The History of canal boat holidays

Our rivers have been used for transport since prehistoric times, but it was the Industrial Revolution that created the need to move large quantities of raw materials, goods and commodities efficiently, and resulted in the construction on thousands of miles of canals across England, Wales and Scotland.

The history of inland waterways pleasure boat hiring started in the 1860’s when it became fashionable to take boat trips on the Norfolk Broads and the Thames.  By the late Victorian era, the Thames had entered what some authors have described as the ‘Golden Age’ for leisure.

In 1916, shipping agent Peter Bonthron published ‘My holidays on inland waterways’, detailing his 2,000-mile journey around Britain’s waterways at the beginning of the 20th century

But it was Tom Rolt’s book ‘Narrow Boat’, published in 1944 and describing his 400-mile journey aboard ‘Cressy’ along the network of canals in the Midlands, that is said to be ‘the book that saved Britain’s canals’.

‘Narrow Boat’ tells the story of how Rolt and his wife fitted out the boat as their home and celebrates the lives of the working boatmen, the canal craft and the timeless countryside they discovered on their travels.  The book was an instant success and has since inspired generations of boaters.

Although by the 1950’s commercial use of the canals was had significantly declined, as interest started to grow in using canals for leisure, a number of canal boat hire companies were established.  Many of the canal boats available for hire at this time were converted working boats but by the 1960’s more narrowboats were being specially constructed for the leisure hire trade.

Since the late 1990’s our inland waterways have entered a new ‘Golden Age’ of leisure use, with over 200 miles of waterways re-opened and over £1billion invested in their restoration and upkeep

There are now over 35,000 canal boats on our inland waterways, more than at the time of the Industrial Revolution.  Over 1,000 of these are specially designed and constructed canal boat holiday hire boats with modern conveniences  – hot water, central heating, flushing toilets, well equipped kitchens with cookers, fridges, microwave ovens, televisions, DVD players and many now have Wifi too.

There are also a number of hotel boat operators, offering skippered and fully catered canal holidays.

For more information about the history of the canals, visit the Waterways Archive https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/places-to-visit/national-waterways-museum/the-waterways-archive

Ways to reduce plastic waste afloat

Ways to reduce plastic waste afloat

Programmes like Blue Planet II and Our Planet have highlighted the damage plastic is wreaking on our oceans and the animals that live there.

Sadly our beautiful inland waterways are also affected by plastic waste – and a staggering 80 per cent of marine debris comes from inland sources.

To help combat the blight of plastic pollution in our canals and rivers, we’ve put together a list of easy ways to reduce the plastic waste you might generate on a canal boat holiday, and to prevent plastic from entering our waterways:

  1. Don’t use products with microbeads – much of the plastic polluting our waterways and oceans is microplastics which derive from bigger items breaking down, but also from consumer products like face wash and toothpaste.  Avoid items with ‘polypropylene’ or ‘polyethylene’ on the ingredients list and go for natural biodegradable alternatives.  And remember to use eco-friendly washing up liquid as the water you’ve used to wash-up with will drain into the canal.
  2. Bring a refillable thermos and reusable plastic bottles – so if you stop off to buy a coffee somewhere on your narrowboat holiday you won’t need a disposable cup and you won’t have to buy bottled water.  You can use boiled water from the boat’s tank to make a cup of tea and we suggest bringing one large bottle or canteen to top up at water points for drinking water.
  3. Bring your own shopping bags – remember to pack your re-useable bags every time you shop and avoid products with excess packaging.
  4. Make use of recycling facilities – most canalside rubbish compounds only accept boaters’ bagged domestic rubbish, but there are an increasing number of boaters’ recycling points available, so look out for them.  The rubbish you put in the Canal & River Trust’s canalside Biffa bins will be sorted at the depot, with suitable waste sent for recycling.
  5. Bag all rubbish – and make sure the bags are tied securely so that they can’t spill open.  Only dispose of your bagged domestic rubbish inside bins marked domestic waste and don’t forget to close the lid.  If the bins are full, keep your rubbish securely on board until the next available waste disposal point.
  6. Control your fenders – a frightening number of plastic boat fenders end up at the bottom of locks.  Don’t leave them dangling when cruising – except bow and stern fenders.  And when your fenders are in use, make sure they are properly secured.
  7. Help clean up – by joining one of the many Plastic Patrol or Canal & River Trust Towpath Taskforce events taking place across the country.  Or if you don’t fancy taking part in an organised event, why not pledge to pick up and dispose of at least one piece of canalside litter a day while on your narrowboat holiday?

 

Top 10 tips for narrowboat novices

Top 10 tips for narrowboat novices

Spring is here and Britain’s beautiful canal network offers over 2,000 miles of waterways to explore.  If you’ve ever fancied taking a canal boat holiday, what better time to take the plunge?

You don’t need to be an expert to hire a canal boat and each year around one fifth of narrowboat hirers are new to the waterways. 

To help make your first canal boat holiday smoother, we’ve put together 10 Top Tips for beginners:

  1. You don’t need a licence – and boat steering tuition is provided as part of our holiday packages, but if you’d like to get ahead of the game, take a look at the Canal & River Trust’s Boaters Handbook Video for some sound advice https://www.drifters.co.uk/boating-video.html
  2. Keep to the right – unlike cars on our roads, canal boats travel on the right side of our canals and rivers
  3. Steering basics – push the tiller right to go left, and left to go right – and put the engine in reverse to stop
  4. Slow down to walking pace – there’s a 4mph speed limit on the inland waterways and you’ll know if you’re going too fast if you’re creating too much wash which disturbs wildlife and erodes the banks
  5. Go even slower – when approaching bridges, locks, bends or junctions, and when passing other canal boats or anglers 
  6. Lock logic – always have a steerer on the boat when in a lock, make sure the boat is kept forward of the cill (step) and close the gates and paddles behind you
  7. Sharing is caring – always share a lock with another boat if possible to save water and share the work!
  8. Tunnel tricks – switch on your headlight and sound your horn before entering a tunnel, and if it’s a one-way tunnel, first make sure there’s no boat inside
  9. Mooring musts – when mooring up at busy spots, make sure you don’t leave a big gap and never moor opposite winding holes, on bends, near bridges, on lock landings (unless waiting to lock through) or at water points (unless filling up)
  10. Tying up – to keep your boat secure, you need to tie it to the bank with a rope from both the front and the back, and on rivers you should fix your upstream rope first.

