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Top 9 canalside events in 2022

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 nine events for 2022, along with information on our nearest canal boat hire bases:

  1. Easter Boat Gathering, Friday 15 April to Monday 18 April

The annual Easter Boat Gathering at the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port marks the official start of the cruising season.  Over the weekend, dozens of boats will moor up across the Museum’s seven-acre site and visitors can enjoy live music, children’s activities, workshop tours and historic boats.  Drifters’ nearest narrowboat hire bases are at Bunbury and Anderton, both on the Shropshire Union Canal.

  1. IWA Canalway Cavalcade, Saturday 30 April to Monday 2 May

This annual event at Little Venice celebrates the best in life on the waterways in London.  The event includes live music, an illuminated boats procession and kids’ entertainment.  Drifters’ nearest base is at Aldermaston on the Kennet & Avon Canal.

  1. St Richard’s Canal Festival, Friday 29 April to Monday 2 May

This annual event organised by the Worcester & Birmingham Canal Society takes place in Vines Park alongside the Droitwich Barge Canal.  Visitors can enjoy 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.

  1. Rickmansworth Canal Festival, Saturday 21 May to Sunday 22 May

Celebrating canals, the community and the environment, the annual Rickmansworth Canal Festival attracts over 100 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.

  1. Crick Boat Show, Friday 3 June to Sunday 5 June

Three hundred exhibitors will gather at Crick Marina on the Leicester Line of the Grand Union Canal near Daventry, to showcase thousands of inland waterways products and services across the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Weekend.  Now Britain’s biggest inland waterways festival, Crick Boat Show offers visitors free boat trips, over 50 boats to look around, live music and a wide variety of food and drink stalls.  Drifters’ nearest narrow boat hire bases are at Gayton, Braunston and Market Harborough.

  1. Chester Dragon Boat Festival, Sunday 10 July

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, Anderton and Brewood.

  1. Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod, Thursday 7 July to Sunday 10 July

Every year thousands of people descend on the pretty town of Llangollen on the Llangollen Canal to celebrate dance, music, costume and culture.  The Llangollen Eisteddfod is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year with four days of live music events, including Alec Jones and Russell Watson performing together to open the programme.  Drifters’ nearest canal boat hire bases are at Trevor, Chirk and Blackwater Meadow.

  1. Stone Food & Drink Festival, Friday July 15 to Sunday 17 July 2022

Staffordshire’s biggest celebration of all things gastronomic takes place at the Georgian market town of Stone on the Trent & Mersey Canal.  The festival will host cookery demonstrations and talks, licensed bars, street food, live music and family fun.  Drifters’ nearest narrowboat rental bases are Great Haywood, Brewood and Peak District.

  1. Stratford upon Avon Food Festival, Saturday 17 September to Sunday 18 September

This two day annual event in Shakespeare’s Stratford offers cooking demonstrations, workshops, food stalls, live entertainment and competitions.  Drifters’ nearest canal boat hire base is on the Stratford Canal at Wotton Wawen.

 

We’re opening a new canal boat hire base on the Coventry Canal

In March 2022, Drifters will open a new narrow boat hire base at Springwood Haven Marina on the Coventry Canal at Nuneaton.

Haley Hadley, marketing & sales director for Drifters’ operator ABC Boat Hire, explains:

“Along with many other domestic holiday options, we’ve seen an increase in popularity of our holidays over the last two years.

“From rural retreats to vibrant city centres, narrow boat holiday-makers can use their boat as a floating holiday home to explore Britain’s beautiful 3,000-mile network of inland waterways.  Boaters have the freedom to moor their boats up where they choose, and can enjoy visiting waterside destinations along the way, including historic canalside pubs.

“In 2021 we opened a new base on the Coventry Canal at Kings Orchard Marina close to Lichfield, taking boaters deep into the Staffordshire countryside.

“With bookings for 2022 already up by around seven per cent compared to January 2020, this year we are opening a new base on the Coventry Canal at Springwood Haven, offering a choice of rural and urban destinations.”

Route options from Springwood Haven

Canal boat holiday-makers can choose from a range of short break and longer holidays from Sprinwood Haven.  For example, on a short break, boaters can travel to Coventry Basin, in the centre of 2021’s City of Culture. The journey travels 12 miles and takes around five hours.  With no locks along the way, it’s perfect for beginners.

