Tips for narrowboat holiday-makers, come rain or shine

Nigel and Kathryn Crawford of MrandMrs50Plus.com recently enjoyed a Drifters narrowboat holiday, setting off from our canal boat hire base at Worcester.

The UK weather is a fickle thing.  A May weekend on the canals can throw just about everything at you in just three days.  On our recent Drifters narrowboat holiday we bounced from blazing hot sunshine to driving rain and hail within hours.

A canal holiday, however, is beautifully versatile.  All Drifters narrowboats have central heating, little sun decks at the bow, and many are equipped with umbrellas and waterproof clothing.  Despite everything the weather threw at us, it didn’t in any way spoil what was a thoroughly enjoyable few days.

Narrowboats are homely and well-equipped

There’s even something quite tranquil and relaxing about pottering along the canal in the pouring rain.  It’s a totally different take on the waterway environment. It’s important to remember to close the cabin door when it’s like that though, to make sure your duvet doesn’t get wet on the bed below!  Notwithstanding the meteorological challenges, the boats are comfy, homely and well-equipped.

Planning ahead

As experienced boaters we had planned our little trip before arriving at the Worcester Marina base. We bore in mind the location of public moorings, water points, winding points (turning areas) and how many locks we’d encounter on our route.  In our earliest narrowboat escapades, I think in retrospect we were a little over-eager in our planning. On more than one occasion we ended up having to cover unnecessarily long distances to get back to base on time.  Nowadays, we’re far more conservative, focusing just as much on the moored-up time as on the canal transit.

The Importance of Maps

We can’t stress how important having a good detailed canal map can be.  It really helps you to plan ahead and avoids stressful twilight searches for suitable mooring places or watering points.  We always buy and download digital pdf maps that we can view on pretty much any device.  We particularly like those from waterwayroutes.co.uk. They’re an invaluable part of any waterways holiday nowadays.

Make space for chill time

We found a lovely mooring near The Bridge pub at Tibberton and found lots to see and do up around Droitwich Spa.  One possibility that we had considered was doing the ‘Droitwich Ring’ but we decided that it was an optimistic challenge for a weekend hire.  We decided instead to re-trace our steps back down the Worcester & Birmingham Canal to give us more ‘chill time’. It was a short, but memorable weekend to keep the narrowboating flame burning.

Find out more about Kathryn and Nigel’s adventures afloat here https://mrandmrs50plus.com/narrowboating-with-drifters/

Visit Coventry on a canal boat holiday

This year’s City of Culture – Coventry – is a key destination on the midlands canal network, so it’s a great place to visit on a canal boat holiday.

The city, which led the way in the cloth and textiles trade, has its own canal.  The Coventry Canal runs 38 miles from Coventry Basin, up to the Trent & Mersey Canal at Fradley.  The first five and a half miles of the Coventry Canal between Coventry Basin and Hawkesbury Junction was designated a conservation area in 2012.

Special City of Culture events include a three-day music festival in July and the BBC spoken word festival in September.  The City’s many permanent attractions, include its famous Cathedral, St Mary’s Guildhall and Coventry Transport Museum.

To celebrate this year’s UK City of Culture, we’ve listed our Top 4 narrowboat holidays to Coventry:

1. Cruise the Coventry Canal from Kings Orchard in Staffordshire

From our new canal boat hire base at Kings Orchard it takes 16 hours to reach Coventry Basin.  The journey travels 34 miles of the Coventry Canal and passes through 13 locks.  The route takes you through the Staffordshire countryside.  And it passes a series of canalside pubs, including The Greyhound Inn at Hawkesbury Junction.

2. Navigate the Oxford Canal from Braunston in Northamptonshire

From Drifters’ narrowboat hire base at Braunston, it takes 12 hours to reach Coventry Basin.  You’ll cruise 28 miles of waterway and pass through just four locks.  You’ll journey through the Northamptonshire countryside and past a series of canalside towns and villages, including Hillmorton and Rugby.

3. Travel to Coventry from Napton in Warwickshire

From our boat yard at Napton on the Oxford Canal, it takes 14 hours to reach Coventry Basin.  The route navigates 33 miles of canals and passes through four locks.  You’ll travel through the countryside and past a series of canalside pubs, including the Royal Oak at Hillmorton.

