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Boris the lizard enjoys a canal boat holiday

Gareth Butterfield recently took a Drifters’ press trip on the Coventry Canal, setting off from our new canal boat hire base at Springwood Haven Marina.  Gareth was joined by this wife, their two dogs and Boris the Bearded Dragon.  Gareth describes their pet-friendly staycation afloat:

“And there was me thinking it was a cheeky request, “Can I take a lizard on board?” I sheepishly asked the nice people at Springwood Haven Marina, a few weeks before we were due to rent a narrowboat for a midweek.

“Yes, no problem,” was essentially the reply, as if it was a perfectly normal thing to ask.

“I’ve since learned Drifters canal boat hire operators, including ABC Boat Hire, have always been very open to the idea of pets joining their owners on board. And it’s a good job, because along with my wife’s six-year-old Bearded Dragon, we took our two dogs. And we all loved it. Even the lizard.

“Travelling with a lizard does bring a few complications.

“Bearded Dragons are cold-blooded, so they need to be kept warm. That’s easy when it’s sunny, but when they’re not able to bask in the sunshine they need to be under a heat lamp.

“Our portable vivarium was set up during the pandemic so we could take Boris with us in our motorhome, but it slotted in nicely on shelf in the boat’s bedroom. The boat’s batteries weren’t troubled even slightly by the 100w basking light.

“As a rule, Boris is very docile, and he happily sits and watches the world go by while we travel with him. He loves the motorhome, and he took to the boat like, er, a lizard to water.

“We had a nice, sunny start to the week. 

“Boris happily sat out on my wife’s chest while we cruised up the Ashby Canal. Then, when the weather turned colder, he quickly established his favourite spot inside was on the back of the sofa, cosying up to his hot-water bottle.

“Lizards like to climb, and Boris loves having a view out of the window so this was a perfect vantage point.

“The dogs were much happier to be outside on the stern with me while we were cruising, even when temperatures plummeted.

“They loved watching out for ducks, swans and geese, and there were plenty of opportunities to stop and give them a walk up and down the towpath.

“If you’re anything like me and my wife, you’ll know how nice it is to share your holiday experiences with your pets, and watching them adapt to a new environment like a boat is endlessly entertaining.

“We went to great lengths to ensure Boris could join us on motorhome trips, but bringing him on a boat felt like a leap into the unknown. But it was made very easy for us, and turned into a great experience.

“We can’t wait to do it again. And we’ll definitely bring Boris with us.”

Top 6 short breaks for the Jubilee Weekend

The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Weekend (3-5 June), offers the chance to explore Britain’s beautiful 3,000-mile network of inland waterways by canal boat.

Over the course of her reign, Her Majesty The Queen has made a number of visits to the waterways, and iconic waterside attractions.

Drifters Waterway Holidays (drifters.co.uk) offers over 550 boats for hire from 45 locations across England, Scotland and Wales.  2022 hire prices over the Jubilee Weekend and Half Term holiday start at £985 for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four, £1,365 for a week.

To celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, Drifters’ has listed its Top 6 short break canal boat holidays for the Jubilee Weekend:

1. Travel through the Falkirk Wheel and on to Edinburgh

From Drifters’ canal boat hire base at the Falkirk Wheel, officially opened by HRH Queen Elizabeth II in 2002, Edinburgh Quay is a sedate 11-hour journey along the lock-free Union Canal.  The journey, perfect for four-night mid-week break, starts with a trip through the iconic Falkirk Wheel – the world’s first and only rotating boat lift. Once through the Wheel, boaters continue navigating through the Scottish Lowlands, passing through the villages of Linlithgow, Broxburn and Ratho.  Visitor moorings are available at Edinburgh Quay, a five-minute walk from Princes Street.

2. Visit the UNESCO World Heritage City of Bath

On a short break from our narrow boat hire base at Devizes in Wiltshire, boaters can travel along the Kennet & Avon Canal to Sydney Wharf, on the edge of Bath City Centre.  Drifters’ Devizes canal boat hire base is at the bottom of the magnificent flight of locks at Caen Hill, officially reopened by The Queen in 1990.  One of the locks is named in her honour.  The journey to Bath travels 19 miles, passing through eight locks and takes around nine hours.

3. Cruise to the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port

From our boat yard at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire, it takes 10 hours to reach Ellesmere Port.  In 1979, The Queen visited the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port, and boarded a historic working boat.  The journey to Ellesmere Port takes 10 hours, travelling 21 miles and passing through 12 locks.  The route takes boaters through the ancient City of Chester along the way.

4. Navigate to Stratford upon Avon’s Swan Theatre

From Drifters’ narrowboat rental base at on the Stratford Canal at Wootton Wawen in Warwickshire, it’s a picturesque six-hour cruise through the Warwickshire countryside to Shakespeare’s Stratford. Once there, boaters can moor up in Bancroft Basin close the town’s famous Swan Theatre, visited by Queen Elizabeth II in 1986.

