Tag Archives: narrowboat hire

Rollin’ rollin’ rollin’ on the river!

IMG_5344Lisamarie Lamb of INSIDEKent and INSIDESussex Magazine recently took a trip with us from our Oxford base. Here’s her trip review:

Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ on the river…

And that was how the long weekend began. Driving from Kent to Oxford, the car stuffed full of clothes to suit most (but not all, it turns out) weathers, enough food to feed an army for a fortnight, and excitement fluttering in everyone’s stomachs, it was Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Proud Mary that we heard on the radio just as we – my husband, four year-old daughter, and I – pulled into the boatyard belonging to Anglo Welsh.

It was Proud Mary that we were humming as we got out of the car after two and a half hours, and started wondering which boat amongst the plethora of boats was to be ours for the next four days and three nights.

It’s Proud Mary that hasn’t left my head since. It’s a good thing I like the song.

After unloading the car, we were introduced to our boat, the rather pleasingly (for a Kentish Maid such as myself) named Romney. Romney is a narrowboat that has everything anyone could need for a short break away; a fully stocked kitchen that includes a full sized gas oven, a microwave, sink, kettle (very important), pots, pans, plates, mugs, glasses, and even a tablecloth and napkins. Nothing has been forgotten.

There is also a seating area which turns into a bedroom containing two single beds. During the day, however, a small table can be placed in between the beds/benches to create a dining area. There is a bathroom with a sink, toilet, and excellent shower, and another bed at the rear of the boat, although this one is a double.

We fell in love with Romney there and then.

Learning to drive her was something that was left to my husband, Dean, as I settled Alice into her life jacket and unpacked. He had been very keen to get behind the rudder, and, having tried – and failed – to steer boats in the past (two rather unfortunate and almost dangerous occurrences spring to mind, one in a rowing boat in America, the other in a speedboat in Turkey), I was not. I did like the idea of sitting back and letting the Thames drift by though. The thing with a narrowboat, though, as I’ve since learned, is that no one gets to duck out of the work!

Anglo Welsh’s John who drives the boats came with us for our first foray out onto the water, and we – with his expert guidance – were soon chugging along. He said that he would stay with us until the first lock, at which point he could disembark and walk back home, leaving us to continue our journey. We were planning to head to Oxford and moor up there for the night, but time was ticking on, and the locks – locks! – are only manned from 9am until 6pm. After that you can still go through them, but it’s all self-service. The idea did not appeal, at least not on our first night, so we were keen to keep moving.

The lock loomed up at us, and I don’t mind admitting that I was nervous. I had a job to do now, and that job, although it sounded simple, required a steady hand and nerves of steel. I had to throw (lasso) a mooring rope over a metal post from the front of the boat before we reached the lock gate. Dean had to do the same at the back, whilst also cutting the engine and steering to the bank.

It took a bit of practice.

But we did it.

By the end of the four days, we became experts at locks. We passed through four of them on the way to Oxford, and the same four on the way back to Eynsham, where Anglo Welsh is based. Only once did we have to do it all ourselves; the rest of the time the wonderful lock keepers were there to help us, taking the ropes, giving clear instructions, and chatting as the lock filled or emptied of water.

It was the lovely couple at Godstow Lock who suggested that, once in Oxford, we might like to visit the Pitt Rivers Museum. It sounded ideal, especially as Alice has a rather macabre streak for a four year old (I blame the parents) and loves mummies, witches, ghosts, and all manner of ghouls. So Pitt Rivers was out first stop once we reached Oxford, which we did on the second day.

By that time we were rather cocky about our narrowboat skills – it really doesn’t take long to get the hang of it all. We pulled up just before Oxney Lock, where mooring is free for 24 hours, and then just £5 per day after that.

Oxford was a fascinating place, full of interesting things to do but, not having that much time before we needed to head back (bear in mind that, although Oxford is only five miles of so from Eynsham, narrowboats move at around one mile an hour). We visited the Ashmolean, the Natural History Museum of Oxford (dinosaurs!), and the Pitt Rivers (twice), the highlight of which was the witch in the bottle. Alice still talks about it.

