Tag Archives: Kennet & Avon canal

Celebrate Christmas on the canals

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Britain’s canals can offer a great antidote to the hustle and bustle of Christmas. Five of our bases offer winter cruising canal boat hire, giving narrowboat holiday-makers the chance to enjoy cosy evenings afloat, visit waterside pubs with roaring log fires, and wake-up to frosty towpaths and crisp clean air.

Whether it’s a snug boat for two or a family break for six, celebrating Christmas or New Year afloat offers a great getaway. It’s free to moor almost anywhere on the network, so a narrowboat could provide the perfect base to enjoy new year celebrations in waterside towns and cities like Bath, Birmingham, Warwick and Stratford upon Avon.

All our boats have central heating, hot water, televisions and DVD players. Some also have multi-fuel stoves. So, whatever the weather, it’s always nice and cosy on board.

Our prices over Christmas and New Year start at start at £605 for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four, weekly hire from £840.

Here’s a list of our bases offering winter canal boat holidays:

Travel to Bath along the Kennet & Avon Canal…our base in the historic town of Bradford on Avon offers the chance to cruise to the World Heritage Status City of Bath and back. Cosy country pubs to enjoy along the way include the George Inn at Bathampton, once a 12th-century monastery, and the Cross Guns at Avoncliffe, with panoramic views of the foothills of the Cotswolds.

Take a lock free journey to Birmingham…Birmingham is just a five-hour cruise away from our base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal – with no locks to negotiate. City centre moorings are available at Gas Street Basin, close to the bars, restaurants, shops and museums at Brindley Place and the Mailbox and Bullring shopping centres.

Navigate ‘The Stream in the Sky’…the awesome 300-metre long World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, carries the Llangollen Canal 40 metres above the rushing waters of the River Dee. From our base at Trevor, next to the aqueduct, the village of Llangollen is a two-hour cruise to the west and to the east, Ellesmere is a seven-hour journey through the beautiful Vale of Llangollen.

Explore the Potteries in Staffordshire…our base at Great Haywood, at the junction of the Staffs & Worcs and Trent & Mersey canals in Staffordshire, offers a variety of routes. On a week’s cruise canal boat holiday-makers can head up the Trent & Mersey Canal to the Caldon Canal, and travel through the beautiful Churnet Valley. Those on a short break can head to the town of Fazeley, via the pretty canal village of Fradley on the Trent & Mersey Canal.

Moor up in Stratford upon Avon…it’s a picturesque six-hour cruise to Stratford upon Avon from our base at Wootton Wawen, near Henley in Arden in Warwickshire. Boaters can moor up in Stratford canal basin, a stone’s throw from the Swan Theatre and the town’s shops, restaurants and museums.

Britain’s Great Journeys – a cruise along the K&A

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Discover Britain Magazine (1 October 2014) describes a canal boat holiday from Bath to Devizes: distance – 22 miles (and 43 locks); duration – about two days, longer if you stop to look at all the sights:

Our narrowboat holiday begins at the historic city of Bath, where the Kennet & Avon Canal leaves the River Avon Navigation. However, before heading eastwards along the canal, we start with an absolute ‘must’ for anyone visiting the city by water.

Just before the point where the river meets the canal there’s a short dead-end length of the Avon that leads into the heart of the city. Having taken the diversion, we cruise right up to Pulteney Weir, in full view of the city’s famous Pulteney Bridge, Parade Gardens and the Rec, Bath Rugby club’s famous stadium, before turning round and returning to the junction.

Here, a sharp left turn takes us into the bottom lock of the Widcombe Flight and the start of our trip along this superlative stretch of canal.

Although there used to be seven locks in Widcombe, there are now only six. Back in the 1970s when a new road was being built that needed to cross the canal, two of the locks were combined into one new one to make the job easier. The result was the cavernous Bath Deep Lock – one of the deepest on the entire canal system, which raises us almost 20ft.

As the locks lift us up the valley side, there are splendid views across the city.
With the locks safely negotiated, two short tunnels take the canal on through Sydney Gardens: the impressive Georgian Cleveland House which stands directly above the tunnel entrance was once the canal company headquarters.

Then Bath is left behind as we cruise eastwards along the hillside through Bathampton, with an assortment of moored houseboats for company and a couple of swing-bridges to provide some gentle exercise for our crew.

The hills close in and the wooded valley narrows as we enter one of the most attractive parts of the route, through Limpley Stoke and Avoncliffe. Twice, the canal turns and abrupt corner and launches out the river on the find Dundas and Avoncliffe aqueducts, both built in the characteristic local Bath stone.