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Top 8 Narrowboat Holidays for Novices

Drifters’ Top 12 places to hire a boat for the day

Ouzel II at Braunston

Day boat hire on the canals offers the chance to enjoy a fun day out on the water, nourished by a pint and a pub lunch along the way.

We offer day boat hire from 16 our boat yards across England, Scotland and Wales, with prices starting at less than £10 per person.  Full tuition is included so if you are new to canal boating, it’s a great way to get the hang of steering, mooring up and working the locks.  Our day boats are equipped with cutlery, crockery and a kettle and most also have a toilet, cooker and fridge. 

Here’s a list of our top 12 day boat hire centres and destinations for 2019:

  1. Boat to the beautiful Avoncliff Aqueduct – from Hilperton Marina near Trowbridge in Wiltshire, day boaters can head west along the beautiful Kennet & Avon Canal to the stunning Avoncliff Aqueduct and back, passing through the historic town of Bradford on Avon, with its stunning medieval Tithe Barn.  Once at Avoncliff, boaters can moor up and visit the popular canalside Cross Guns pub and admire the beautiful Bath stone aqueduct.  It takes just under two hours to reach Avoncliff, passing through just one lock. ***Day boat ‘Cheers’ can carry up to 10 people, weekday hire starts at £99, weekends & bank holidays £160.
  2. Cruise through the Shropshire Lake District – from Drifters’ new canal boat hire base at Whixall on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire, day boaters can cruise along the Llangollen Canal to Ellesmere in around two-and-a-half hours, passing lakes at Lyneal Moss and Colemere Country Park along the way.  Once at Ellesmere, boaters can moor up and explore the famous Mere with its historic castle, woodland paths and fascinating wildlife.  The journey travels eight miles and takes around two hours.  ***Day boats ‘Bella’ and ‘Julia’ can each carry up to 10 people. Weekday hire is £99, weekends & bank holidays £140.
  3. Meander to Middlewich and back – Drifters’ narrowboat hire base at Anderton on the Trent & Mersey Canal in Cheshire, is next to the historic Anderton Boat Lift.  This incredible edifice, also known as ‘the Cathedral of the canals’, provides a 50-foot vertical link between the River Weaver and the Trent & Mersey Canal.  From Anderton, day boaters can travel along the Trent & Mersey Canal to Middlewich, passing through Marbury Country Park and Marston Flash along the way.  It takes around three hours, travelling nine miles with no locks, to reach Middlewich Big Lock, where the popular canalside Big Lock pub offers refreshments.  Or travel back five miles to lunch at the Old Broken Cross pub. ***Day boat ‘Daydream’ can carry up to 12 people, weekday hire starts at £99, weekends & bank holidays £190.
  4. Explore Shakespeare’s country – from Wootton Wawen near Henley in Arden in Warwickshire, boaters can head south along the peaceful Stratford Canal to the pretty village of Wilmcote to enjoy lunch at The Mary Arden Inn and a visit to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s Mary Arden’s Farm, the childhood home of Shakespeare’s mother.  The journey takes two-and-a-half hours each way, and crosses over the impressive Edstone Aqueduct with beautiful views across the Warwickshire countryside. ****Day boat hire from Wootton Wawen starts at £99 for up to 10 people, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.
  5. Travel across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ – from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, it’s a 20-minute cruise to the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which this year celebrates 10 years of World Heritage Status.  Standing 38 metres high above the Dee Valley and stretching for 305 metres, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is truly one of the wonders of the waterways.  After cruising over the Aqueduct, there are two tunnels to pass through – Whitehouses and Chirk, as well as Chirk Aqueduct with a viaduct running alongside it.  It takes around two-and-a-half hours to reach Chirk and the Poacher’s Pocket pub at Glendrid.  ***Day boat hire from Trevor starts at £120 for up to 10 people, £160 on weekends and bank holidays.
  6. Cruise gently through the Warwickshire countryside to Hillmorton – from Drifters’ day boat hire base at Braunston in Northamptonshire, it takes around three hours chugging gently along seven miles of the North Oxford Canal to reach the pretty canalside village of Hillmorton.  There’s a choice of pubs at Hillmorton – the canalside Old Royal Oak or the Stag & Pheasant in the village.  Day boaters can turn before three locks at Hillmorton or boat through with the help of volunteer lock keepers Maurice Farndon and Vince Laramy, who last year helped over 10,000 boaters through this busy flight of locks. ****Day boat ‘Ouzel II’ can carry up to 12 people.  Weekday hire is £145, and £175 on weekends and bank holidays.
  7. Catch a lift on the Falkirk Wheel in Scotland – from Falkirk at the junction of the Forth & Clyde and Union canals in Scotland, day boat hirers can travel through the incredible Falkirk Wheel, the World’s first rotating boat lift and along the Union Canal to Polmont, where they can moor up and enjoy a short walk to The Claremont Inn.  Or continue on to the canalside Bridge 49 café bar and bistro, next to Causewayend Marina. ****Day boat hire on the ‘Jaggy Thistle’ which can carry up to eight passengers, is £250, Friday to Sunday.
  8. Glide through the Brecon Beacons – from Goytre Wharf on the beautiful Monmouth & Brecon Canal near Abergavenny, boaters can enjoy incredible mountain views on the two-and-a-half-hour journey to the popular Star pub at Mamhillad, a short walk from bridge 62. ***Day boat ‘Rooster’ can carry up to eight people, weekday hire from £99, weekends & bank holidays £160.
  9. Tunnel through rural Worcestershire – from Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, cruise north to Kings Norton Junction, a pretty rural route with historic pubs along the way, including the family-friendly Hopwood House at Hopwood.  The route is lock-free but there are three tunnels to pass through, including the 2493-metre long Wast Hill Tunnel, one of the longest canal tunnels in the country. ****‘Emma’ can carry up to 10 people each, weekday hire is £99, weekends & bank holidays £140.
  10. Cruise through the Leicestershire countryside to Foxton Locks – from Union Wharf in Market Harborough it’s a pleasant two-and-a-half hour cruise along the Grand Union Canal Leicester Line to the top of Foxton Locks.  Here day boaters will find stunning views of the Leicestershire countryside, plenty of places to picnic and the historic waterside Foxton Locks Inn for a pub lunch or drink.  Visitors can also watch canal boats negotiate the famous Foxton Staircase flight of locks and find out about the intriguing Victorian Foxton Inclined Plane Boat Lift that once operated there in the tiny Foxton Canal Museum. ***Day boat ‘Moorhen’ can carry up to 12 people, weekday hire starts at £160, weekends & bank holidays from £210.
  11. Travel the Trent & Mersey to Rugeley – from Drifters’ boat yard at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal near Stafford, day boaters can cruise four miles, passing through two locks to reach the historic market town of Rugeley.  The journey, which takes around two hours, passes the National Trust’s stunning Shugborough Estate, the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust’s Wolseley Centre and the popular Wolseley Arms pub at Wolseley Bridge.  ***Day boats ‘Daphne’ and ‘Abi’ can carry up to 10 people each.  Weekday hire from Great Haywood starts at £99, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.
  12. Boat through the countryside to The Spring Inn – from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Aldermaston in Berkshire, day boaters can cruise through the countryside for two hours to Tyle Mill Lock in around two hours.  From Tyle Mill Lock, it’s a ten minute walk to the Spring Inn gastropub in Sulhamstead, serving a weekly Sunday roast, as well as lunch and supper daily. ***Day boat ‘Hey Day’ can carry up to 10 people, weekday hire starts at £99, weekends & bank holidays £160.