After a wonderful time in Oxford, it was time to head back. We somewhat reluctantly said goodbye to our moorings – our home for 36 hours – and headed back. But the day was darkening, and we needed dinner so we stopped earlier than intended. And that may have been the best decision we made all weekend.

We had spotted the ruins of an old building just by the river, and had been keen to investigate, so this was where we moored up, right next to it, on a gentle stretch of the Thames. I’ve made it sound so easy. This is where we had issues – the river may have looked gentle, but the current was strong, and although I had leapt nimbly off the boat to tie us up, the back end started to drift off, leaving me holding a rope attached to a few tons of metal and wood, and Dean desperately trying to get Romney back to the bank without dragging me into the water.

Our desperate shouts alerted a couple – we never did get their names in all our panic – who had already moored a little way upriver, and they ran swiftly to our aid, instructing Dean how to get the boat back where it was meant to be, and showing me how to moor up safely.

It was a tense few minutes, but, once done, and once our thanks had been showered on these wonderful strangers (boat people are incredibly friendly – you will always have help when you need it), we sat back to admire the view. And to do some googling.

The ruins were Godstow Abbey and Nunnery, a once grand place that was now just a shell, albeit a beautifully creepy one. We explored, and we wished we had more time. This is where Lewis Carroll had often taken Alice Liddell and her sisters for picnics, and I wondered what incredible stories he had told them here.

After a superb dinner in the pub that could be seen from the boat – The Trout – we settled down for our last night on Romney.

The next day, as we headed back to Eynsham and Anglo Welsh, we were happy, relaxed, and willing to do it all again.


Sailing on a cloud


Broadchurch star Matthew Gravelle was at the centre of the biggest TV whodunnit since ‘who shot JR?’. Last summer, the Welsh actor took his wife, Hinterland star Mali Harries, and kids on an Anglo Welsh canal boat holiday, setting off from our Trevor base in North Wales on a true-life family adventure. Here’s his narrowboat holiday review, published in Wales View 2015:

We’re heading for the Llangollen Canal, built as part of a network of waterways to connect the coalfields and limestone quarries of Denbighshire to the Midlands.

Its most notable feature is Thomas Telford’s Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, the highest and longest in Britain, 984 feet (300m) in length and soaring 98 feet (40 m) above the River Dee.

We arrive at Trevor Basin to collect our boat, a traditional barge called Brenig, which appears to be painted in British Racing Green (odd, since the speed limit is 4 mph (6.4kph).

The children scramble on and explore, while I get an hour of instruction from the nice man from Anglo Welsh on how to skipper the thing. By the time we push off from our mooring, I know the theory, but actually steering this immense beast – it’s got an old-fashioned tiller, rather than a wheel – takes some getting used to.

Crossing the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is the easy bit. Telford thoughtfully built it in an arrow-straight line, and the cast iron walls are only just wide enough to pass through, so steering isn’t an issue. Instead I can take in the exhilarating views as we float serenely in mid-air.

I was enjoying the ride so much I didn’t really think about how it was coming to an end. There are two barges coming in the opposite direction and I seem to have forgotten everything I learnt about steering. I bump into a poor unsuspecting barge owner, causing him to throw his supper into his lap. Oops. Sorry.

Back at our mooring, we feast on Llandegla smoked trout, with broad beans and new potatoes from my dad’s garden. After supper we do old-fashioned family stuff – play cards, draw pictures.

As night falls, the children settle into their cabin and enjoy the best night’s sleep of the trip. It’s a really cosy and comfortable place to sleep, like a stretched caravan, except better insulated, with its own wood-burner.

A new day dawns and this driving lark seems much easier today. It gives us the opportunity to relax and spot nooks and corners that you don’t see from any road.

“It’s like sailing on a cloud,” observes Ela.


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.