Avoncliff Aqueduct is accompanied by the Cross Guns canalside pub, but apart from that it’s a quiet, secluded route with little to remind us of the outside world apart from the occasional train passing on the nearby railway line.

The valley opens out again as we arrive at Bradford-on-Avon, an attractive old town and a handy stopping-place for boaters with its shops and pubs.

We also reach the first lock since we left Bath; the wharf area around the lock is popular with local people so we’re assured of an audience as we pass through.

Quiet open countryside characterises the canal as it continues eastwards, skirting the north edge of Trowbridge and passing Hilperton and Staverton villages.

Semington is a pretty village, which was where the Wilts & Berks Canal used to branch north eastwards for Swindon and the River Thames. It closed a century ago, but there’s a campaign to reopen it, so perhaps Semington will one day be an important junction once again.

The two Semington Locks are followed by a flight of five (accompanied by a waterside pub) at Seend – but there are just a hint of what is to come.

By Lower Foxhangers Bridge we reach the first of the 29 locks leading up to Devizes – the second longest flight of locks in the country, and by far the most impressive. They begin gently enough, but after we’ve climbed the first half dozen we catch sight of the main series of 16 locks marching up the hillside at Caen Hill, in close succession with barely a boat’s length between them.#

The final six locks are more spread out, but we breathe a sigh of relief on arriving at Devizes Wharf in the knowledge that it’s another 15 miles before we’ll have to push a lock-gate or wind a paddle again.

This is where we end our journey, tied up at the historic wharf by the canal museum, at the heart of the historic market town of Devizes in Wiltshire.

Nearby Attractions

Bath’s famous sights – the Pump Room, the Roman Baths, the Royal Crescent and the Abbey – are within easy walking distance of the canal. And there are other less well-known attractions, such as the Herschel Astronomy Museum, the Jane Austen Centre and Postal Museum.

Just a few miles further east the canal passes Claverton Pumping Station, open to the public and in operation on occasional weekends in summer.

Dundas and Avoncliff aqueducts are splendid structures well worth stopping to look at, and on the approach to Bradford on Avon the canal passes the Great Tithe Barn.  Built in the 14th century and one of the best examples in the country, it is part of Barton medieval farm which is open to the public. Bradford is a fine old town on the Avon and its Saxon church is one of England’s best-preserved.

Devizes is an old country market town with many attractions – not least the flight of 29 locks by which the canal arrives in the town. The Kennet & Avon Canal Trust runs a shop and museum on the wharf, and for real ale lovers Wadworth’s Brewery makes its presence felt, with the company’s traditional horse-drawn drays still used.

A narrow escape on the Kennet & Avon

AW Dundas Aqueduct (low res)

Jenny Mark-Bell reviewed her Anglo Welsh canal boat holiday, from our Bradford on Avon base, for Sussex Life Magazine and discovered a ‘genial sense of community’:

It doesn’t take long to adapt to the slow rhythm of a narrow boat, sailing the Kennet & Avon Canal between Bradford and Bath.

 If you’ve always fancied yourself as a sailor but don’t know your port from your starboard, you could do worse than a narrow boat.

These stately craft are so sedate – breaking the four mph threshold is strictly verboten – that there’s plenty of time to practise your nautical knots. And the best thing about this enforced slow motion is that it quickly brings a sense of peace and relaxation all of its own. Lapping water, wildlife and rising with the dawn made our trip a memorable experience.

Our journey along the waterways began at Bradford-on-Avon, a picturesque west Wiltshire town, with its traditional pubs and tea room all aglow with the buttery shade of the local Bath Stone.

We were only eight miles from Bath here, but our progress along the Kennet & Avon Canal would be leisurely, so after collecting the 58’ ‘Carol Ann’ we moored for the night, close to the town’s lock.

The Kennet & Avon Canal crosses the country in its 87-mile route from Reading to Bristol. This long stretch comprises two lengths of river linked by a canal. It was constructed in the late 18th and 19th centuries, later falling into disuse and dereliction when it was superseded by the Great Western Railway.

It is largely thanks to the work of volunteers that the canal has fully reopened, and although it no longer plays a vital role in transporting raw materials, it exerts a strong pull on tourists.

We saw a number of narrow boat novices gliding into the sides with a slow inevitability, and more experienced boat people like Will, Skipper of The Coal Boat, good-naturedly hauling them (okay, us) out. With such a long time to get to know each other – overtaking isn’t really an option – we became quite pally with the sailors we met, and everyone was keen to offer help when somebody ran aground.

While many of the craft were brightly painted with traditional designs, others were sleek and modern.