4. Cruise to Coventry from Stockton in Warwickshire

From Stockton on the Grand Union Canal it takes 15 hours to reach Coventry.  You’ll travel along 36 miles of waterway, and pass through seven locks.  The route transfers onto the Oxford Canal at Napton Junction, and takes you through the countryside to Coventry.

For more information about Coventry UK City of Culture events, go to https://coventry2021.co.uk/

To book a mooring space in Coventry Basin, go to https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/enjoy-the-waterways/boating/planning-your-boat-trip/booking-your-passage-online or call The Canal & River Trust on 0303 040 4040.

Top 10 canalside pubs to visit on a narrowboat holiday

Canalside pubs are popular destinations for canal boat holiday-makers, and there are hundreds to choose from.

They often have names like The Lock Inn, The Navigation Inn, The Narrowboat, The Tunnel and The Bridge.  And many date back to the days when canals were the transport infrastructure of the industrial revolution.  Canalside inns provided refreshment for working boat families and their horses, as well as professional leggers who propelled boats through tunnels.

To celebrate the return to indoor drinking and eating in pubs from next Monday, we’ve listed our Top 10 waterside pubs for 2021:

1. The Weighbridge at Alvechurch Marina in Worcestershire

This historic country pub next to the Worcester & Birmingham Canal has a rustic vibe with quirky décor.  It’s renowned for its two-in-one pie, with beef (or other filling options) on one side and cauliflower cheese on the other, topped with pastry. Our nearest canal boat hire base is next door at Alvechurch Marina.

2. The Holly Bush Inn at Denford in Staffordshire

Housed in an old flour mill on the Caldon Canal, the Holly Bush Inn is surrounded by Staffordshire Moorlands.  The pub offers award winning ales and delicious homemade food.  It has a large canalside beer garden and is both family and dog friendly.  From our narrowboat hire base at Stoke on Trent, it takes around seven hours to reach The Holly Bush.

3. The Stubbing Wharf at Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire

The Stubbing Wharf on the Rochdale Canal offers home cooked food, including Sunday lunch roasts. It has a choice of real ales and a canalside beer garden. The pub was built soon after the completion of the Rochdale Canal in 1789.  It served travellers on both the canal and the turnpike road.  Its curious name derives from the ancient settlement of Stubbing, an Anglo-Saxon word for clearing where the tree stumps have been left.  From Drifters canal boat hire base at Sowerby Bridge, it takes around five-and-a-half hours to reach Hebden Bridge.

4. The Swan at Fradley Junction in Derbyshire

At the junction of the Trent & Mersey and Coventry canals at Alrewas, the historic Swan pub is known locally as the ‘Mucky Duck’.  The pub offers traditional home cooked meals and a choice of cask ales.  The Swan’s bar area is decorated with Roses & Castles narrowboat art. Drifters’ base at Great Haywood is a six-hour cruise away, and Kings Orchard is just one-and-a-half hours away.

5. The Blue Lias at Stockton in Warwickshire

Located on the Grand Union Canal, this historic rural pub was named after the limestone and clay that is quarried locally.  The clay is derived from material laid down in the early Jurassic seas, when dinosaurs roamed the earth.  The Blue Lias is around two-and-a-half hours by boat from our Stockton base.

6. The Plume of Feathers at Barlaston in Staffordshire

This popular pub on the Trent & Mersey Canal is part owned by the actor Neil Morrissey.  Visitors can sample some of Neil’s own beers and ales, and choose from a menu of homemade dishes made from fresh local ingredients.  It takes just over three hours to reach Barlastan from Drifters’ base at Stoke on Trent, and its seven cruising hours from Great Haywood.

7. The Cross Guns at Avoncliff in Wiltshire

Located alongside the Kennet & Avon Canal, this 17th century inn has idyllic riverside pub gardens.  It has panoramic views of the foothills of the Cotswolds and the beautiful Avoncliff Aqueduct.  The Cross Guns serves a selection of British pub favourite food, local ales, cider and craft beer.  It’s just an hour from ours base at Monkton Combe, and an hour and a half from Hilperton.