 

 

RURAL SPRING BREAKS ON THE CANALS

Top 8 Spring breaks

Britain’s beautiful inland waterways are a great place to visit at Spring time, when the countryside is bursting into new life, with blossom on the hedges and waterside trees, birds busy rearing their young, spring lambs playing in the fields and bluebells in waterside woodlands.

To celebrate the arrival of Spring next month, here are our top 8 Spring breaks for 2019:

  1. Drift through the prehistoric Vale of Pewsey – from our canal boat hire base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Devizes, it takes around 20 hours, travelling 27 miles through 53 locks to reach the historic town of Hungerford, perfect for a week afloat.  Along the way, boaters travel up the spectacular flight of 16 locks in a row at Caen Hill and cruise through the beautiful Vale of Pewsey, passing close to prehistoric Avebury and along the edge of the ancient Savernake Forest, home to over 7,000 ‘Ancient’, ‘Veteran’ and ‘Notable’ trees, including the Big Belly Oak believed to be over 1,100 years old.  Once at Hungerford, narrowboat holiday-makers can dine at a choice of pubs and browse dozens of antique shops.
  2. Explore the ancient woods at Skipton Castle – on a short break from Drifters’ narrowboat hire base at Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in West Yorkshire, boaters can travel to the historic town of Skipton, with its medieval fortress and ancient woods to explore.  Skipton’s 900-year old castle is one of the most complete and best preserved medieval castles in England and its extensive woodlands are home to at least 18 species of trees, and hundreds of flowering plants, including wild orchids and bluebells. The journey to Skipton and back takes around seven hours, travelling 13 miles with no locks.
  3. Glide through the Brecon Beacons – isolated from the main canal network, the beautiful Monmouth & Brecon Canal runs through the Brecon Beacons National Park and offers canal boat holiday-makers incredible mountain views, plenty of wooded sections full of the sound of woodland birds, and a series of historic village pubs to visit along the way.   On a short break from our canal boat hire base at Goytre Wharf, near Abergavenny, boaters can cruise lock-free to Llangynidr and back, passing the Lion Inn at Govilon and the Bridge End Inn at Llangattock.  On a week’s break, boaters can travel on to Brecon, passing through Talybont-on-Usk, with walks to the waterfalls at Blaen y Glyn and the popular Star and White Hart pubs.
  4. Boat to Brewood and back – from Drifters boat yard at Gailey on the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal, it takes around five hours to reach the historic village of Brewood, with its half-timbered cottages and attractive Georgian houses. The 13-mile journey, which passes through just one lock, takes boaters through beautiful stretches of Shropshire countryside, and passes the waterside Anchor Inn at Cross Green.  On reaching Brewood, there’s a choice of pubs, restaurants and tea rooms to dine at, including the canalside Bridge Inn.
  5. Float across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ – from our narrowboat hire base at Chirk on the beautiful Llangollen Canal in North Wales, the pretty Eisteddford town of Llangollen on the edge of the Berwyn Mountains can be reached on a short break, with the awesome World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct to travel across along the way.  Standing at 38 metres high above the Dee Valley, this incredible 300-metre long structure, which celebrates 10 years of World Heritage Status this year, consists of a cast iron trough supported by 18 enormous pillars and 19 elegant arches.  On reaching Llangollen, nestled in the hills, visitors can enjoy the town’s independent shops, pubs and restaurants, as well as its Steam Railway and Horseshoe Falls. 
  6. Visit the old mill town of Hebden Bridge – from our base at Sowerby Bridge in West Yorkshire, canal boat holiday-makers can travel along the leafy Calder & Hebble Navigation through the Calder Valley to the old mill town of Hebden Bridge, nestled in a fork in the hills.  Climbing through woods, fields and small stone towns, the journey there covers seven miles, passes through 10 locks and takes around five-and-a-half hours. Once at Hebden, visitors can enjoy an amazing variety of shops, cafes, restaurants and pubs, as well as stunning countryside walks with woods, crags and the Calder running alongside.
  7. Cruise through Shakespeare country – from Drifters’ narrowboat hire base at Wootton Wawen, on the Stratford Canal near Henley-in-Arden, it takes around six hours, travelling through 17 locks to reach Stratford upon Avon.  Travelling through the pretty Warwickshire countryside, boaters can stop off along the way to visit Mary Arden’s Tudor Farm in the canalside village of Wilmcote where Shakespeare’s mother grew up, and once in Stratford, moor up in Bancroft Basin, just a stone’s throw from the Swan Theatre and the town’s shops, restaurants and museums. 
  8. Navigate the Cheshire Ring – starting from our boat yard at Anderton, this superb cruising ring, takes boaters on a 97 mile tour through some of the most beautiful Cheshire countryside.  The route passes through 92 locks and takes around 55 hours, taking boaters through the heart of Manchester and the Peak District via the Ashton, Macclesfield, Peak Forest, Rochdale, Trent & Mersey and Bridgewater canals.  Highlights include the spectacular vertical Anderton Boat Lift, also known as ‘The Cathedral of the Canals’, Dunham Massey Hall and its working Elizabethan Mill alongside the Bridgewater Canal, Manchester’s China Town, the Top Lock at Marple on the Peak Forest Canal with fantastic views of the Peak District, and the Cheshire Plain with its heavily locked ‘Heartbreak Hill’.