Or on a week’s break, canal boat holiday-makers can travel along the Ashby Canal to Snarestone and back.  A six-mile section of this peaceful waterway in Leicestershire is designated a Special Site of Scientific Interest (SSSI), recognising the diversity of its plant, insect and animal life, including nine species of dragonfly.  The route also takes boaters past the site of the Battle of Bosworth Field, where Here in 1485 the reign of Richard III ended and Henry Tudor became Henry VII.  The journey to Snarestone and back takes around 20 hours.

Other week-long destinations from Springwood Haven include: Tixall Wide on the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal; Market Harborough on the Market Harborough Arm of the Leicester Line of the Grand Union Canal; Banbury on the Oxford Canal; Stoke Bruerne on the Grand Union Canal; and Shardlow on the Trent & Mersey Canal.

On a 10-day or two-week break, boaters can complete the Warwickshire or the East Midlands (Leicester) Ring.

Narrow boats available at Springwood Haven

Eleven narrow boats will be available to hire from Springwood Haven, ranging from boats for two people, to bigger boats with accommodation for up to 10.

Narrow boat hire prices for 2022 from Springwood Haven start at £849 for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for up to four people, £1,189 for a week.

Drifters’ Top 12 New Narrowboats for 2022

There are over 35,000 boats on Britain’s 3,000 mile canal network, and around 1,000 of these are holiday hire narrowboats.

Today’s narrowboats for hire are fully equipped with all the essential mod cons, including central heating, hot water, televisions, DVD players, fully-equipped kitchens, showers and flushing toilets.  And some offer extras like wider beds, drinks fridges, larger showers, baths, deck tables, solid-fuel stoves, underfloor heating and WiFi.

Drifters offers the choice of over 550 boats from 45 bases across England, Wales and Scotland.  Each year dozens of new boats are added to our fleet.  Here’s a run-down of our Top 12 new boats for hire in 2022:

  1. ‘Einstein’s Fox’ takes to the water at Devizes

From next March, the 65ft ‘Einstein’s Fox’ for up to seven people will be available to hire from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Devizes on the Kennet & Avon Canal. This luxury boat is perfect for two couples or small families.  It has a central saloon and open plan galley, with the two permanent sleeping cabins privately positioned at either end of the boat. The rear double can be converted from a standard double into a king size bed, and the forward cabin has a range of flexible sleeping configurations. ‘Einstein’s Fox’ has full underfloor heating, a 240v electrical system, fully equipped galley including a microwave and extra drinks fridge.  There is a TV in the saloon, the master double and secondary cabin.  ROUTES: on a short break from Devizes, canal boat holiday-makers can travel west to the World Heritage Status City of Bath.  On a week away, boaters can head east to the Vale of Pewsey, travelling up the Caen Hill flight of locks. ***2022 prices for ‘Einstein’s Fox’ start at £1,583 for a week*.

  1. ‘Hemplow’ will navigate from Braunston

The new 69ft narrowboat for up to eight people ‘Hemplow’ will be available to hire from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Braunston on the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire from May 2022.  ‘Hemplow’ will have three double bedrooms (which can also be made up as twins), two toilets, two bathrooms and a large saloon area where the dining area can be converted into an extra double bed.  She will have a Semi Trad rear deck with seating.  ROUTES: Braunston is in the heart of the canal network where the Grand Union Canal meets the Oxford Canal, providing a variety of route options.  For example, on a short break from Braunston, narrowboat holiday-makers can travel up the North Oxford Canal to Rugby and back.  On a week’s break, they can travel on the beautiful Ashby Canal, a haven for wildlife.  ***2022 prices for ‘Hemplow’ start at £907 for a short break (three or four nights), £1,295 for a week*.

  1. The ‘Sooty Swift’ arrives at Whitchurch

The new 49ft narrowboat for up to four people ‘Sooty Swift’ will be available to hire from Drifters’ canal boat hire base on the Llangollen Canal at Whitchurch in Shropshire from mid-March 2022.  ‘Sooty Swift’ will have one flexible cabin which can be made up as a double or two singles, plus a seating area which can be converted into a double.  She will have a TV in the bedroom and saloon, LED lighting, shower with a bi-fold door, front deck table and wider beds.  ROUTES: On a short break from Whitchurch, narrowboat holiday-makers can travel through the Shropshire Lake District to Ellesmere and back.  On a week’s break, they can cruise on to the Eisteddfod town of Llangollen, passing over the Chirk and Pontcysyllte aqueducts along the way.  ***2022 prices aboard ‘Sooty Swift’ start at £799 for a short break, £1,099 for a week*. 

