Tag Archives: Narrowboat Holidays

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.

 

Great Canal Journeys returns to our screens

Great Canal Journeys: Series 2

This Sunday 15 March at 8pm, the second series of Timothy West and Prunella Scales’ popular ‘Great Canal Journeys’ begins on Channel 4.

Last year, to mark their golden wedding anniversary, the self-confessed ‘canal nuts’ decided to let the world in on their secret and were filmed pootling around some of England’s 2,000 miles of waterway for a television series.

It proved to be an entirely charming insight not just into their unexpected hobby, but also their longstanding love affair – so charming, in fact, that they have returned for more.

This time the couple are filmed undertaking four new journeys, the first of them along the Oxford Canal (aboard an Anglo Welsh boat), where they took their very first boating holiday as a family with sons Sam and Joseph nearly 40 years ago.

When recently interviewed about the new series, Pru said to the Daily Mail: “It feels like only yesterday that our two boys were running up and down the towpath opening and shutting locks then at the end of the day flopping exhausted onto their bunks.”

Their elder son, the actor Sam West, also a narrowboat holiday enthusiast, joins them for part of the Oxford Canal journey and they also meet up with the author Philip Pullman along the way.

The second episode (22 March) will see them travel through London by canal, for the third they will be in France (29 March) and for the fourth and final episode, Scotland (5 April).

Getting away from it all in Worcestershire

Copy of Stan canal boat1

Tristan Harris, from the Bromsgrove Standard, took a day trip from our Tardebigge canal boat hire base earlier this year.  Here’s his review:

With the stresses and strains that present themselves in 2014 Britain, it seems a lot of us – me included – are constantly trying to get away from it all when we can.

I have always been an advocate of the camping holiday – the green fields, the time away from the computer and the Internet and the chance to spend some much-needed quality time with the family.

So when I was given the opportunity to take out a narrowboat for the day I jumped at the chance.
Prior to the outing, I didn’t know what to expect, packing a flask, sandwiches and all the other things associated with a communal garden picnic.

But, when you get on the boat you realise that none of that was needed.

The boat had a four-hob gas stove, kettle, microwave, a toilet, even a TV and – for those staying longer – two bedrooms to accommodate a family of four easily, along with a shower.

The staff at Anglo Welsh in Tardebigge could not have been nicer.

After kitting-out the little ones – mine are six-years-old and 22 months – with life jackets, the member we spoke to took me through all I needed to know – from starting, stopping and steering the boat to all the facilities available on the vessel and the map detailing where we could head to.

As we left the marina, he stayed with us for the first part of the journey and then we were on our own – to experience and enjoy the peace and tranquility of the waterways.

To begin with, it all seemed so daunting – I had been told more in 20 minutes about narrowboating than I had in my whole entire life up until then. It seemed a lot to take in. But, as with anything, you don’t really understand what you have been told until you get to put it into practice.

When I got into it, the worries and cares I usually face on a day-to-day basis seemed to drift away so quickly.

As a family of four, we organised it so that whoever was with the two children focused on that and the other person drove the boat and this worked well.

Everyone we met along the way, from fellow boaters and those fishing on the banks, to joggers, cyclists or dog-walkers along the tow-paths, were incredibly friendly and it became apparent there was a kind of brotherhood (or sisterhood) of people who enjoy the waterways.

Things were going smoothly on our journey out and I found different kinds of tranquility. If you were at the back of the boat, you were on your own and even the din of the engine seemed therapeutic after a while. If you were up the front, although there were two children there, you could not even hear the sound of the engine and the silence was quite engulfing.

That was the same as the stretches of water we navigated. Some, which were so green with overhanging bushes and trees, with their feeling of remoteness gave you the feeling you were almost somewhere else – cruising into undiscovered lands.

But others, where there was traffic flowing by the side of you or above, were equally as charming.

That illustrated perfectly what canal boat holidays are all about – giving you the feeling that while others were rushing about their daily lives, you were wallowing away the hours, taking your time to get from A to B and enjoying the process of getting there.

Our chosen stop was the Hopwood Inn where we moored up for a drink whilst the children used up some of their energy on the play area.

As we attempted to turn the boat around to start our journey back, we encountered our first real difficulties. But, we also experienced the true spirit of the waterways.

After two hours cruising, all the advice about turning the narrowboat to face the opposite direction had gone out of my mind.

Then a gentleman from Banbury, who had seen us struggling, talked me through exactly what to do and before I knew it the boat was back on its journey home.

He explained he had been boating for 60 years and it was a case of learning as you went along – a fact which became even more apparent on the way back.

Half an hour later, we ran aground and, despite doing all we had been told – reversing to begin with then going forward, we could not get the boat back into the centre of the canal.