 

 

Top 10 Canal Events for 2019

Top 10 Canal Events for 2019

Britain’s canals and rivers host hundreds of exciting events each year, bringing people to the waterways and celebrating the things that make them special.

These events make great destinations for canal boat holiday-makers, so we’ve put together our Top 10 events for 2019, along with information on our nearest canal boat hire bases:  

  1. Easter Boat Gathering, 19-20 April – the annual Easter Boat Gathering at the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port marks the official start of the boating season.  Over the weekend, dozens of boats will moor up across the Museum’s seven-acre site and visitors can enjoy live music, workshop tours, historic boats and museum activities.
  2. St Richard’s Canal Festival, 3-5 May – this annual event, which takes place in Vines Park alongside the Droitwich Barge Canal, will be extra special this year as the Worcester & Birmingham Canal Society will be celebrating the 45th anniversary of the start of the restoration of the Droitwich Canals.  The event offers family entertainment, live music, boats, classic cars, art workshops, community stalls, a real ale bar and the annual ‘Great Droitwich Duck Race’ with over 1,000 plastic ducks competing.  Drifters’ nearest canal boat rental bases are Worcester and Stoke Prior.
  3. Rickmansworth Canal Festival, 19-20 May – celebrating canals, the community and the environment, the annual Rickmansworth Canal Festival attracts a spectacular array of canal boats from across the country.  Occupying part of the Aquadrome and the Grand Union Canal towpath between Stockers Lock and Batchworth Lock, the event hosts a range of music, performing arts, displays, presentations, traders and catering.  Drifters’ nearest canal boat hire base is on the Grand Union Canal at Braunston.
  4. Crick Boat Show & Waterways Festival, 25-27 May – close to 300 exhibitors will gather at Crick Marina on the Leicester Line of the Grand Union Canal near Daventry to celebrate the canals and showcase thousands of inland waterways products and services.  Now Britain’s biggest inland waterways festival, the event offers visitors a fantastic day out by the water, with free boat trips, live music, children’s activities, arts and crafts stands and a wide variety of food and drink stalls.  Drifters’ nearest narrowboat hire bases are at Gayton, Braunston and Market Harborough.
  5. Chester Dragon Boat Festival, 9 June – this annual and very colourful charity event on the River Dee in Chester sees over 20 dragon boat teams of up to 16 paddlers and a drummer battling to become the champions.  Drifters’ nearest narrowboat hire rental centres are Bunbury and Brewood.
  6. Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod, 1-7 July – every yearthousands of people from around the World descend on the pretty town of Llangollen on the Llangollen Canal to celebrate dance, music, costume and culture.  The Llangollen Eisteddfod is one of the world’s great musical and culture events with six days of world-class competitions and concerts featuring an array of international performers.  Drifters’ nearest canal boat hire bases are at Trevor, Chirk and Blackwater Meadow.
  7. Stratford River Festival, 6-7 July – this two-day free annual event offers visitors waterside family fun in Stratford-upon-Avon with music, a gathering of boats, craft and food stalls, family zone, charity stalls, illuminated boat parade and spectacular fireworks.  Drifters’ nearest canal boat hire base is Wotton Wawen.
  8. Gathering of Historic Boats at Audlem, 27-28 July – over 30 historic narrowboats will gather on the Shropshire Union Canal at Audlem, celebrating the fascinating history of working boats.  Boats on display will include ‘Saturn’, a 1906 Shropshire Union Canal fly boat, which often worked from Audlem carrying cheeses and other produce loaded from the canal warehouse at Audlem, now the Shroppie Fly pub.Drifters’ nearest canal boat hire bases are at Bunbury and Brewood.
  9. Stoke Bruerne Village at War, 7-8 September – organised by the Friends of the Stoke Bruerne Canal Museum, the annual vintage themed Village at War event takes people back to the 40’s with live music, tea dances, vintage fashion shows, a Black Market, tanks and other military vehicles, re-enactments and displays.  Historic boats are on show, including the Museum’s own restored narrowboat ‘Sculptor’, which saw action in London as a fire boat during the Blitz.  Drifters’ nearest narrowboat hire bases are Gayton, Braunston, Stretton and Rugby.
  10. Stone Food & Drink Festival, 4-6 October – Staffordshire’s biggest celebration of all things gastronomic takes place at the Georgian market town of Stone on the Trent & Mersey Canal.  As well as a range of themed food marquees, the festival hosts demonstrations by top chefs, a beer festival, live music, gourmet dining in the pop up restaurant, street food and a farmers’ market.  Drifters’ nearest narrowboat rental bases are Great Haywood, Brewood and Peak District.

https://www.drifters.co.uk

 

9 new narrowboats for 2019

9 new narrowboats for 2019

As part of our preparations for the new boating season, Drifters is adding dozens of new canal boats to its fleets across the network. To celebrate, here’s our Top 9 new narrowboats for 2019:

  1. ‘Gemini’ gets going at Whixall – from 5 April 2019 the new luxury 69ft narrowboat ‘Gemini’, with accommodation for up to 10 people, will be available to hire from Drifters’ new narrowboat hire base at Whixall, on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire.  ‘Gemini’ will offer canal boat holiday-makers a semi-traditional stern, a spacious shower, two toilets, full central heating, a well-equipped galley and flexible accommodation in five cabins, ranging from five doubles to two doubles and six singles.  From Whixall it takes just 30 minutes to reach the main line of the Llangollen Canal, where on a short break, boaters can reach Chirk, with its magnificent aqueduct, 459-yard tunnel and choice of canalside pubs.  On a week’s holiday from Whixall, boaters can cruise on to the Eisteddfod town of Llangollen, travelling across the incredible Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which this year celebrates 10 years of World Heritage Status.  2019 prices for ‘Gemini’ start at £825 for a short break (three or four nights), £1,175 for a week.  Diesel is extra – a £50 deposit is taken for short breaks (three or four nights), £90 for a week. Charge based on use, circa £10-15 per day.  Second pet is charged at £25 for a short break, £35 for a week.
  2. ‘Purbeck’ is the new pride of the Braunston fleet – available from 31 March 2019, the new 48ft narrowboat for two people, ‘Purbeck’, based at Drifters canal boat hire base on the Grand Union Canal in Braunston, Northamptonshire, is fitted to a high standard and designed to be a couple’s perfect romantic escape boat. The spacious saloon area features comfortable armchairs, the large ensuite shower room comes complete with toiletries, and the shiny new galley has granite worktops and everything needed for self-catering. WiFi, TV, DVD player, Radio and CD player, hairdryer and USB/phone charging points are all provided.  On a week’s holiday from Braunston, boaters can cruise to Snarestone and back, travelling a total of 95 miles, through eight locks in around 40 hours. As well as sections of the Grand Union, North Oxford and Coventry canals, the route includes the peaceful lock-free Ashby Canal and the Battle of Bosworth Heritage Centre & Country Park at Sutton Cheney.  2019 prices for a week on ‘Purbeck’ start at £820. Price includes diesel, gas, damage waiver, cancellation protection, parking, buoyancy aids, tuition and first pet. Second pet is charged at £25.
  3. ‘Poppy’ pops in at Wootton Wawen – from 15 April, the new luxury narrowboat for four people ‘Poppy’ will be available to hire from Drifters’ canal boat rental base at Wootton Wawen, on the Stratford Canal near Henley-in-Arden in Warwickshire.  This 66ft long semi-traditional stern narrowboat offers heritage features, including a Belfast sink, port holes and a fuel stove in the saloon.  As well as full radiator central heating, WiFi, and a large TV, ‘Poppy’ also provides extra facilities, such as two showers and two toilets, two double beds (one of which can be made into twin beds) in separate cabins and LED lighting.  On a short break from Wootton Wawen, narrowboat holiday-makers can travel to Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon and back.  On a week’s holiday, boaters can reach historic Warwick or Birmingham City Centre.  2019 prices for ‘Poppy‘start at £740 for short break, £1,060 for a week.  Diesel is extra – a £50 deposit is taken for short breaks (three or four nights), £90 for a week. .  Charge based on use, circa £10-15 per day.  Second pet is charged at £25 for a short break, £35 for a week.
  4. ‘York’ is the new star in Yorkshire – perfect for families or two couples, the 54ft narrowboat or up to six people ‘York’ is now available to hire from Drifters canal boat holiday base at Sowerby Bridge, at the junction of the Rochdale Canal and Calder & Hebble Navigation in West Yorkshire.  ‘York’ has a flexible layout with two cabins which can either be doubles or singles, plus an area of the saloon which can be converted into two singles or one double.  ‘York’ is equipped with all mod cons, including a mains hair dryer, central heating, TV/DVD player, radio CD, bathroom with corner shower toilet, basin and a radiator and a fully equipped galley kitchen. On a short break from Sowerby Bridge, canal boat holiday-makers can travel along the Rochdale Canal to Hebden Bridge and back, a journey which takes around 11 hours, passing through 20 locks (10 on the way, 10 on the way back) and travelling 14 miles.  The old mill town of Hebden Bridge is nestled in a fork in the hills, and has a series of scenic waymarked walks to enjoy and an amazing variety of shops, cafes, restaurants and pubs.  Along the way, boaters pass through the beautiful Calder Valley village of Mytholmroyd, the birthplace of Ted Hughes.  On a week’s holiday, boaters can travel on to Wakefield to visit the waterside Hepworth Wakefield Art Gallery, displaying an extensive collection of modern and contemporary British art.   2019 prices for ‘York’ start at £600 for a short break (three or four nights), £1,000 for a week. Price includes damage waiver, diesel, parking, bed linen, life jackets, cruising guide, first pet and tuition.  Second pet is £25 by prior arrangement.
  5. ‘Sagittarius’ begins cruising in Bath – from 25 May, the new luxury 69ft luxury narrowboat for up to 10 people ‘Sagittarius’ will be available to hire from Drifters canal boat hire base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Bath.  ‘Sagittarius’ has a semi traditional stern, a spacious shower, two toilets, full central heating, well-equipped galley and flexible accommodation in five cabins, ranging from five doubles to two doubles and six singles.  From Sydney Wharf in Bath, it takes around 10 hours to reach Fox Hanger Wharf at the base of the Caen Hill Flight of locks, perfect for a short break.  On a week’s holiday, boaters can travel on through the beautiful Vale of Pewsey to Pewsey Wharf and back.  2019 prices for ‘Sagittarius’ start at £825 for a short break, £1,175 for a week.  Diesel is extra – a £50 deposit is taken for short breaks (three or four nights), £90 for a week. Charge based on use, circa £10-15 per day.  Second pet is charged at £25 for a short break, £35 for a week.
  6. ‘Aurora’ arrives at Napton – with 6ft inches of headroom, and providing accommodation for up to eight adults and two children, the new 70ft narrowboat Aurora is now available to hire from Drifters’ narrowboat base at Napton Marina, on the Oxford Canal in Warwickshire.  ‘Aurora’ has four cabins, two of which have king sized beds, another cabin which can either be a double or two singles, a cabin with two single beds and a convertible double bed in the saloon.  She also has two bathrooms with fresh water flush toilets, radiator central heating and a fully equipped galley kitchen with a microwave, toaster, coffee maker, oven and hob, plus WiFi and an entertainment unit in the saloon with LCD TV, CD/DVD/MP3 Player.  On a short break from Napton, boaters can travel along the Oxford Canal to Rugby and back, passing through a series of pretty canalside villages with traditional pubs along the way.  On a week’s break, boaters can travel on to Coventry to visit the City’s famous cathedral, home to the World’s largest tapestry, Graham Sutherland’s ‘Christ in Glory’. 2019 prices for ‘Aurora’ start at £895 for a short break (three or four nights), and £1,295 for a week.  Price includes VAT, cancellation protection, gas, diesel, bedlinen, car parking, life jackets, tuition and inventory.  A compulsory non-refundable damage waiver of £55 is extra, and pets are charged at £35 each. 
  7. The ‘Bar Tailed Lark’ launches at Anderton – the new 66ft narrowboat for up to six people ‘Bar Tailed Lark’ is available to hire from Drifters’ canal boat base at Anderton in Cheshire, at the junction of the River Weaver and the Trent & Mersey Canal.  ‘Bar Tailed Lark’ offers flexible accommodation in two cabins, which can either be doubles or singles, and the option of a dinette double in the saloon.  The Lark features LED lighting, a TV in both a bedroom and in the saloon, two showers, a fully equipped kitchen and front deck table.  On a short break from Anderton, boaters can travel along the picturesque River Weaver to the pretty Cheshire village of Lymm and back, cruising for a total of 35 miles, and passing through two locks (one of the way and one on the way back) in around 13 hours. Along the way, canal boat holiday-makers pass by a series of canalside pubs and enjoy stunning views of the Pennines in the distance.  On a week’s holiday from Anderton, boaters can travel on to the ancient City of Chester. 2019 prices aboard ‘Bar Tailed Lark’ start at £779 for a short break (three or four nights), or £1,199 for a week. Prices include damage waiver, gas, parking, tuition on arrival, towels, bedding and first pet.  Fuel is extra and a £50 fuel deposit is taken for a short break, £90 for a week.  Charges are based on use, circa £10-15 per day.  Additional pets are charged at £30 each.
  8. The ‘Willow Warbler’ arrives at Worcester – the spacious new 69ft narrowboat for up to eight people ‘Willow Warbler’ is available to hire from Drifters’ canal boat hire base on the River Severn at Worcester.  ‘Willow Warbler’ has three flexible cabins which can be made up as doubles or singles, plus a convertible dinette double in the saloon.  The Warbler features LED lighting, a TV in both a bedroom and in the saloon, two showers, a fully equipped kitchen and front deck table.  On a four night short break from Worcester, canal boat holiday-makers can tackle the Droitwich Ring, travelling 21 miles through the beautiful Worcestershire countryside, and passing through 33 locks in around 16 hours.  On a week’s break from Worcester, boaters can travel around the 79-mile long Stourport Ring, which takes in sections of the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal, Worcester & Birmingham Canal Navigation, the River Severn, Birmingham Canal Main Line and Stourbridge canals.  2019 prices aboard the ‘Willow Warbler’ start at £999 for a short break (three or four nights), and £1,399 for a week.  Prices include damage waiver, gas, parking, tuition on arrival, towels, bedding and first pet.  Fuel is extra and a £50 fuel deposit is taken for a short break, £90 for a week.  Charges are based on use, circa £10-15 per day.  Additional pets are charged at £30 each.
  9. The ‘Bays Wren’ moves in at Falkirk – the new 47ft narrowboat for up to four people, ‘Bays Wren’ has one flexible cabin which can be made up as either a double or single, plus the option of a dinette double in the saloon.  The Wren features LED lighting, a TV in both the bedroom and in the saloon, a shower room and toilet, a fully equipped kitchen and front deck table.  On a four night mid-week break from Drifters’ base at Falkirk, Edinburgh Quay is a sedate 11-hour journey along the lock-free Union Canal.  The journey starts with a trip through the iconic Falkirk Wheel (the world’s first rotating boat lift) and then passes through the lovely lowland villages of Linlithgow, Broxburn and Ratho.  Visitor moorings are available at Edinburgh Quay, just a five-minute walk from Princes Street and many of the City’s attractions. On a week’s break, boaters can also travel along the Forth & Clyde Canal to Glasgow, passing the colossal 30 metre high Kelpie horse statutes along the way.  2019 prices aboard the ‘Bays Wren’ start at £519 for a short break (three or four nights), and £799 for a week.  Prices include damage waiver, gas, parking, tuition on arrival, towels, bedding and first pet.  Fuel is extra and a £50 fuel deposit is taken for a short break, £90 for a week.  Charges are based on use, circa £10-15 per day.  Additional pets are charged at £30 each and an additional licence is required at Falkirk, charged at £15 for three nights, or £25 for longer, payable by cash or card on arrival.