8. The Olde Barbridge Inn at Nantwich in Cheshire

This historic pub on the Shropshire Union Canal near Nantwich sells a selection of local ales brewed at its own local brewery. And serves classic British food made with local produce.  The Olde Barbridge Inn is an hour’s cruise from our narrowboat hire base at Bunbury.

9. The Narrow Boat at Whittington in Shropshire

With its tranquil canalside location and beer garden, the family owned Narrow Boat Inn on the Llangollen Canal offers hearty pub food and real ale.  The Narrow Boat is just over an hour by boat from Drifters base at Blackwater Meadow, and three hours from Chirk.

10. The Fleur De Lys at Lowsonford in Warwickshire

This pretty 17th century country pub on the banks of the Stratford Canal has a lovely beer garden.  The Fleur De Lys has been famous for its pies since the 1950’s, all served with seasonal vegetables, chunky chips and gravy.  Drifters nearest narrowboat hire base is just three cruising hours away at Wootton Wawen.

Top 8 New Narrowboats for Hire in 2021

Today’s narrowboats for hire are fully equipped with all the essential mod cons.  These include central heating, hot water, televisions, DVD players, fully-equipped kitchens, showers and flushing toilets.  And some boats are fitted with extras, like wider beds, larger showers, baths, solid-fuel stoves and WiFi.

Each year dozens of new boats are added to the Drifters fleet.  Here’s a run-down of our top 8 new boats for hire in 2021:

‘Arbury’ is navigating from Braunston

The new 65ft narrowboat for up to six people ‘Arbury’ is now for hire from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Braunston, on the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire.  ‘Arbury’ has two double bedrooms (which can also be made up as twins).  She has two shower/toilet rooms and a large saloon area where the dining area can be converted into an extra double bed.  Arbury’s prices start at £850 for a short break (three or four nights), £1,165 for a week.  Price includes diesel, gas, damage waiver, cancellation protection, parking, tuition and first pet. Second pet is charged at £25 per week.

‘Bedford’ glides out of Sowerby Bridge

The new 56ft narrowboat for up to six people ‘Bedford’ is available to hire from Drifters’ base at Sowerby Bridge in West Yorkshire.  She has two double cabins (which can also be set up as twins), as well as a saloon dining area which can be converted into a double or two single beds.  She has a shower/toilet room, plus a second toilet.  Bedford’s 2021 prices start at £825 for a short break, £1,375 for a week.  Price includes damage waiver, pre-holiday information, comprehensive instruction, fuel, gas, parking, buoyancy aids and bed linen.

The ‘White Wagtail’ is now available at Whitchurch

This spacious new 70ft narrowboat for up to ten people is based at Whitchurch, on the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire.  ‘White Wagtail’ has two flexible cabins which can be made up as doubles or singles, plus two seating areas which can be converted into a double or two singles.  There’s an optional high level single bed which can be added above a single bed in both cabins.  She features LED lighting throughout, optional wider beds, two TVs, two bathrooms with showers, a fully equipped kitchen and front deck table.  2021 prices aboard ‘White Wagtail’ start at £1,199 for a short break, £1,849 for a week.  Price includes bedding, towels, collision damage waiver, first pet, car parking and tuition.  Fuel is extra.  A £90 deposit is taken for a week’s holiday.  Actual cost based on use, circa £10-15 per day.

‘Serena’ arrives at Napton

From July, the 60ft narrowboat for up to six people, ‘Serena’ will be available from Napton, on the Oxford Canal in Warwickshire.  She has two double cabins (which can also be made up as twins), two full bathrooms, and an extra outside table for alfresco dining.  She has a reverse layout, so the galley is at the back of the boat.  The interior dining area can be converted into a double bed.  2021 prices start at £925 for a short break, £1,295 for a week.  Price includes up to four adults, fuel, diesel, parking, tuition and bed linen.  There’s a compulsory extra £55 damage waiver, pets are charged at £35 each per week and extra adults are charged at £30 each.

‘Fitzroy’ arrives at Trevor

The 65ft Admiral Class narrowboat for four people ‘Fitzroy’ is available to hire from Trevor, on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales.  ‘Fitzroy’ has two shower/toilet rooms, full central heating, a well-equipped galley and flexible accommodation in two cabins, ranging from two doubles to four singles.  Fitzroy’s 2021 prices start at £835 for short break, £1,150 for a week.  Price includes bed linen, towels, cancellation protection, first pet, parking and tuition on arrival.  A £50 non-refundable damage waiver and fuel deposit (£50 for a short break, £90 for a week) are extra. Fuel charges are based on use, circa £10-15 per day.