The first stretch of our trip was from Bradford up to Avoncliff Aqueduct. Despite unseasonably cold weather, and the boat’s natural propensity to act as a sail at windy points, this was uneventful enough. We spotted a moorhen with chicks, and ducklings galore, but sadly none of the apparently common kingfishers.

After unwisely snubbing pubs at Avoncliff and Dundas and putting off our lunch stop until Bathampton – it is impossible to overstate how slowly one travels by canal. We were ravenous.

At Bradford Marina our instructor had told us to allow a good six hours to get to Bath, but we’d clearly gone at a fair clip because at just under four hours we had plenty of time to spare. With the sun shining, Bathampton looked beautiful and the cosy pub was doing a roaring trade.

‘Carol Ann’ was small as canal boats go, but amply fitted out for our needs. There were four berths, a small kitchen and a seating area, as well as a basic bathroom with running water and even a shower. The kitchen was impressive too, with an oven and fridge – everything you could wish for, really, for a short break.

As we neared Bath, the number of festive vessels increased steeply. Birthdays of all ages, and pre-nuptial bacchanals seemed the most common.

For a short trip, it is wise to moor outside of Bath, otherwise you’ll find yourself caught in the knot of locks at the entry to the city. There is a turning place at the Marina of which we were happy to avail ourselves.

The short stretch from Bradford to Bath makes it easy for novices. There is just one lock – mercifully manned the first time we tackled it – and several swing bridges, which didn’t present any problems.

The canal was markedly less busy on Sunday, with fewer day-trippers traversing the water.

After two days, we had adjusted to life on the water. No longer frustrated by walkers on the towpath overtaking us at a brisk walk, we were sorry to leave the peace of the canal – and its genial sense of community.

Hire a canal boat for the day

Ponycysyllte Aqueduct

Hiring a canal boat for the day offers a fantastic day out and is a great way to see what canal boat holidays are like.

Anglo Welsh offers day boat hire at six of its bases, from less than £10 per person. Full tuition is included so if you’re new to canal boating, you can get the hang of steering, mooring-up, turning and working the locks.

Day boats are equipped with cutlery, crockery and a kettle so your boating party can enjoy a picnic afloat or head for a waterside pub. Most day boats also have a toilet, cooker and fridge.

Here are some day boat hire trip ideas and prices for 2014:

Tunnel through rural Worcestershire from Tardebigge on the Worcs & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, we suggest you cruise north to Kings Norton Junction.
It’s a pretty rural route with historic pubs along the way, including the family-friendly ‘Hopwood House’ at Alvechurch. There are no locks but there are three short tunnels to pass through.
***Day boat hire from Tardebigge starts at £99 for up to 10 people

Travel across the ‘Stream in the Sky’ – from our base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, it’s just 20 minutes by boat to the awesome Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. Standing at over 38 metres high and 305 metres long, the Pontcysyllte Aquedcut (AKA ‘The Stream in the Sky’) offers a fantastic waterway adventure. With not even a hand rail on the south side of the aqueduct to obscure the stunning views of the Dee Valley below, canal boaters literally feel like they are floating above the earth!
***Day boat hire from Trevor starts at £110 for up to 10 people

Explore rural Warwickshire from our base at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal, you can choose between an easy day cruising to Wilmcote and back (two and a half hours each way), visiting The Masons Arms and Mary Arden’s Farm, where Shakespeare’s mother grew up.  country pub (three and a half hours each way).
***Day boat hire from Wootton Wawen starts at £99 for up to 10 people

Take a cruise in Bath – our base at Sydney Wharf in the World Heritage City of Bath offers the chance to see one’s of Britain’s most beautiful cities from the water.  Moor up in the City Centre close to the Pulteney Bridge to admire the architecture or head east along the beautiful Kennet & Avon Canal to Bathampton and enjoy lunch at the historic ‘George Inn’, once a 12th century monastery.
***Day boat hire from Bath starts at £120 for up to 10 people

Staffordshire delights - from Great Haywood on the Staffs & Worcs Canal near Stafford, the recommended day boat cruise is a six-hour journey to the historic market town of Rugeley and back through several locks.  Along the way, enjoy a picnic in the grounds of Lord Lichfield’s beautiful working estate at Shugborough Hall, visit a pub at Rugeley or stop off at the delightful Wolseley Arms at Wolseley Bridge.
***Day boat hire from Great Haywood starts at £99 for up to 10 people

Saunter along ‘The Shroppie’ – from our base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union near Crewe, we recommend you cruise south past Barbridge and Nantwich to Baddington Bridge.
With no locks to negotiate and plenty of pubs en route, it’s a delightful way to spend the day afloat.
***Day boat hire from Bunbury starts at £99 for up to 10 people

Visit one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways

Canal scenery

The list of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’ was compiled half a century ago by Robert Aickman, co-founder of the Inland Waterways Association and published in his book Know Your Waterways.