  1. ‘Curzon’ arrives at Great Haywood

From 11 March 2022, the new 65ft Admiral Class narrowboat for four people ‘Curzon’ will be available to hire from Drifters’ canal boat rental base at Great Haywood, on the Trent & Mersey Canal in Staffordshire.  ‘Curzon’ will have two shower/toilet rooms, full central heating, a well-equipped galley and flexible accommodation in two cabins, ranging from two doubles to four singles.  On a short break from Great Haywood, boaters can travel to Fradley and back, passing alongside Cannock Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  On a week’s holiday, boaters can travel round the Four Counties Ring.  ***2022 prices start at £875 for short break, £1,210 for a week*. 

  1. The ‘American Black Swift’ launches at Blackwater Meadow

From mid-March, the new 49ft narrowboat for up to four people ‘American Black Swift’ will be available to hire from Drifters’ base at Blackwater Meadow on the Llangollen Canal.  ‘American Black Swift’ will have one flexible cabin which can be made up as a double or two singles, plus a seating area which can be converted into a double.  She will have a TV in the bedroom and saloon, LED lighting, a shower with a bi-fold door, front deck table and wider beds.  ROUTES: On a short break from Blackwater Meadow, boaters travel to Llangollen and back, passing over the UNESCO World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.  On a week’s holiday they can travel to Chester or Ellesmere Port.  ***2022 prices aboard ‘American Black Swift’ start at £799 for a short break, £1,099 for a week*.

  1. The ‘Magnolia Warbler’ will depart from Wrenbury Mill

The new 69ft ‘Magnolia Warbler’ narrowboat for up to eight people will be available to hire from Drifters’ base at Wrenbury on the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire from mid-March.  The boat will have three cabins, two of which can be configured as one double or two singles.  The mid cabin next to the second bathroom will have a fixed double bed. She will have LED lighting, a front deck table, optional wider beds, two shower/toilet rooms, WiFi and two TV’s.  ROUTES: on a short break from Wrenbury, narrowboat holiday-makers can travel gently through the countryside to Ellesmere and back.  On a week’s break, they can travel on to Llangollen, passing over the World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. ***2022 prices aboard ‘Magnolia Warbler’ start at £1,199 for a short break, £1,799 for a week*.

  1. The ‘Knot Sandpiper’ will cruise from Alvechurch

The new 66ft ‘Knot Sandpiper’ narrowboat for up to six people will be available to hire from Alvechurch, on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove from next April.  ‘Knot Sandpiper’ will offer flexible accommodation for up to six people with optional wider beds. The boat will have two cabins, which can be configured either as doubles or twins, and a seating/dining area in the saloon which can be converted into a double bed.  She will have two shower/toilet rooms, a front deck table, LED lighting, two televisions and WiFi.  ROUTES: on a short break from Alvechurch, boaters can travel into central Birmingham in just five hours.  On a week’s break, boaters canal tackle the popular Stourport Ring, cruising a total of 74 miles and passing through 118 locks.  ***2022 prices aboard ‘Knot Sandpiper’ start at £1,399 for a short break, £1,899 for a week*. 

  1. ‘Duncan’ arrives at Wootton Wawen

From 12 March 2022, the new 65ft Admiral Class narrowboat for four people ‘Duncan’ will be available to hire from Drifters’ canal boat rental base at Wootton Wawen, on the Stratford Canal in Warwickshire.  ‘Duncan’ will have two shower/toilet rooms, full central heating, a well-equipped galley and flexible accommodation in two cabins, ranging from two doubles to four singles.  On a short break from Wootton Wawen, boaters can travel to Stratford upon Avon and back.  On a week’s holiday, boaters can complete the Birmingham Mini Ring.  ***2022 prices start at £875 for short break, £1,210 for a week*. 

  1. The ‘Obbia Lark’ will navigate from Gayton

From the beginning of May 2022, the 66ft ‘Obbia Lark’ for up to six people will be available to hire from Drifters’ narrow boat hire base at Gayton on the Grand Union Canal near Northampton.  ‘Obbia Lark’ will offer flexible accommodation for up to six people with optional wider beds.  She will have two cabins, which can be configured either as doubles or twins, and a seating/dining area in the saloon which can be converted into a double bed.  She will have two shower/toilet rooms, a front deck table, LED lighting, two televisions and WiFi. ROUTES: on a short break from Gayton, boaters can travel to Braunston and back.  On a week’s holiday they can reach Warwick, Coventry, Snarestone or Market Harborough. ***2022 prices start at £1,299 for short break, £1,999 for a week*.