The ‘Blackcap Warbler’ is departing from Anderton

The 69ft ‘Blackcap Warbler’ narrowboat for up to eight people is available to hire from Anderton in Cheshire.  The boat has three cabins, two of which can be configured as one double or two singles.  The mid cabin next to the second bathroom has a fixed double bed. She has LED lighting throughout, a front deck table, optional wider beds, two shower/toilet rooms, WiFi and two TV’s.  2021 prices aboard ‘Pine Warbler’ start at £1,199 for a short break, £1,849 for a week.  Price includes bedding, towels, collision damage waiver, first pet, car parking and tuition.  Fuel is extra.  A £90 deposit is taken for a week’s holiday.  Actual cost based on use, circa £10-15 per day.

‘Bewicks Wren’ is now available from Alvechurch

The 49ft ‘Bewsicks Wren’ narrowboat for up to four people is available to hire from Alvechurch, on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove.  She offers flexible accommodation for up to four people with optional wider beds. The boat has one cabin, which can be configured as a double or two singles, and the seating/dining area in the saloon can be converted into a double bed.  She has a shower/toilet room, front deck table, LED lighting, two televisions and WiFi. 2021 prices aboard ‘Bewicks Wren’ start at £749 for a short break, £1,149 for a week.  Price includes bedding, towels, collision damage waiver, first pet, car parking and tuition.  Fuel is extra.  A £90 deposit is taken for a week’s holiday.  Actual cost based on use, circa £10-15 per day.

‘Pine Warbler’ is departing from Kings Orchard

The  69ft ‘Pine Warbler’ narrowboat for up to eight people is available to hire from Kings Orchard on the Coventry Canal.  The boat has three cabins, two of which can be configured as one double or two singles.  The mid cabin next to the second bathroom has a fixed double bed. She has LED lighting throughout, a front deck table, optional wider beds, two shower/toilet rooms, WiFi and two TV’s.  2021 prices aboard ‘Pine Warbler’ start at £1,199 for a short break, £1,849 for a week.  Price includes bedding, towels, collision damage waiver, first pet, car parking and tuition.  Fuel is extra.  A £90 deposit is taken for a week’s holiday.  Actual cost based on use, circa £10-15 per day.

Top 5 places to watch the sunset on a narrowboat holiday

From rural retreats to vibrant city centres, narrowboat holiday-makers can use their boat as a floating holiday home.

You can explore Britain’s beautiful 3,000-mile network of inland waterways, with the choice of hundreds of waterside destinations to visit along the way.

It’s free to moor almost anywhere on the network, so you can plan your journey around your chosen mooring sites.  These can include canalside pubs, beauty spots and places to relax and enjoy a sundowner on deck.

To help you plan your next narrowboat holiday adventure, we’ve listed the top five places to watch the sunset afloat:

1. Tixall Wide in Staffordshire

From our canal boat holiday hire base at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal in Staffordshire, it takes just half an hour to cruise to Tixall Wide.  This beautiful lake on the Staffordshire & Worcester Canal was created at the time of the construction of the canal.  It was designed to mitigate objections of the residents of Tixall Hall, who didn’t want the new canal to spoil their view.  Today it’s a peaceful haven for wildlife and the perfect place to watch the sun go down.

2. Lock 37 on the Rochdale Canal in Lancashire

From our narrowboat yard at Sowerby Bridge is at the junction of the Calder & Hebble Navigation and the Rochdale Canal.  From there, it takes around 13 hours (travelling 13 miles and passing through 35 locks) to reach West Summit Lock 37 on the Rochdale Canal.  This takes you high up in the Pennines. Here you can moor up before the lock to watch the sun go down.  And then take a short walk to the village of Summit and The Summit Inn.

3. Calcutt Locks in Warwickshire

From our narrowboat hire base at Stockton Top Marina on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, it takes just half an hour to reach the bottom of Calcutt Locks.  This is a great place to view the sunset over Stockton. From there, on a short break you can continue on to the pretty canal village of Braunston with a choice of pubs.  On a week away, you can continue on up the North Oxford Canal and on to the Ashby Canal.  From there, you can enjoy 23 miles of lock free cruising through the countryside.