The scale of these extraordinary structures – which built by the engineering superstars of their day – still amazes visitors today.

We’ve revisited the list and added details of our nearest canal boat hire bases so you can plan a visit to one or more of them on your next canal boat holiday:

The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct…carrying the Llangollen Canal 38 metres (126ft) high above the River Dee, the awesome World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is the highest and longest in Britain.  It was built between 1795 and 1805, uses 18 magnificent piers made of local stone and a 307-metre (1007ft) long trough for the canal to run through.With not even a hand rail on the south side of the aqueduct to obscure the views of the breath-taking Dee Valley below, narrowboat holiday-makers literally feel like they are floating above the earth!***Our nearest base is just a 20-minute cruise away at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in Wrexham.The Anderton Boat Lift…also known as ‘The Cathedral of the Canals’ this extraordinary structure raises boats 15 metres (50ft) from the River Weaver to the Trent & Mersey Canal.  Designed by Edwin Clark and opened in 1875, it consists of two caissons, each large enough to take a barge or pair of narrowboats.Sadly, in 1983 problems with the mechanism caused the lift to close but it reopened in 2002, following a restoration programme supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.***Our nearest base is a nine-hour cruise away at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire.The Caen Hill Flight…with 16 of its 29 locks falling in a straight line, the Caen Hill flight of locks on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Devizes in Wiltshire is visually the most impressive in the country.

The locks were the final link in the Kennet & Avon Canal’s construction, opening in 1810.  By 1950 they had become derelict but after a major restoration effort, they were reopened HM The Queen in 1990.

***Our nearest base is a seven-hour cruise away on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Bradford on Avon in Wiltshire.

The Burnley Embankment…also known as the Straight Mile, the Burnley embankment on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal stretches almost a mile long and is up to 60 feet high in places.

This impressive structure was designed by Robert Whitworth of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal Company and built between 1795 and 1801.  It carries the canal above Burnley and meant that the engineers did not have to build two sets of locks to cross the Calder Valley.

***Narrowboat holiday-makers can travel to Burnley as part of the Pennine Circuit which takes three weeks from our Great Haywood base.

The Bingley Five-Rise Locks…completed in 1774, this spectacular staircase of locks on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal 17 miles from Leeds, raises (or lowers) boats 18 metres (60ft) in five cavernous chambers.  The locks open directly from one to another, with the top gate of one forming the bottom gate of the next.

***Canal boat holiday-makers can travel through Bingley as part of the Pennine Circuit which takes three weeks from our Great Haywood base.

The Standedge Tunnel…at over three miles long tunnelling beneath the Pennines, this incredible feat of 18 and 19th century engineering is the longest, highest and deepest tunnel on the canal system.  Cutting through solid rock, it took the navvies 16 years to build, opening in 1811.

Unfortunately, the Huddersfield Canal became un-navigable in 1948 but after a long restoration programme, both the canal and tunnel were reopened in 2001.  Today’s boaters pass through the tunnel with a Canal & River Trust pilot, giving a vivid personal commentary.  There is also a trip boat operating from the Marsden end.

***Our base at Bunbury is a week’s cruise away from Marsden or Diggle.

Barton Swing Aqueduct…originally built in 1761 by James Brindley to take the Bridgewater Canal across the River Irwell, the Barton Aqueduct was considered a marvel at the time of its opening.

But when the Manchester Ship Canal company decided to use the course of the Irwell at Barton as part of its navigation channel, Brindley’s Aqueduct was replaced by the Barton Swing Aqueduct in 1893.  The 1,450 tonne, 100-metre long aqueduct swings open, full of water, to allow the passage of ships along the Manchester Ship Canal.

***Our base at Bunbury is a three or four day cruise away from the Barton Swing Aqueduct.

 

 

OUR FAVOURITE DESTINATIONS THIS EASTER

Anglo Welsh narrow boat holiday

Easter is a great time of year to take to the water to enjoy the fresh spring air, trees coming into leaf and spring flowers on the towpath.

The whole family can set off on an outdoor adventure together.  Bikes can be stored on the roof of the boat and dogs are welcome aboard most of our boats.

Many canalside attractions will be hosting special Easter events, so why not pack up and ship out for some Easter holiday fun afloat.

Here are our top 10 destinations this Easter.  Our prices start at £595 for a short break and £855 for a week on a boat for four.

*See the baby Giant Anteater born at Chester Zoo…Medieval Chester is just seven hours from our base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal.