  1. The ‘Eurasian Wren’ will depart from Hilperton

From the beginning of May, the new 49ft ‘Eurasian Wren’ narrow boat for up to four people will be available to hire from Drifters’ base at Hilperton on the Kennet & Avon Canal in Wiltshire.  The boat will have one flexible cabin which can be made up as a double or two singles, plus a seating area which can be converted into a double.  There will be a TV in the bedroom and saloon, LED lighting, a shower with a bi-fold door, front deck table and wider beds.  ROUTES: on a short break from Hilperton, boaters can travel to Bath and back, and on a week’s break they can reach Hungerford.  ***2022 prices start at £999 for a short break, £1,399 for a week*. 

  1. The ‘Great Dusky Swift’ launches at Springwood Haven

From mid-March, the new 49ft narrowboat for up to four people ‘Great Dusky Swift’ will be available to hire from Drifters’ new canal boat hire base at Springwood Haven on the Coventry Canal in Warwickshire.  ‘Great Dusky Swift’ will have one flexible cabin which can be made up as a double or two singles, plus a seating area which can be converted into a double.  She will have LED lighting, a TV in the bedroom and saloon, a shower with a bi-fold door, a front deck table and wider beds.  ROUTES: On a short break from Springwood Haven, boaters travel to Snarestone and back.  On a week’s holiday they can reach Banbury, Market Harborough or Stoke Bruerne.  ***2022 prices aboard ‘Great Dusky Swift’ start at £799 for a short break, £1,099 for a week*.

  1. ‘Codrington’ cruises from Bath

From 16 April 2022, the new 65ft Admiral Class narrowboat for four people ‘Codrington’ will be available to hire from Drifters’ canal boat rental base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Bath.  ‘Codrington’ will have two shower/toilet rooms, full central heating, a well-equipped galley and flexible accommodation in two cabins, ranging from two doubles to four singles.  ROUTES: On a short break from Bath, boaters can travel to Fox Hanger Wharf at back at the base of the Caen Hill Flight.  On a week’s break they can continue on to Pewsey Wharf.  ***2022 prices start at £875 for short break, £1,210 for a week*. 

*NB Drifters individual operator charges for fuel and extras vary.

Visit the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games Afloat

The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games will take place 28 July to 8 August 2022.  With more canals than Venice, Birmingham is a fantastic city to visit by canal boat, and many of games venues are very close to a canal.  These include:

  • Birmingham Arena next to the Birmingham Canal Old Line;
  • Alexander Stadium next to the Tame Valley Canal at Perry Barr.
  • Sandwell Aquatics Centre close to the Tame Valley Canal;
  • Edgbaston Stadium close to the Worcester & Birmingham Canal;
  • Coventry Stadium and Arena close to the Coventry Canal;
  • Cannock Chase Forest alongside the Trent & Mersey Canal at Rugeley;
  • St Nicholas Park in Warwick close to the Grand Union Canal;
  • Victoria Park in Leamington Spa close to the Grand Union Canal; and
  • Smithfield on the Digbeth Branch of the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal.

Drifters has a great choice of canal boat hire bases in the West Midlands.  To celebrate, we’ve listed out Top 5 Commonwealth Games narrow boat holidays for 2022:

  1. Travel the Birmingham Ring from Tardebigge – this ring takes boaters into the heart of Birmingham, travelling sections of the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal, Birmingham Canal Old Main Line, Tame Valley Canal and Wyrley & Essington Canal. The ring itself covers 45 miles and 49 locks, but from Drifters base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, the total miles travelled will be 74 and it will take around 37 cruising hours.
  2. Navigate the Warwickshire Ring from Stockton – this popular circuit travels a total of 101 miles, passes through 94 locks and takes around 48 hours. It take boaters along sections of the Grand Union Canal (passing through Leamington Spa and Warwick), the Coventry Canal and Birmingham & Fazeley Canal.
  3. Boat to Coventry Basin from Braunston – from Drifters’ narrowboat hire base at Braunston, it takes 12 hours to reach Coventry Basin, travelling 28 miles and passing through just four locks. The journey takes boaters up the North Oxford Canal, before joining the Coventry Canal at Hawkesbury Junction.  It pass through a series of towns and villages, including Hillmorton and Rugby.
  4. Cruise to Cannock Chase from Great Haywood – from Drifters’ canal boat rental base at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal near Stafford, Rugeley and Cannock Chase are less than two hours cruise away. The journey navigates five miles of the Trent & Mersey Canal and passes through two locks.
  5. Reach Perry Barr from Alvechurch – it takes around 11 hours, travelling 25 miles and passing through eight locks to reach Perry Barr First Flight Top Lock No 1 from Drifters base at Alvechurch. The journey begins on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal, transferring onto the Birmingham Canal Navigations at Worcester Bar.