4. Chirk Aqueduct in North Wales

From our narrowboat hire base at Chirk on the Llangollen Canal, it takes half an hour to reach Chirk Aqueduct.  This carries boaters 21 metres high across the River Ceiriog and the English/Welsh border. There are moorings on the north side, perfect for looking out across the valley beyond.  On a short break from Chirk, you can continue on to cross the World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.  It stands 38 metres high across the Dee Valley.  Then you can cruise on to the Eisteddfod town of Llangollen, on the edge of the Berwyn Mountains.

5. Castleford Flood Lock in West Yorkshire 

From Sowerby Bridge, it takes around 15 hours to reach Castleford Flood Lock No.9 on the Aire & Calder Navigation. The journey travels 29 miles and passes through 31 locks. Along the way, you’ll travel along the Calder & Hebble Navigation through Elland, Brighouse, Mirfield and Wakefield.  Then you cane transferg onto the Wakefield section of the Aire & Calder Navigation.  Then cruise on to Castleford, the birthplace of the sculptor Henry Moore.

Top 6 Summer 2021 Narrowboat Holidays

Canal boat holidays offer a great self-catering holiday option for families, with the chance to set off together on an outdoor adventure afloat.

There are over 3,000 miles of inland waterways to explore, with hundreds of waterside destinations.  From pubs, cafes and shops, to museums and nature reserves, there’s always something special to plan at stop at.

Drifters offers 550 self-drive narrowboats for hire from 45 locations across England, Wales and Scotland.  Summer holiday prices start at £965 for a short break (three or four nights) and £1,335 for a week on a boat for four people.

Drifters’ director Nigel Stevens explains: “Today’s narrowboats for hire offer all the mod cons of home.  This includes central heating, hot water, TV, fully-equipped kitchens, showers and flushing toilets.  Some also offer extras, like wider beds, larger showers, solid-fuel stoves and Wifi.

“You don’t need a licence to steer a canal boat, and tuition is included in all our holiday packages.

“Around 350,000 people enjoy narrowboating each year.  With the current focus on domestic holidays, we are looking forward to welcoming more people to the waterways this year.”

  1. Cruise to Manchester & back

On a week’s break from Drifters’ narrowboat hire base at Acton Bridge, narrowboat holiday-makers can cruise to Manchester and back, enjoying time in the countryside as well as well as the City.  The route, which travels a total of 68 miles of waterway (34 each way) passes through just one lock.  Places to stop off at along the way, include Stockton Heath, with a choice of shops, boutiques, restaurants and pubs, as well as the historic village of Lymm.  On arrival in Manchester, there are places to moor at Castlefield Basin, within easy reach of City Centre attractions. And to visit the Trafford Centre, boaters can return via Worsley on the Bridgewater Canal closeby.

  1. Navigate the Kennet & Avon Canal to Bath

On a short break from Drifters canal boat hire base at Hilperton, boaters can travel to Bath and back.  The route travels a total of 25 miles, passes through 6 locks and takes around 13 hours.  Along the way, the canal takes holiday-makers past a series of canalside pubs, including The Barge in at Seend, The Boat House at Bradford on Avon, the Cross Guns at Avoncliff and the George at Bathampton.  There are overnight moorings close to Sydney Gardens, a short walk from Bath City Centre.

  1. Travel along the leafy Calder & Hebble Navigation to Brighouse

On a short break from Drifters’ boat yard at Sowerby Bridge, canal boat holiday-makers can travel to Brighouse and back. This historic town, famous for its Brighouse and Rastick Brass Band, offers glorious Pennines walks, as well as great places to eat and shop. Along the way, boaters pass through the historic market town of Elland and the village of Mirfield, with medieval stocks and ducking stool.  The journey there and back travels 12 miles, passes through 20 locks (10 each way) and takes around eight hours.

  1. Float across ‘The Stream in the Sky’

From Drifters’ base at Trevor on the beautiful Llangollen Canal in North Wales, the awesome UNESCO World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and the Ellesmere in the heart of the Shropshire Lake District, can be reached on a short break (three or four nights).

