the Stratford Canal near Henley-in-Arden, it takes around six hours to cruise through the Warwickshire countryside, which includes passing through 17 locks, to reach overnight moorings in Bancroft Basin in the heart of Stratford upon Avon. Once there, you can walk to all the top attractions in Stratford, from theatres and museums, to pubs and restaurants. This destination is perfect for a weekend away.
3. Travel round the Black Country Ring – on a week’s break from our barge hire base on the Trent & Mersey Canal at Great Haywood in Staffordshire, you can travel round the Black Country Ring. The journey, which travels 75 miles and passes through 79 locks, takes around 43 hours. Highlights along the way include: Gas Street Basin in the heart of Birmingham City Centre; the 21 locks at Wolverhampton; and the tranquil waters at Tixall Wide.
4. Take a Thames boating holiday to Wallingford – from our narrowboat rental base on the River Thames at Oxford, it’s a nine-hour, 11-lock cruise to the historic market town of Wallingford. Along the way, you’ll travel through miles of peaceful Oxfordshire meadows and pastureland. Places to stop off along the way, include the City of Oxford with its world famous museums, and the market town of Abingdon, with its popular waterside pub, The Nag’s Head. This journey is perfect for a four night mid-week break.
5. Potter through the Worcestershire countryside via the Stourport Ring – on a week’s break from our canal boat rental base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, you can travel round the Stourport Ring. This popular circuit will take you on an 84-mile, 114-lock journey, cruising for around 56 hours. Highlights include: Gas Street Basin in the centre of Birmingham; Kinver Edge with its extensive woodlands and National Trust Holy Austin Rock Houses; the magnificent Cathedral City of Worcester; idyllic stretches of Worcestershire countryside along the River Severn; and the dramatic flight of 30 locks at Tardebigge.
6. Cruise across the Pennines to Foulridge Tunnel – from our canal boat hire base at Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in West Yorkshire, it takes just around 13 hours, passing through 15 locks, to reach Foulridge Tunnel. The journey will take you through a series of historic towns and villages, including Skipton, with its medieval fortress and acres of woodland trails to explore, and East Marton with a choice of pubs and access to the Pennine Way. This route is perfect for a week’s holiday.
7. Travel through the Avon Valley and up the Caen Hill Flight – on a week’s break from our canal boat rental base at Monkton Combe on the Kennet & Avon Canal near Bath, it takes around 19 hours to reach Pewsey Wharf. The route will take you through 37 locks each way, including the 29 locks of the Caen Hill Flight at Devizes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways. This journey will also take you over two dramatic Bath stone aqueducts at Dundas and Avoncliff, through the historic market town of Bradford on Avon and the beautiful Vale of Pewsey, part of the West Berkshire Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
8. Journey to the Eisteddfod town of Llangollen & back – on a week’s holiday from our canal boat rental base at Whixall Marina, on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire, it takes around 12 hours, passing through two locks, to reach the historic town of Llangollen on the edge of the Berwyn Mountains. Along the way, you’ll travel through the Shropshire Lake District and then across the magnificent World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte and Chirk aqueducts, with incredible views of the Welsh Mountains.
9. Navigate through the Cheshire countryside to The Cathedral of the Canals – on a short break from our canal boat rental base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal, you can cruise to the Anderton Boat Lift. The journey takes around nine hours and passes through 20 locks. Looking like a giant spider crouched on the hillside, this incredible feat of Victorian engineering moves boats 15 metres up or down between the River Weaver and the Trent & Mersey Canal.
10. Boat to Warwick Castle and back – on a short break from our canal boat hire base at Stockton, on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, you can cruise to moorings close to the magnificent Warwick Castle, said to be Britain’s greatest medieval experience. The journey there and back takes around 14 hours and passes through 40 locks (20 each way).
Celebrate a special occasion with a day afloat on your local waterway
Bookings manager, Emma Lovell, highlights Anglo Welsh’s Top 6 day boat destinations for 2021.