For more information about visiting the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, go to https://www.birmingham2022.com/

Go canal boating for a haunting Halloween afloat

With spooky tunnels, misty towpaths and plenty of ghosts, Britain’s 200-year old canal network provides the perfect backdrop for a haunting Halloween.  Drifters’ narrow boat hire prices for boats for up to four people over Halloween start at £560 for a weekend break, £740 for a week.

Here’s a guide to our spookiest destinations for Halloween 2021:

  1. Prepare to be spooked at Blisworth Tunnel – on the Grand Union Canal at Stoke Bruerne in Northamptonshire, the Blisworth Tunnel has spooked a number of boaters over the years.  At 2,795 metres long, it’s one of the longest on the canal system.  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.  Over the years, a number of boaters travelling through the tunnel have reported seeing lights and a second route emerging.  But the tunnel runs straight through the hill so people must have seen the flicker of candlelight at the spot where the first tunnel would have intersected with the main canal tunnel.  Perhaps the ghostly navvies are still working there…?  The Blisworth Tunnel is less than an hour away from Drifters’ base at Gayton on the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire.  
  2. Watch out for an Aqueduct Apparition – the Llangollen Canal is haunted by an eerie figure that can sometimes be seen gliding along the towpath alongside the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. From Drifters’ base on the Llangollen Canal at Trevor, it’s a 10-minute cruise to the Aqueduct.  On a short break from Trevor, canal boat holiday-makers can travel across the Aqueduct and on to Ellesmere in the heart of the Shropshire Lake District.
  3. Steel yourself for a visit from the Viscount – Once a 13th century monastery, The George Inn at Bathampton is said to be haunted by the ghost of Viscount John Baptiste Du Barre, who mortally wounded in the last legal duel fought in Britain. The Viscount was reputedly a decadent man who held lavish parties and enjoyed gambling.  Following an argument over a card game, a challenge was thrown down and on 18 November 1778, he and his opponent met on Claverton Down at dawn.  Drifters’ canal boat hire base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Bath is a 20-minute cruise from the George Inn.
  4. Hear echoes of a killing at Kidsgrove – the Trent & Mersey Canal’s Harecastle Tunnel at Kidsgrove is said to be home to a shrieking boggart – the ghost of Kit Crewbucket who was murdered and his headless corpse was dumped in the canal. Harecastle Tunnel is an hour away from Drifters’ narrowboat hire base at Stoke on Trent.
  5. Witness some ghostly goings-on at The Navigation Inn – the Navigation Inn on the Calder & Hebble Navigation at Sowerby Bridge dates back to the 15th century.  It served travellers along the old salt road from Chester to York long before the canal was built. According to the landlord, there’s plenty of supernatural activity in this ancient building, including noises in the cellar, clocks that mysteriously stop and spirits that appear in the kitchen.  The Navigation Inn is very close to Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Sowerby Bridge.
  6. Beware the blood stained steps at Brindley Bank – the Trent & Mersey Canal at Brindley Bank Aqueduct in Staffordshire, is said to be haunted by Christina Collins.  She was murdered there on 17 June 1839 and her body flung into the canal. Three boatmen were convicted of her killing; two were hanged, the third transported.  As Christina’s body was dragged from the water, her blood ran down a flight of sandstone steps leading from the canal.  It is said that the stain occasionally reappears on those stones.  Brindley Bank is just over an hour away from Drifters’ narrowboat hire base at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal.
  7. Get the chills in Chester – visit the City’s old Northgate where the canal was dug into part of the town’s moat and a Roman centurion can sometimes be seen guarding the entrance to the City. Canal boat holiday-makers can hire a boat from Drifters’ base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire, and reach Chester in seven hours, and passing through nine locks.
  8. Mind the Monkey Man at Norbury – the terrifying ‘Monkey Man’ haunts the Shropshire Union Canal at Bridge 39 near Norbury. This hideous black, shaggy coated being is believed to be the ghost of a boatman drowned there in the 19th century.  Narrowboat holiday-makers can head north from our base at Brewood near Stafford, reaching Bridge 39 in around four and a half hours.