  1. Cruise through the countryside to Banbury & back

On a week’s holiday from Drifters narrowboat hire base at Stockton canal boat holiday-makers can travel along the peaceful Oxford Canal to Banbury and back.  The journey there and back cruises 50 miles, passes through 50 locks and takes around 29 hours.  It passes through a series of villages with pubs, including the Folly Inn at Napton, the Wharf Inn at Fenny Compton and the Red Lion at Cropredy.

  1. Boat to the ancient City of Chester

On a short break from Drifters’ canal boat hire base on the Shropshire Union Canal at Bunbury near Tarporley in Cheshire, canal boat holiday-makers can head north to the historic City of Chester.  This 12-mile journey through the rolling Cheshire countryside takes seven hours, passing through 18 locks.  Once in Chester, canal boat holiday-makers can enjoy some of this ancient city’s best loved attractions, including Britain’s most complete Roman and medieval walls, the Tudor open-air galleries, and Chester Zoo which celebrates its 90th birthday this year.

For more information about Drifters boating holidays call 0344 984 0322 or visit https://www.drifters.co.uk/.

For information about visiting the canal network go to https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/

Drifters prepares for a record narrowboat holiday season

Following confirmation that domestic holidays can resume on 12 April for single households, Drifters operators are preparing for a record number of canal boat holidays to be taken in Britain.

Drifters’ director Nigel Stevens explains:

“With the current focus on domestic holidays, narrowboat holidays have never been more popular, and many people are planning their first holiday on the canals this year.

“Drifters offers 550 boats from 45 locations across England, Wales and Scotland.  The peak spring and summer months are already booking up well.  But we still have availability, especially for single households from 12 April.  And two households or the ‘rule of six’ from 17 May.

“You don’t need a licence to steer a canal boat, and tuition is included in all our holiday packages.  Around 350,000 people enjoy narrowboating each year, and we are looking forward to welcoming more people to the waterways this year.

“Our narrowboats are equipped with everything you need on board for a self-catering holiday afloat.  There are over 3,000 miles of inland waterways to explore, with hundreds of waterside destinations.  From pubs and cafes, to museums and nature reserves, there’s always something special to plan at stop at.”

To celebrate, here are Drifters’ top six 2021 narrowboat holiday destinations:

Drift through the Calder Valley

On a short break from Drifters’ canal boat rental base at Sowerby Bridge in West Yorkshire, boaters can travel along the leafy Rochdale Canal to the old mill town of Hebden Bridge.  The route travels through the leafy Calder Valley.  It climbs through woods, fields and small stone towns. The journey to Hebden Bridge covers seven miles, 10 locks and takes around five and a half hours.  Once at Hebden, you can moor in the centre of town to enjoy a good choice of places to eat.  There are also stunning walks up to Heptonstall or Hardcastle Crags.

Travel round the Birmingham Ring

Drifters is opening a new narrowboat hire base at Kings Orchard Marina on the Coventry Canal in Staffordshire.  On a week’s break from Kings Orchard, canal boat holiday-makers can complete the Birmingham Ring.  This takes boaters on a waterway odyssey with a mixture of urban and rural landscapes.  These range from Gas Street Basin in the heart of Birmingham to Cannock Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Staffordshire.

Float across ‘The Stream in the Sky’

On a short break from Drifters’ base at Trevor on the beautiful Llangollen Canal in North Wales, boaters can travel across the UNESCO World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.  Then on to Ellesmere in the heart of the Shropshire Lake District.  On a week’s break, boaters can continue on to the historic market town of Whitchurch.

Cruise to the ancient City of Chester

Drifters has a canal boat hire base on the Shropshire Union Canal at Bunbury near Tarporley in Cheshire.  On a short break from there, canal boat holiday-makers can head north to the historic City of Chester.  This 12-mile journey through the rolling Cheshire countryside takes seven hours, passing through 18 locks.

Travel round the Droitwich Ring

From Drifters’ base at Worcester, canal boat holiday-makers can cruise round the Droitwich mini-ring.  The route takes canal boat holiday-makers on a 20-mile circuit of the Worcestershire countryside, passing through the historic spa town of Droitwich and the cathedral city of Worcester.  There are 33 locks and it takes around 16 hours, so it’s perfect for a short break.