 

 

ROUTES PUBLISHED FOR 2013 HOTEL BOAT HOLIDAYS

Drifters to open new base at Whixall

From 5 April 2019, Drifters member Anglo Welsh Waterway Holidays will begin offering narrowboat hire from Whixall Marina, on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire.

From Whixall Marina, deep in the Shropshire countryside, it takes just 30 minutes to reach the main line of the Llangollen Canal – one of the most popular on the network and home to the amazing Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which this year celebrates its 10th anniversary of World Heritage Status.  

From Whixall canal boat holiday-makers can choose from a fantastic range of routes, from short, lock-free cruising breaks perfect for beginners, to epic journeys around challenging circuits for more experienced boaters.

As well as choice of six standard boats, Drifters will be offering four luxury canal boats for hire from Whixall, including the new 10-berth ‘Gemini’, the four-berth ‘Aquila’, six-berth ‘Perseus’ and 12-berth ‘Andromeda’.

The 41-mile long Llangollen Canal crosses the border between England and Wales, and links the Eisteddfod town of Llangollen in Denbighshire with the Shropshire Union Canal, just north of Nantwich in Cheshire. 

Ten years ago, an 11-mile section of the Llangollen Canal from Gledrid Bridge to the Horseshoe Falls in Llangollen (including the stunning Pontcysyllte and Chirk aqueducts), was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, joining an elite club of 1,000 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the Taj Mahal and the Pyramids.

Since then, visitor numbers have quadrupled and Pontcysyllte Aqueduct has become a media star, visited by a variety of TV programmes, including ‘Bargain Hunt’, ‘Antiques Road Trip’, ‘Lost Railway Walks’ and ‘Escape to the Country’.