Famous for its medieval architecture and city walls, Chester is also home to an award-winning zoo with over 8,000 animals to see, including a rare baby Giant Anteater born in January.  He or she (the tiny youngster’s gender is not yet known) will still be clinging to his mother’s back at Easter so make a date to visit the Zoo and find out how the family is getting on.

*Join the Easter Egg Hunt at Rockingham Castle…although not waterside, this fascinating castle 10 miles outside Market Harborough, offers a great family day out.

Market Harborough is a seven-hour from our base at North Kilworth on the Leicester Line of the Grand Union Canal.  So once moored up in Market Harborough basin, take a taxi to Rockingham Castle to join in the Easter Egg Hunt on Easter Sunday or Monday.

Take a tour of the castle, which has been continuously occupied by the same family for almost 1000 years.  Check out the magnificent Great Hall, built on the instruction of William the Conqueror in 1086, and complete the Rockingham Eye Spy.  See the vast 400 year old ‘Elephant Hedge’, part of the Castle’s 18 acres of gardens and visit the Castle Gallery, tea rooms and gift shop.

*Visit the home of Cadbury’s Chocolate…Travel lock-free to Birmingham in just five hours from our Tardebigge base, stopping off along the way to sample the delights of Cadbury World.

Find out how chocolate is made, the history of Cadbury confectionery, visit the World’s biggest Cadbury Shop and the Cadbury Café and enjoy a host of special events celebrating our most ‘chocolatey’ time of year!

*Climb aboard the SS Great Britain…Bristol’s Floating Harbour, home of Brunel’s masterpiece the SS Great Britain, is just an eight hour cruise from our base at Sydney Wharf in Bath.

Now acclaimed as one of the UK’s finest visitor attractions, plan a visit the world’s first great ocean liner and find out how the SS Great Britain changed the world.

*Travel across the Stream in the Sky…Just 20 minutes cruise from our base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, stands the awesome 38 metres high and 305 metres long Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.  Also known as The Stream in the Sky, this incredible feat of engineering and offers the canal boat ride of your life!

And the pretty town of Llangollen is just a two hour cruise away, where special Easter events will be running at the Llangollen Steam Railway.

*Visit the Roman Baths…Bath, famous for thousands of years for its warm mineral-rich waters, is a seven-hour cruise along the beautiful Kennet & Avon Canal from our base at Bradford on Avon.

The beautifully preserved Roman Baths is a place for the whole family to enjoy.  Visitors can see the remains of the ancient Roman temple and bathing complex based around Britain’s only natural hot spring.  There’s a special audio tour for kids and Roman costumed characters about every afternoon.

*See the witch in a bottle at the Pitt Rivers…Oxford City Centre, home to the extraordinary Pitt Rivers Museum, is just three hours away from our River Thames base at Eynsham, near Witney.

The Museum, which has been described as a ‘Noah’s Ark of all the Earth’s artefacts’, displays thousands of handmade objects from a lost cultures across the globe.  Look out for a three-storey high totem pole, a magnificent Tahitian mourner’s costume collected during Captain Cook’s Second Voyage in 1773-74, a case of children’s toys, including a coconut-husk spirit ship for a Siamese child, and the firmly sealed witch in a bottle.

*Walk the battlements at Warwick Castle…said to be Britain’s greatest medieval experience, Warwick Castle is a seven hour cruise from our base at Stockton on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire.

The castle, which is on a bend of the River Avon, was developed from an original built by William the Conqueror in 1068.  Explore its grand interiors and 64 acres of rolling landscaped gardens, climb its impressive towers and ramparts, watch the ‘Flight of the Eagles’ and ‘Mighty Trebuchet’ firing displays and visit some of the castle’s special attractions, including terrifying Castle Dungeon.

*Follow in Shakespeare’s footsteps…Stratford upon Avon is just a six hour cruise from our base at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal, near Henley in Arden in Warwickshire.

Moor up in centrally located moorings on the River Avon and use your canal boat as a base to explore the fascinating historic town of Stratford.  There are five houses to visit with Shakespearian connections, including his Birthplace, the house of his wife (Anne Hathaway) and the childhood home of his mother, Mary Arden.

*Explore the rock-carved houses at Kinver Edge…from our base on the Staffordshire & Worcester Canal Great Haywood, Kinver Edge near Stourbridge can be reached on a short break.

Cared for by The National Trust, Kinver’s famous Holy Austin Rock Houses which were inhabited until the 1950’s, give an atmospheric glimpse into a bygone age.  And the woodland sandstone ridge out which the houses are built, offers dramatic views across surrounding counties.