Whether you are celebrating a special occasion, like Mother’s Day or a birthday, or just looking for a different day out in your local area, our day boats offer the chance to enjoy a relaxing day afloat on your local waterway.
You can cruise gently along, watching out for waterway wildlife, and enjoying a picnic afloat or lunch at a canalside pub along the way.
We offer day boat hire from six of our bases, from just £99 per day for up to 10 people*. Full tuition is included, so you can get the hang of steering, working the locks and mooring up. Cruising hours during the season are from 9am to 4pm.
All our day boats are equipped with the facilities you need for a day afloat – cutlery, crockery, a kettle, cooker, fridge and toilet. There’s indoor and outdoor seating on all our day boats, so whatever the weather, you can enjoy the ever changing view.
And if you’ve ever fancied taking a canal boat holiday, but want to experience what it’s like before committing to a short break or week away, our day boats offer a great way to dip your toe in the water.
To help you plan your day out of the ordinary on one of our beautiful canals, we’ve put together a list of our Top 6 day boat destinations for 2021:
1. Wend your way through the Shropshire countryside to Whitchurch – from our canal boat hire base at Whixall on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire, you can head to the historic market town of Whitchurch on a day afloat. The lock-free journey, which takes just over two hours, travels through six peaceful miles of countryside, passing the medieval Pan Castle. Once at Whitchurch, you can moor up to explore the town with its half-timbered buildings, independent shops and restaurants, way-marked circular walks and Brown Moss nature reserve. Prices aboard our Whixall day boat ‘Julia’ are £99 for up to 10 people on a weekday, £150 on weekends and bank holidays.
2. Potter along the Stratford Canal to Wilmcote – from our narrowboat rental base at Wootton Wawen near Henley-in-Arden in Warwickshire, day boaters can head south along the Stratford Canal. The route takes you across the impressive Edstone Aqueduct and passes through one lock before reaching the historic village of Wilmcote in around two hours. You can moor up above Wilmcote Top Lock and take a short walk into the village, where you’ll find a choice of pubs, and The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s Mary Arden Farm. Prices aboard our Wootton Wawen day boats ‘Dolly’ and ‘Charlie’ are £99 for up to 10 people on a weekday, £150 on weekends and bank holidays.
3. Cruise the Trent & Mersey to Rugeley for some Outstanding Beauty – from our narrowboat hire base at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal near Stafford, on a day out, you can reach the historic market town of Rugeley. The journey travels four miles, passes through two locks and takes around two hours. Along the way, you’ll pass the National Trust’s Shugborough Estate and Cannock Chase Forest, a designated Area of Outstanding Beauty. Once at Rugeley, you can moor up to explore the town or turn at bridge 68 and head back to Wolseley to visit the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust’s Wolseley Centre or lunch at the canalside Wolseley Arms pub. Prices aboard our Great Haywood day boats ‘Daphne’ and ‘Abi’ are £99 on a weekday, £150 on weekends and bank holidays.
4. Travel through the Forest of Arden in Worcestershire – from our canal boat hire base at Tardebigge near Bromsgrove, on a day out you can cruise north along the Worcester & Birmingham Canal to Kings Norton Junction in around two and a half hours. The eight-mile, zero-lock journey passes through the remains of the Forest of Arden, with two canal tunnels along the way, including Wast Hills, which at 2,493 metres long is one of the longest in the country. There’s a choice of pubs along the way, including The Crown or The Weighbridge at Alvechurch, and the Hopwood House at Hopwood. Prices aboard our Tardebigge day boat ‘Emma’ are £99 on a weekday, £150 on weekends and bank holidays. ‘Emma’ can also be hired for a night for two people for £198, plus fuel.