Watch out for wildlife on the Ashby Canal

On a week’s holiday from Drifters canal boat hire base at Braunston, boaters can cruise to the pretty village of Snarestone and back.  The route travels 47 miles, passing through eight locks (four there and four back) in around 32 hours.  It takes boaters up the North Oxford Canal to Rugby, and on to Hawkesbury Junction to join the Coventry Canal.  Five miles later, the journey transfers onto the peaceful lock-free Ashbury Canal, which winds gently through countryside for 22 miles.  From Carlton Bridge to Snarestone, the canal is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).  This recognises the diversity of its plant, insect and animal life.  Wildlife on the Ashby includes nine species of dragonfly, the water shrew, water vole and rare native white-clawed crayfish.

     

    Sculpture on the canals

    There are many engaging pieces of sculpture and public art to look out for along our waterways. Many of them celebrate their historic past and the wildlife that lives on the canals today.

    Some of the most famous sculptures that have appeared on our waterways have been temporary installations.  For example, Antony Gormley’s striking cast-iron cube figure that watched over Ned’s Lock on the Stratford Canal at Lowsonford in 2015.

    Here we’ve gathered together a list of sculptures permanently at home on Britain’s canal network, to watch out for on your next canal boat holiday:

    Jack o’ the Locks, Sowerby Bridge Wharf in West Yorkshire

    Sculpted by artist Richard Burnett in 2009, these two bronze life-size figures celebrate the industrial heritage of Sowerby Bridge, once the centre of the textile industry boom.  One of the figures is Richard Tiffany, the town’s lock keeper for many years.  By his side, helping him to push a lock gate is a young boy, modelled on Tiffany’s great grandson.

    Drifters has a narrowboat hire base at Sowerby Bridge wharf, which lies at the junction of the Rochdale Canal and Calder & Hebble Navigation.

    The Kelpies on the Forth & Clyde Canal in Scotland

    Standing at 30-metres high, the magnificent Kelpies are the largest pair of equine statues in the world.  Based on the heavy horses that once plied the canal towpaths, these mythical water horses stand at the gateway to the new extension to the Forth & Clyde Canal, taking it to Grangemouth.

    Narrowboat holiday-makers can reach the Kelpies in around four hours from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Falkirk.

    Opening the Lock Gate, City Road Basin in London

    Sculptor Ian Rank-Broadley has been commissioned to create three bronze sculptures for the 250 City Road development, next to London’s Regent’s Canal.  Rank-Broadley is famous for his effigy of the Queen, which has appeared on all Commonwealth coins since 1998.  The first installation at City Road, which depicts two canal workers opening a lock gate, was unveiled at the entrance to the central plaza in March 2020.  It will be followed by a barge lady this summer, and a boat horse and his handler in 2023.

    Drifters nearest canal boat rental base is on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Aldermaston, around 37 cruising hours away.

    James Brindley, Coventry Basin

    Often referred to as the ‘father of English canals’, canal engineer James Brindley is commemorated at Coventry Basin with a 7ft bronze statue.  Created by renowned sculptor James Butler, the sculpture portrays Brindley dressed in 18th century clothing, poring over canal plans at a desk.  The statue is one of 39 artworks by local artists along the Canal Art Trail, which runs for 5.5 miles from Coventry Basin to Hawkesbury Junction.

    The nearest Drifters canal boat hire yard is on the North Oxford Canal at Rugby, around seven cruising hours away.

    The Dragonfly at Hatton in Warwickshire

    This eye-catching stainless steel sculpture of a dragonfly has landed on a side pond above Lock 42, on the Hatton Flight of the Grand Union Canal.  The sculpture, which measures 6ft across, was created by the Welsh sculptor Gideon Peterson.  Early in his career, Peterson worked for Sir Anthony Caro.  The sculpture, which was commissioned by British Waterways in 2006, celebrates the wildlife of the waterways.

    Canal boat holiday-makers can reach Lock 42 from Drifters narrowboat rental base at Warwick in around three and a half cruising hours.