Soaring 38 metres above the rushing waters of the River Dee, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct was built by the great canal engineers Thomas Telford and William Jessop between 1796 and 1805, to enable slate and limestone to be moved from quarries in North Wales to the Midlands and beyond.  Supported by 18 giant pillars, it’s the longest and highest aqueduct in Britain, carrying a 307-metre long iron water trough, which holds 1.5 million litres of water and allows passage for a single narrowboat, as well as a towpath for pedestrians.

On a short break from Whixall, boaters can head west along the Llangollen Canal to Ellesmere and the Shropshire Lake District, or travel on to Chirk with its magnificent aqueduct, 459-yard long tunnel and choice of canalside pubs.

On a week’s holiday, boaters can continue to head west along the Llangollen Canal to cross the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and travel on to Llangollen on the edge of the Berwyn Mountains. 

Heading east, in around four hours boaters can reach the historic town of Whitchurch, and from there, they can reach Hurleston Junction, where the Llangollen meets the Shropshire Union Canal, in around nine hours. 

If on a week’s holiday from Whixall, narrowboat holiday-makers can then head on from Hurleston Junction to Nantwich, Market Drayton or Chester, and on a 10-day or two-week break, it’s possible to travel on around the popular Four Counties Ring. sdlocke

 

Get the family afloat this summer

Celebrate Mother’s Day Afloat

This year Mothering Sunday coincides with the start of British Summer Time (Sunday 31 March 2019), so what better way to celebrate than by taking to the water for a relaxing day afloat on a canal boat, stopping off at a pub for lunch along the way.

Drifters offers day boat hire from 16 boat yards across England, Scotland and Wales, with prices starting from less than £10 per person. 

Full tuition is included so if you are new to canal boating, it’s a great way to dip your toe in the water and get the hang of steering, mooring up and working the locks.  Boats are equipped with cutlery, crockery and a kettle and most day boats also have a toilet, cooker and fridge. 

Here’s a list of Drifters’ Top 9 day boat destinations for Mums in 2019:

  1. Explore Shakespeare’s country – from Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal near Stratford Upon Avon, boaters can head south to the pretty village of Wilmcote to enjoy lunch at The Mary Arden Inn and a visit to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s Mary Arden’s Farm, the childhood home of Shakespeare’s mother.  The journey takes two-and-a-half hours each way, and crosses over the impressive Edstone Aqueduct with beautiful views across the Warwickshire countryside. ****Day boat hire from Wootton Wawen starts at £99 for up to 10 people, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.
  2. Travel across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ – Drifters’ base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, it’s a 20-minute cruise to the World Heritage status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.  At over 38 metres high and 305 metres long, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is truly one of the wonders of the waterways, offering stunning views of the Dee Valley below.  After cruising over the Aqueduct, there are two tunnels to pass through – Whitehouses and Chirk, as well as Chirk Aqueduct with a viaduct running alongside it.  It takes around two-and-a-half hours to reach Chirk and the Poacher’s Pocket pub at Glendrid.  Alternatively, day boaters can head in the other direction and reach the pretty mountain-side town of Llangollen in just two hours. ****Day boat hire from Trevor starts at £120 for up to 10 people, £160 on weekends and bank holidays.
  3. Cruise to the Canal Museum in Stoke Bruerne – from Drifters’ day boat hire base at Gayton on the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire, it takes around an hour to chug gently along to the pretty canalside village of Stoke Bruerne, passing through the 2,795-metre long Blisworth Tunnel along the way.  Once there, day-boaters can moor up and visit the intriguing Canal Museum, whose stories, films and collections give visitors a fascinating look at the history of Britain’s canals.  And there are plenty of places to eat in Stoke Bruerne, including the Boat Inn, Navigation Inn and the Museum’s Waterside Café. ****Day boat hire aboard ‘Daylark’ which can carry up to 12 people, starts at £130 on a weekday, £165 on weekends and bank holidays.
  4. Catch a lift on the Falkirk Wheel in Scotland – from Falkirk at the junction of the Forth & Clyde and Union canals in Scotland, day boat hirers can travel through the incredible Falkirk Wheel, the World’s first rotating boat lift and along the Union Canal to Polmont, where they can moor up and enjoy a short walk to The Claremont Inn.  Or continue on to the canalside Bridge 49 café bar and bistro, next to Causewayend Marina. ****Day boat hire on the ‘Jaggy Thistle’ which can carry up to eight passengers, is £220, Friday to Sunday.
  5. Visit the ‘Cathedral of the Canals’ – Drifters’ base at Anderton on the Trent & Mersey Canal in Cheshire, is next to the historic Anderton Boat Lift.  This incredible edifice, also known as ‘the Cathedral of the canals’, looks like some giant three-storey-high iron spider and provides a 50-foot vertical link between two navigable waterways – the River Weaver and the Trent and Mersey Canal.  From Anderton, the canalside Leigh Arms at Little Leigh (bridge 209 for Black Price forge), offering home-cooked pub food and cask ales, is an easy day trip away. ****‘Daydream’ can carry up to 12 people, weekday hire starts at £150, weekends & bank holidays £180.
  6. Glide through the Brecon Beacons – from Goytre Wharf on the beautiful Monmouth & Brecon Canal near Abergavenny, boaters can enjoy incredible mountain views on the two-and-a-half-hour journey to the popular Star pub at Mamhillad, a short walk from bridge 62. ****‘Rooster’ can carry up to eight people, weekday hire from £130, weekends & bank holidays £150.
  7. Boat to beautiful Bradford on Avon – from Hilperton Marina near Trowbridge in Wiltshire on the beautiful Kennet & Avon, day boaters can head west to the picturesque historic town of Bradford on Avon, with its stunning medieval Tithe Barn and choice of pubs, independent cafes and restaurants, including the canalside Barge Inn. ****‘Cheers’ can carry up to 10 people, weekday hire starts at £105, weekends & bank holidays £130.
  8. Tunnel through rural Worcestershire – from Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, cruise north to Kings Norton Junction, a pretty rural route with historic pubs along the way, including the family-friendly Hopwood House at Hopwood.  The route is lock-free but there are two tunnels to pass through, including the 2493-metre long Wast Hill Tunnel. ****‘Emma’ can carry up to 10 people each, weekday hire is £99, weekends & bank holidays £140.
  9. Cruise through the Leicestershire countryside to Foxton Locks – from Union Wharf in Market Harborough it’s a pleasant two-and-a-half hour cruise along the Grand Union Canal Leicester Line to the top of Foxton Locks, with stunning views of the Leicestershire countryside, plenty of places to picnic and the historic waterside Foxton Locks Inn for a pub lunch or drink.  Visitors can watch canal boats negotiate the famous Foxton Staircase flight of locks and find out about the intriguing Victorian Foxton Inclined Plane Boat Lift that once operated there at the tiny little museum dedicated to it. ****‘Moorhen’ can carry up to 12 people, weekday hire starts at £150, weekends & bank holidays from £200.