Multi-generational Narrow Boat Holiday Diary

Towpath Talk editor Janet Richardson recently enjoyed a four-night family break on a Drifters boat, hired from our Stockton base.  Here’s what Janet had to say about her ‘Far from the madding crowd’ multi-generational narrowboat holiday:

Day 1 – from Stockton to Napton Junction (3 miles, 3 locks)

In these days of staycations, families have taken to the British countryside for all sorts of different experiences.

We decided to take a three-generation narrowboat break – myself, my son-in-law and two grandsons.

So on August Bank Holiday Monday 2021, we arrived at Drifters operator Kate Boats’ Stockton base in Warwickshire.  Instructions had been emailed to us prior to arrival, so we knew what sort of procedures to expect.

There were already three cars ahead of us on the roadway down to the boatyard, but we were soon greeted by Mandy and shown where to park.

We quickly shipped all our luggage onto our floating home for the next four days – the 58ft Caroline Mary. Then we let the boys – Oliver 13 and Lewis 10 – explore inside, while Neil and I did the boat handover and tuition with Andrew from Kate Boats.

After a brief introduction, he gave us a checklist of everything to be aware of, such as location of the gas bottles, mooring pins, windlasses and electrical equipment.  He then gave us time to find everything and prepare any questions.

Andrew then showed us the daily checks and how to access the weed hatch if necessary.  He checked we had previous experience of going through locks before winding the boat for us so we were facing in the right direction.  He then accompanied us through the first bridge, where we dropped him off on the towpath.

We were then on our own with 58ft of narrowboat to steer – being sure to remain on tick-over when passing moored boats.

As we went through the three locks at Calcutt, I was very grateful to two female crew members from Eliana who reminded me how to operate the paddles.

We followed Eliana down to Napton Junction where they turned right to head south down the Oxford Canal, while we went left towards Braunston.

After a cheery wave goodbye, we started to look for a suitable spot to moor along the towpath, and soon found an ideal spot about 50 yards below a moored widebeam.

Preparing for our first night afloat, we soon became aware of what we had forgotten to bring! Neil and boys hadn’t got any towels, but I had bought a bath towel and a hand towel – something we were going to have to share! We also didn’t have much food as we had been anticipating eating at a pub, so we ended up with a scratch meal of sausage rolls and pot noodles. At least I had brought a bottle of wine to wash it down!

Having had a pleasant evening playing a board game, and then watching a movie we prepared to settle down for the night. Neil and Lewis occupied the two single bunks in the fore-end, Oliver the converted dinette in the middle and I slept on a single bunk in the saloon.

Away from any street lighting, it seemed very dark but very quiet – a restful end to a busy first day.

Day 2 – Napton Junction to Braunston Marina (5 miles, 0 locks)

It was lovely waking up in compete quiet – no traffic noise or the usual buzz from people going about their daily business.

Our first ‘visitors’ were a family of swans – cob, pen and four cygnets almost as big as their parents, but still with most of their ‘ugly duckling’ plumage. The boys wanted to give them some bread but I explained it wasn’t good for them, and we could try to pick up some duck feed somewhere along the route.

With no time constraints and just a leisurely cruise up to Braunston ahead, we enjoyed a breakfast which Neil conjured up from the contents of the fridge – bacon, egg, beans, tomatoes and bread – almost a full English!  Then we got underway.

The first point to show us exactly where we were on the map in the Nicholson’s ‘Birmingham & Heart of England’ guide, was the fairly sharp right-hand bend under Nimrod Bridge No 108, followed by a left-hander.

We were cruising through some lovely countryside, with cattle and sheep grazing and the only traffic we were aware of was going under the A475 at Bridge No 107. We passed the village of Lower Shuckburgh on the right, and then cruised along a straighter stretch of canal towards Flecknoe.

Some of the older oncoming boats we passed had the great ‘chug chug’ noise. We discovered later there had been a Russell Newbery Register gathering at Braunston over the Bank Holiday weekend.

There was another sequence of bends before the canal straightened up again after Bridge No 100. We knew then that we were approaching ‘civilisation’ as there were more moored boats, and the landmark spire of All Saints’ Church showed us we were nearing the historic canal village of Braunston.