5. Glide across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ for some incredible views – from our canal boat hire base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, it’s less than 10 minutes by water to the incredible World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. Standing at over 38 metres high and stretching for 305 metres across the Dee Valley, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, is truly one of the wonders of the waterways. After travelling across the Aqueduct, enjoying incredible views of the valley below, you can continue on to Glendrid to enjoy lunch at the Poacher’s Inn. This gentle five-mile journey with no locks, also takes you across Chirk Aqueduct and through Whitehouse and Chirk tunnels. Prices aboard our Trevor day boats ‘Jacob’, ‘Daniel’ and ‘Lotty’ are £120 on a weekday, £180 on weekends and bank holidays.
6. Cruise through the Cheshire countryside to Nantwich – from our canal boat rental base at Bunbury Wharf on the Shropshire Union Canal near Tarporley, on a day afloat you can cruise to Nantwich and back. The journey takes you through six peaceful miles of countryside, past the canalside Barbridge Inn and across the impressive Grade II* listed Nantwich Aqueduct with panoramic views across the town. With no locks along the way, the journey to Nantwich takes around two hours. Prices aboard our Bunbury day boat ‘Bella’ are £99 on a weekday, £150 on weekends and bank holidays.
We offer winter cruising from six of our narrowboat hire bases*, giving you the chance to cruise gently through the countryside, stopping off to explore canalside villages along the way, and to celebrate Christmas and New Year afloat.
The canals are quieter during the winter months and people tend to make shorter journeys. Winter cruising is about enjoying being close to the water and visiting canalside pubs with traditional log fires and other local attractions, rather than travelling lots of miles each day.
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 on board. Some of our boats also come with multi-fuel stoves for some extra special winter warmth, and there’s plenty of storage room on board, so you can bring lots of warm and wet weather clothing.
Some of our routes will be affected at times by the Canal & River Trust’s annual winter maintenance work, but here are our Top 6 winter narrowboat holidays for 2020:
1. 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 around five hours. The journey passes through five locks and 12 peaceful miles of Staffordshire countryside, including the Cannock Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Places to enjoy along the way include The Wolseley Centre run by the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, the Wolseley Arms pub and the village of Handsacre with its pub ‘The Old Peculiar’. Once at Fradley, you’ll find refreshments at the Canalside Café or The Swan Inn, and walking trails at the Fradley Pool Nature Reserve.
2. Travel gently through the Shropshire countryside to historic Whitchurch – from our barge holiday 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. Once at Whitchurch, enjoy way-marked walks, Brown Moss nature reserve and a choice of eateries, including the award-winning Black Bear pub.
3. Float to through the Warwickshire countryside to Shakespeare’s Stratford – from our narrowboat rental base at on 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 exploring this historic town, and visiting some of its many pubs, restaurants and cafes.
4. Navigate to the canalside village of Lapworth – from our canal barge holiday hire base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, it takes around seven hours to cruise the historic canal village of Lapworth. 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 for countryside walks along the Heart of England Way, and visit the National Trust’s Packwood House, with beautiful gardens to explore.
5. Visit historic Chester afloat – from our narrowboat hire base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal near Tarporley in Cheshire, it’s a seven-hour cruise through the Cheshire countryside, passing through nine locks, to reach the historic city of Chester. Once moored up at Northgate visitor moorings, you can take time to explore this ancient Cathedral City with Roman City Walls, Amphitheatre, riverside gardens and fabulous City Centre Christmas lights.
6. Cross ‘The Stream in the Sky’ to the Shropshire Lake District – our canal boat rental base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, is a ten minute cruise away from the incredible World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. This magnificent feat of Victorian engineering carries the canal 30 metres high above the Dee Valley, with amazing views to enjoy. On a short break, canal boat holiday-makers can cruise to Ellesmere, in the centre of the Shropshire Lake District, to visit the famous Mere, a haven for wildlife.
*Subject to government guidance and the lifting of relevant restrictions to control the spread of coronavirus, our boat yards are due to reopen on Monday 7 December. If you make a booking, but are legally unable to take your holiday as planned due to a Government coronavirus lockdown, you can transfer your booking with no admin fee or request a refund.