 

Top 6 Canal Mysteries

Top 6 Canal Mysteries

Britain’s 2,000-mile long and 200-year old canal network is a treasure trove of historic structures, a haven for wildlife and is steeped in folklore and mystery. 

To celebrate the rich tapestry of canal history and habitat, here at Drifters we’ve put together our Top 6 Canal Mysteries for visitors and holiday-makers to explore:

  1. Why was the incredible Foxton Inclined Plane Boat Lift a white elephant?  Next to Foxton Locks, on the Grand Union Canal Leicester Line, visitors will find a tiny Museum dedicated to the Foxton Inclined Plane boat lift – an extraordinary feet of Victorian engineering which once operated there.  When engineers began working on the construction of the Grand Union Canal, Benjamin Bevan solved the major challenge of raising the canal 75ft up a steep escarpment at Foxton with two flights of five staircase locks, completed in 1814.  However, by the end of the 19th century, as a result of competition from the railways, commercial traffic on the canals was in significant decline.  In 1893, local factory owners and boat companies encouraged the Grand Junction Canal Company to make improvements so that the canal could take larger boats and better compete with the railways.  Plans were approved for the plane in 1897 and building work began.  Two counterbalanced caissons (giant bathtubs) that could each hold two narrowboats or one wide-beam barge, were built to slide up or down the hill on tracks.  They enabled boats to make the journey in just 12 minutes – nearly six times quicker than going through the locks.  Opened in 1900, sadly it was never a commercial success due to decreasing canal traffic and the fact that the Watford flight was never widened to take larger boats.  The plane was mothballed in 1911 and dismantled for scrap in 1928. *Drifters nearest canal boat holiday starting points are at Market Harborough and Braunston.
  2. Why are there pill boxes along the K&A?  When walking along the towpath or cruising along in a boat, visitors to the Kennet & Avon Canal, which connects the River Thames at Reading with the Bristol Avon at Bath, will notice a large number of pill boxes lining the waterway.  Designed by the War Office, these fortifications were commissioned by General Sir Edmund Ironside, following the British Expeditionary Forces’ evacuation from Dunkirk, and the prospect of imminent German invasion.  Named GHQ Stop Line Blue, the canal was equipped to be a static defence line, with the pill boxes and trank traps manned by the Home Guard.  *Drifters offers canal boat hire on the Kennet & Avon Canal from Aldermaston (near Reading), Devizes, Hilperton (near Trowbridge), Bradford on Avon and Bath.
  3. Why do canals sometimes turn green?  When summer temperatures soar, thick carpets of bright green duck weed can appear along sections of Britain’s canals, especially in London.  While an individual piece of duck weed is no bigger than a ladybird, when they multiply into large numbers, they clog up canals, starving the water of oxygen and sunlight, and causing problems for some wildlife.  In the right conditions, a mass of duck weed can double in size every two or three days.  The weed also accumulates litter, can be problematic for boats, and dogs and other animals have been known to mistake it for grass and end up in the water.  When the duck weed takes hold, the Canal & River Trust deploys weed clearing machines and the charity has installed a bubble barrier in on the Paddington Arm of the Grand Union Canal to help keep litter and duck weed in check.
  4. Why have some people seen a second route in the Blisworth Tunnel?  On the Grand Union Canal at Stoke Bruerne in Northamptonshire, the 2,795-metre long Blisworth Tunnel has spooked a number of boaters over the years.  When construction began in 1793, the tunnel was a major engineering challenge.  Teams of navvies worked with picks and shovels for three years until they hit quicksand and the tunnel collapsed, killing 14 men.  A new route for the tunnel was found and it finally opened on 25 March 1805.  But over the years, a number of boaters travelling through the tunnel have reported seeing lights and a second route emerging.  As the tunnel runs straight through the hill, the only explanation is that these people must have seen the ghostly flicker of candlelight at the spot where the first tunnel would have intersected with the main canal tunnel. *Drifters nearest canal boat hire starting points are at Rugby, Stretton, Braunston, Stockton and Napton.
  5. Why are there Terrapins on our canals?  Red-eared terrapins are now a common sight on England’s waterways, largely as a result of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Hero Turtles cartoon craze which began in the 1980’s.  Imported from the USA to be sold as pets, these terrapins can grow to the size of a dinner plate, making them less appealing and difficult to manage.  Consequently, they are often irresponsibly released into the wild and can be seen basking on dry land during sunny days.  At the moment it looks unlikely that they are breeding as terrapin eggs need to be incubated at 25 degrees Celsius for 60 days in order to hatch, but climate change may enable them to increase their numbers and potentially harm native animals. *Terrapins are regularly seen at Fradley Pool Nature Reserve, at Fradley Junction where the Coventry Canal meets the Trent & Mersey Canal.  Our nearest canal boat hire bases are at Great Haywood and Stretton.
  6. Why is the Hatton Flight also known as the Stairway to Heaven? The spectacular Hatton Flight of 21 locks on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, raises or lowers boats by 146 feet across two miles.  The men and women who operated the working boats which carried cargoes on the canal, knick-named the Hatton flight ‘The Stairway to Heaven’, because of the hard work involved in the long ascent, and the subsequent easy run to Camp Hill where they were paid. *Our nearest canal boat holiday starting points are at Stockton, Warwick and Wootton Wawen.