I had been invited by Tim Coghlan to moor for the night at Braunston Marina so we could catch up on the latest news and features for Towpath Talk.  As we turned in under its famous Horseley Iron Bridge, we were met by Tim and directed to a pontoon.

Neil and the boys walked up into the village to visit the butcher’s and supermarket to stock up on supplies.  We then enjoyed a relaxing afternoon – taking the opportunity to pop into Tradline Ropes and Fenders and we also saw the bags of coal ready for loading on to Raymond and Sculptor for the annual Narrow Boat Trust Coal Run.

It was soon time to walk along the towpath up to Lock 3 of the Braunston flight as I had booked a table at the Admiral Nelson. We enjoyed a very tasty evening meal and walked back to our boat as dusk fell on the second day of our trip.

Day 3 – Braunston to the village of Napton on the Hill (6 miles, 0 locks)

After a leisurely breakfast, the boys went up the hill into the village for more supplies, while we prepared to head off on the next leg of our cruise.

After some manoeuvring between the moored boats along the pontoon, we were under the bridge and on our way to the Braunston Turn.

We decided not to try and push on further north up the Oxford Canal, which would put us under pressure when it was time to turn back.  So we turned left back the way we had come, and headed back towards Napton Junction.

We had been following another boat most of the way and they pulled in for a stop along a beautiful stretch of countryside just after Bridge 103. The boys were getting hungry so we decided to do likewise a little further along.

It was beautiful; all you could see was the rolling countryside to the east with fields of grazing sheep and cattle. Apart from the occasional boat coming past, there was no sound or sign of human life!

Much to Oliver’s delight, having bought a bag of duck feed from the dispenser at the lock beside the Admiral Nelson the previous evening, the family of three swans we had passed preening their feathers on the towpath swam into view.

The parents and well-grown cygnet stopped for a snack before heading on their way.  Then the boys and I went for a walk along the towpath, while our skipper had a power nap!

We were soon under way again and instead of turning right at Napton Junction, carried on up the Oxford Canal, aiming to wind before the Napton Flight and find a mooring for the night.

Having spotted some space along the moorings before Bridge 111, we decided to take advantage of the winding hole there.  It proved quite a challenge with our 58ft boat getting its fore-end stuck in the silt, and the stern almost jammed up against the towpath.  Neil had to use the boat pole to push us back.

Luckily a lovely couple from a moored narrowboat we had just passed came to our rescue with instructions from the bank.  This enabled us to complete the manoeuvre while a couple of boats behind us pulled in to wait.

They then helped us to moor just in front of their narrowboat Moondancer. The next morning they went on their way before we had chance to thank them again for their friendliness and help.

Opposite our mooring was a large stubble field with lots of ducks and geese feeding. We also watched what we thought was either a kestrel or a sparrowhawk hovering over the field, and swooping down for its prey several times.

As darkness fell we could see the lights from the village across the field and car headlights on the road leading up to it.

Day 4 – Napton on the Hill back to Stockton (4 miles, 3 locks)

As we prepared to set off on our return journey, another Kate Boats narrowboat Kate Elizabeth came past.  I asked them if they were heading towards Stockton and asked if we could share the locks.

We turned left back onto the Grand Union Canal at Napton junction.  Then cruised up to the Calcutt Locks where the Kate Elizabeth was waiting for a boat coming up the top lock.  We pulled in behind. The occupants were also three generations of a family – grandparents, parents and two children from Gloucester.  They had decided on a week’s holiday boating after a planned trip to Florida had been cancelled.

We stopped at lunchtime and took a walk, then decided to head back to Kate Boat’s base for our last night, so we were handy for the check-in the following morning.

We were lucky to get a space at the front of the moorings, and as the sun showed itself for the first time during the week we went across to the pub for a welcome drink in the garden and booked a table for an evening meal.

Day 5 – back home

It was early to rise ready to return the boat by 9.30am.  We had the bedding stripped and placed in the laundry bag provided and all our bags packed by 7am.  So we pulled over to a vacant space and transported all our luggage to the car.

It wasn’t too long before Mandy arrived and said they were expecting 14 boats in with 11 to go out – so a busy day ahead.

We said our goodbyes and headed home reflecting on what had been a most enjoyable break. Lewis said he liked stopping in a different place every night, while Oliver also said the travelling was the best bit. They had both also enjoyed seeing the wildlife – especially the ducks and swans.