From the doldrums of lockdown to the busiest summer on record, Matt Lucas-Stern looks back on the 2020 narrowboat holiday season at Wootton Wawen.
“The coronavirus pandemic has bought dramatic changes to our lives, particularly for those of us involved in the world of travel and hospitality.
When the main 2020 boating season got underway at the beginning of March, even though we knew that Covid-19 was devastating communities elsewhere in China and parts of Europe, we still didn’t have any idea how much it was going to affect our lives.
Here at Wootton Wawen, we were focussing on getting all our boats in tip top shape ready for the main boating season, and making plans to hold an open day to show off our newly painted day boats. When Boris announced a national lockdown on that unforgettable evening on 23 March, everything changed and our boats were suddenly grounded until further notice.
At first we focused on enjoying watching the waterway burst into life as a particularly sunny and warm Spring progressed. As for many people, the peace and quiet of lockdown gave us the chance for reflection, family time and to connect to nature.
But as the weeks went by, we worried more and more about what the future would hold for our industry and when our holidays would be able to resume.
Then on the 20th of June, we received the fantastic news that domestic holidays could resume on the 4th of July. We needed to get our team back from furlough and put in all the necessary measures to ensure our holidays were safe.
We put in new social distancing measures at our boat yards, introduced extra cleaning regimes and we made a video showing people all the facilities on board our boats and how to operate them, to give holiday-makers extra information in advance of their boat handover.
It was a busy and exciting time, both for everyone working at the boat yards, and for our bookings team who were inundated with calls and emails from people wanting to book their canal boat holiday. Many of them were newcomers who had often thought about taking a canal boat holiday, but never quite got around to it before. They realised how perfect our staycation holidays are – offering the chance to escape into the countryside aboard a self-contained, self-catering floating holiday home!
The next two months were full on. For the first time ever, literally all our boats were booked out for the six week summer holiday peak. The first few weeks of July were a bit strange as everyone got used to the news ways of working and just being around people again. But we soon got everything working like clockwork and before long, it became the new normal.
With canal boat holidays, people usually turn up to the boat yard a bit stressed and anxious to get their holiday underway. But by the time they return, the slow time of the canals makes people much calmer and more relaxed.
It was great to see the smiling faces of families returning from their holidays, with kids telling us about some of their experiences. We had a 13-year-old lad who was really keen on narrowboating and ended up working all 113 locks by himself on his family holiday to Stratford on Avon and Warwick. He proudly told the staff about his achievements when they got back at Wootton, and has decided he is definitely coming again next year! He’s even bought his own windlass.
Another really enthusiastic group of newcomers to the world of narrowboating made friends with our boat yard team, and even took a hand painted dipper from my boatman’s cabin to hang over their fireplace to remind them of their boating adventures!
Going into the autumn, particularly in September and over the October Half Term, we were still extremely busy with most of our boats booked out by people taking advantage of the mild weather, and the chance to see the changing colours of the autumn leaves on the trees that line our waterways.
Now it’s November, and sadly another lockdown has just been announced. Here at Wootton Wawen we stay open all year round for winter cruising, so we hope our boats can get back out again in December.
In the meantime, here at Anglo Welsh we are all extremely grateful to the vast majority of our customers who have been prepared to postpone their holidays with us, rather than cancel. We are glad that our holidays were able to resume and have been more popular than ever, helping to support other businesses like canalside pubs and village shops.
As we continue to live with the coronavirus and the changes it has made to our lives, the future remains uncertain. But spending time by the water always somehow makes things feel better, watching nature peacefully continue to change with the seasons.”
We offer a range of different types of holidays such as City Breaks, Relaxation Cruises and Popular Destinations
So why choose Anglo Welsh?
More than 55 years providing unique canal boat holidays.
Modern & spacious narrowboat holiday fleet – from 2 to 12 berths.
Wide choice of narrowboat hire locations and canal.
Canal boat holiday routes for novices & experienced boaters.
Flexible holiday booking, no hidden costs.
Family friendly holidays, pets also welcome.