One man – from Hemel Hempstead (I also learnt you get to meet people from all over the country on the waterways) climbed aboard and helped me get the boat out of its predicament. That was done by using a pole to push away from the bank, reversing and then going forward. He also gave me a few more tips (as did the man from Banbury) on navigating the waterways.

After that, and using the advice from the Anglo Welsh staff and my fellow boaters, the trip back was pretty smooth.

One other daunting prospect was the tunnel which was just about wide enough for two boats to pass.
As we entered, there was another boat coming the other way and it did, to be fair, look like there would not be enough room.

But, easing off on the acceleration and with some pretty careful navigation, that obstacle was overcome no problem.

Another highlight of the trip back was that while we were in the tunnel, from the boat behind (which had helped rescue us from our previous predicament) came some loudly played classical music. It reverberated around the tunnel, sounding almost concert-like. I’m not sure if that is a boaters’ tradition or just something that particular boat owner did, but it certainly was a memorable part of the journey.

We managed to get the boat back with a minute or two to spare and as we returned the keys, we felt fully refreshed by our six hours on the waterways.

We had been offered the chance to take the boat out for a few days (but with a temperamental toddler, we felt it safer to just go for the day).

In hindsight, and seeing her reaction – one of adventure and wonderment – we probably would have been fine. From the dogs walking on the tow-paths and the other boats to the ducks, geese, coots and other birds residing in the water, she was kept well-entertained by everything that was going on.

All in all, it was a fantastic day out and, now having done it, and after finding out how family-friendly the waterways are, we should have made a real break of it and gone for longer.

Our most frequent floaters!

Bond 6 - Buckland

Last month, as reported in the Wootton Wawen Magazine, Bill and Mavis Reeder and Tia, their fluffy coated Yorkshire terrier, set off from our Wootton Wawen base to enjoy their 61st cruise with Anglo Welsh.

The Reeders have been taking regular canal boat holidays with Anglo Welsh for the last 30 years, with 40 of their trips starting from our base on the Stratford Canal.

Alistair King, who works at our Wootton Wawen base, says: “No one equals that. They have become our most frequent floaters, certainly enough to earn a loyalty discount!”

Our Wootton base attracts tourists from all continents and a few days before the Reeders booked to go out on the 68ft long six-berth Bond Class ‘Buckland’, three other boats hosted 30 musicians from all over the UK meeting up for a stag weekend.

The Reeders, who live in Bristol, have set out from nearly all our bases on week and fortnight long journeys, bringing just enough supplies to get them started.

“We can top up as we travel but prefer eating out at canalside inns, the first night usually at the Navigation,” said Bill, a retired structural engineer, aged 77.

When asked if they had ever considered ocean cruising, Bill replied “We have friends who do it, but I think I would be bored at sea – and Tia would have to go to kennels. On the canals you are in close contact with different communities every mile of the way.”

On the latest trip they planned late starts and early evening mooring, still enough time for a return trip as far as the junction with the Worcester & Birmingham Canal at Kings Norton.

“On other occasions we’ve been onto the Grand Union and in the opposite direction to Stratford and onto the Avon, and Tia loves it,” said Bill. “We’re familiar with all the locks, so we just relax and let the world go by.

“Yes, we could have bought our own boat with what we have spent, but this way all the maintenance and licensing is done for you and we just turn up to find everything ready for us.”

We’re on Coast & Country tonight!

AqueductPresenter Carl Edwards takes a trip across ‘the stream in the sky’ on board an Anglo Welsh boat, in this evening’s ‘Coast & Country’.

Testing his head for heights, Carl is driven over the World Famous Pontcysyllte Aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal.

The programme follows Carl as he saunters along the canals of Wales from the south to the north of the country.

This week he’s reached the Llangollen Canal where his day begins in a much calmer fashion as he’s treated to a horse drawn boat trip down to the Horseshoe Falls.

Taff the horse, from the Llangollen Horse Drawn Boat Centre, stepped up to pull Carl on the 45-minute boat trip that has been running since 1884 and is now thought to be one of the only four working horse drawn boats in the UK.

In the afternoon he joined Anglo Welsh to cross ‘the stream in the sky’ and said: “It honestly felt as if we were going on a theme park ride. I couldn’t look down for the first few seconds. But once I knew we were safe, it was just a stunning location and a beautiful view”.

Programme director Helen Hyde added: “It was quite a challenge to film the Aqueduct in particular. Something of that size and majesty is always difficult to translate onto the TV screen. I hope we’ve done it justice”.

Catch the programme tonight – Friday August 22nd at 8pm on ITV Cymru Wales.

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

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.