The best part for Neil was steering the narrowboat, although he said he could do with a bit more practice at reversing. And me – the friendliness of everyone we came across, whether seasoned boaters or fellow holidaymakers, and the feeling of being far from the madding crowd.

Top 5 narrow boat holidays for the August Bank Holiday

Narrow boat holidays provide a floating holiday home.  Cruising along at just four miles per hour, watching out for wildlife along the way, you can take all the supplies you need for an adventure afloat.

A licence isn’t required to steer a canal boat, and all our narrow boat hire operators provide boat steering tuition as part of their holiday packages.

To celebrate the approaching August bank holiday, we’ve listed our top five short break narrow boat holidays:

1. Enjoy the remote countryside of Airedale afloat

On a short break from Drifters’ canal boat rental base at Barnoldswick in Lancashire, you can cruise to Gargrave and back.  There’s stunning wild and remote scenery to enjoy along the way, as well as village pubs.  The journey there and back travels 16 miles, passes through 26 locks and takes around 12 hours.

2. Cruise through the Shropshire Lake District

On a mid-week break from our canal boat hire at Wrenbury Mill on the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire, you can cruise to Ellesmere in the heart of the Shropshire Lake District.  The journey there and back travels 39 miles, passes through 20 locks and takes around 22 hours.

3. Navigate to Chester and back for some Roman history

On a short break from our narrow boat hire base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire, you can travel to the ancient City of Chester.  The route takes you through beautiful unspoilt countryside.  You’ll pass by the ruins of Beeston Castle and the village of Christleton along the way.  The journey there and back travels 24 miles, passes through 18 locks and takes around 14 hours.

4. Explore Birmingham by canal

From our canal boat hire base at Alvechurch on the Worcestershire & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, you can cruise into the centre of Birmingham.  The route begins through open countryside, passing a series of rural canalside pubs.  Gradually the scenery becomes more urban as you travel right into the heart of Birmingham City Centre.  Moorings for visiting narrow boats are available in Gas Street Basin, close to Brindleyplace.  The journey there and back travels 22 miles, and takes around 10 hours.  There are no locks so it’s good route for beginners.

5. Drift through the Calder Valley

From our boat yard at Sowerby Bridge in West Yorkshire, you can travel along the leafy Calder & Hebble Navigation to the old mill town of Hebden Bridge.  The journey to Hebden Bridge covers seven miles, passes through 10 locks and takes around five and a half hours.  Once at Hebden, you can moor up in the centre of town to enjoy a good choice of places to eat, and hikes up to Heptonstall or Hardcastle Crags

Tips on how to have good narrowboating manners

The waterways look set to be very busy this summer, so it’s more important than ever to have good boating manners.

Tuition is included in all our holiday packages.  During your boat handover, as well as showing you how to operate your boat, our boat yard staff will explain the rules and how to navigate the waterways in a considerate way.

Here are our tips on how to share the space and be kind:

Considerate mooring

  • Be considerate to householders and moorers in nearby boats – avoid running your engine to charge your batteries or make hot water between 8pm and 8am, keep the music and TV volume down, and don’t come home late from the pub talking loudly. Sound travels amazingly well over water.
  • Shuffle up and share at visitor moorings – don’t leave big gaps between boats when you moor up
  • Don’t moor up next to locks, bridges or bends – this makes navigating the canals harder for others
  • Keep reasonable cruising hours – try not to push the envelope on cruising times. So don’t set off too early or carry on too late.  We suggest mooring up by around 6pm.

Watch your speed

  • Keep your speed in check – the maximum speed on our waterways is 4mph. Ways to check you aren’t speeding, include making sure you aren’t creating breaking wash, and someone walking reasonably briskly on the towpath should be able to overtake you.
  • Don’t rock the boat – slow right down to tick-over when passing moored boats, so you don’t cause unnecessary movement and tipping
  • Don’t bang into other boats – however narrow the channel or strong the wind, you really shouldn’t biff other boats. If you do misjudge it, and someone yells at you, don’t make it worse by answering back.  Just say you are sorry.

Take steps to save water

  • Share locks whenever possible
  • Make sure you close all lock gates and gate paddles
  • When you moor for the night in a short length between two locks, check that all the paddles on the lock below you really are fully closed.  Otherwise you’ll end up having to call the Canal & River Trust out in the middle of the night when the water has gone down and your boat is tilting. 

There’s more information on boating etiquette in The Boaters’ Handbook and video https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/enjoy-the-waterways/boating/a-guide-to-boating/boaters-handbook

 

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 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/