    The ‘Hawk/Creation’ at Mytholmroyd in West Yorkshire

    Sculpted by the artist Kenny Hunter in 2013, a cast iron hawk can be seen next to the Rochdale Canal at Mytholmroyd.  The work was inspired by the poem ‘Hawk Roosting’ by the former Poet Laureate Ted Hughes.  Born in Mytholmroyd, Hughes spent his childhood years wandering the local fields and woods.

    The nearest Drifters base is at Sowerby Bridge, around three cruising hours away.

    Enjoy a day out boating this Spring

    Day boat hire on your local canal is a great way to enjoy the countryside this Spring.

    We offer day boat hire from 17 boat yards across England and Wales, with prices starting from less than £10 per person.

    Full tuition is included so if you are new to canal boating, you can get the hang of steering, mooring up and working the locks.

    Drifters day boats are available to hire to single households from 29 March. From 17 May, the rule of six or two households is likely to apply. And from 21 June, there will hopefully be no social distancing restrictions.

    Our day boats are equipped with cutlery, crockery and a kettle, perfect for a picnic afloat.  Most of our day boats also have a toilet, cooker and fridge.  And when pubs reopen, you can plan a stop for refreshment at a canalside pub.

    Top 7 day boat destinations for Spring 2021

    Glide through the Brecon Beacons

    From Goytre Wharf on the beautiful Monmouth & Brecon Canal near Abergavenny, boaters can enjoy incredible mountain views.  It takes two-and-a-half-hours to reach the popular Star pub at Mamhillad, a short walk from bridge 62. ***‘Rooster’ can carry up to eight people, prices start from £137.

    Explore Shakespeare’s country afloat

    From Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal near Stratford Upon Avon, boaters can head south to the pretty village of Wilmcote.  Here you can enjoy lunch at The Mary Arden Inn or the Masons Arms.  The journey takes two-and-a-half hours each way.  Along the way you’ll cross over the impressive Edstone Aqueduct with beautiful views across the Warwickshire countryside.

    Travel across ‘The Stream in the Sky’

    From Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, it takes less than 20 minutes to reach the World Heritage status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.  Standing at 38m above the Dee Valley, this incredible structure offers stunning views of the Dee Valley below.  After cruising over the Aqueduct, there’s another aqueduct and two tunnels to pass through, before reaching the Poacher’s Pocket pub at Glendrid.

    Boat to beautiful Bradford on Avon

    From Hilperton Marina near Trowbridge in Wiltshire, day boaters can cruise west along the Kennet & Avon Canal to the picturesque town of Bradford on Avon.  Here, there’s a striking 14th century Tithe Barn and choice of pubs and restaurants, including the canalside Barge Inn.

    Tunnel through rural Worcestershire

    From Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, you can cruise to Kings Norton Junction.  There’s a choice of pubs to moor at along the way, including The Crown at Alvechurch.  The route is lock-free but there are two tunnels to pass through, including Wast Hill Tunnel, which is nearly 2.5km long.

    Cruise to Ellesmere in the heart of the Shropshire Lake District

    From Whixall Marina on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire, day boaters can head to the historic town of Ellesmere and back.  The journey takes around two-and-a-half hours, passing Bettisfield Windmill, Lyneal Moss and Colemere Country Park along the way.  Once at Ellesmere, you can moor up and explore the famous Mere with its historic castle, woodland paths and fascinating wildlife.

    Travel through the Staffordshire countryside to Rugeley

    From Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal near Stafford, day boaters can cruise to Rugeley and back.  The journey travels four miles and passes through two locks.  It takes around two hours, passing the through Cannock Chase along the way.  And the popular Wolseley Arms pub at Wolseley Bridge.

    Our holidays and the #RoadMapOutOfLockdown

    Following the Government’s announcement last night (22 February), sadly all our holidays booked to depart prior to 12 April have to be cancelled.

    We will contact everyone affected.  We will offer to either move or refund your holiday.  Please bear with us as this will take a little time.

    If you have an urgent query, please do email the Drifters operator you have booked with.

    Our holidays can resume from 12 April

    In line with current government guidance, we are now accepting bookings for holidays departing from Monday 12 April onwards.

    The current government guidelines allow only single households to travel together from 12 April.

    From 17 May, the rule of six or two households is likely to apply indoors.

    From 21 June all restrictions on social contact will hopefully be relaxed.

    Please note, all these dates are subject to change in line with government guidance.