5. See the largest pair of equine statues on the planet – at 30-metres high, the magnificent Kelpies stand at the gateway to the new extension to the Forth & Clyde Canal, opened by The Queen in 2017. The Queen Elizabeth II Canal links the Forth & Clyde Canal with the Firth of Forth.  Based on the heavy horses that one plied the canal towpaths, the Kelpies form part of a new 350-hectare Helix park at the end of the canal extension at Grangemouth.  From Drifters’ narrowboat hire base at Falkirk, boaters can reach the Kelpies in around four hours, cruising four miles and passing through 14 locks.

6. Visit Coventry Cathedral by canal boat 

From our narrowboat hire base at Braunston, it takes 12 hours to reach moorings in Coventry Basin.  From there, it’s a short walk to Coventry Cathedral visited by The Queen in 1981, for a special re-dedication service to mark the Royal British Legion’s Diamond Jubilee. Travelling 28 miles and passing through just four locks, the journey to Coventry takes boaters through a series of canalside towns and villages, including Hillmorton and Rugby.

 

 

Top 9 Canal Boat Holidays for 2022

From rural retreats to vibrant city centres, narrowboat holiday-makers can explore Britain’s beautiful 3,000-mile network of inland waterways.  And there’s a choice of hundreds of waterside destinations and historic canalside pubs to visit along the way.

Drifters offers over 550 boats for hire from 45 locations across England, Scotland and Wales.  2022 hire prices start at £550 for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four, £760 for a week.  Tuition is included in all Drifters holiday packages.

Here are Drifters’ Top 9 canal boat holidays for 2022:

1. Cruise to historic Shardlow

In Spring 2022, Drifters will open a new narrowboat hire base at Springwood Haven Marina on the Coventry Canal in Nuneaton.  On a week’s break from Springwood Haven, you can travel to the historic inland port of Shardlow and back.  The journey passes through Atherstone, across the Tame Aqueduct, through Fradley Junction, Alrewas, Branston and Burton-on-Trent, home of the National Brewery Centre. At Shardlow there are over 50 listed buildings, including the Salt Warehouse, housing Shardlow Heritage Centre.  The journey there and back passes through 58 locks and takes around 49 cruising hours.

2. Visit the UNESCO World Heritage City of Bath

On a short break from our base at Devizes in Wiltshire, you can travel along the Kennet & Avon Canal to Sydney Wharf, on the edge of Bath.  The journey travels 19 miles, passing through eight locks and takes around nine hours.  Along the way, the route passes through the village of Seend with its canalside Barge Inn.  And the historic town of Bradford on Avon, with a choice of independent shops and restaurants.  The route also takes boaters over the beautiful Avoncliff and Dundas Bath stone aqueducts.  Once at Sydney Wharf, boaters can moor up and take a 15-minute walk into Bath City Centre.

3. Navigate to Manchester and back

On a week’s break from our canal boat hire base at Acton Bridge, you can cruise to Manchester and back.  The journey allows you to enjoy 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 include Stockton Heath, with a choice of shops and eateries, and the historic village of Lymm.  On arrival in Manchester, there are places to moor at Castlefield Basin, within easy reach of City Centre attractions.  To visit the Trafford Centre, boaters can return via Worsley on the Bridgewater Canal.

4. Visit Warwick Castle afloat

From our boat yard at Stockton, on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, you can cruise to Warwick and back.  The journey there and back takes around 14 hours, and passes through 40 locks (20 each way).  Overnight moorings are available close to Warwick Castle on the banks of the River Avon.

5. Potter through the Shropshire countryside to Market Drayton

From oure base at Brewood on the Shropshire Union Canal, it takes around 10 hours to reach the historic market town of Market Drayton.  Along the way, you’ll pass through just six locks and a series of villages with canalside pubs.  These include the Junction Inn at Norbury and the Royal Oak at Gnosnall.

6. Cruise along the Shropshire Union Canal to Norbury

From our base at Autherley, on a short break you can cruise along the Shropshire Union Canal to Autherley and back.  This rural route, which is perfect for beginners, takes boaters through 15 miles of peaceful countryside.  It passes through just two locks and a series of pretty villages with canalside pubs. These include the Bridge Inn at Brewood and the Hartley Arms at Wheaton Ashton.

7. Spot wildlife on the Ashby Canal

On a week’s holiday from our Braunston base, you can cruise to the pretty village of Snarestone and back.  You will travel a total of 47 miles, passing through just eight locks (four each way) in around 32 hours.  This largely rural route goes up the North Oxford Canal to Rugby and on to Hawkesbury Junction to join the Coventry Canal.  Five miles later, the route transfers onto the lock-free Ashbury Canal, which winds gently through countryside for 22 miles.  From Carlton Bridge to Snarestone, the canal is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).  This recognises the diversity of the waterway’s plant, insect and animal life, including nine species of dragonfly, and rare native white-clawed crayfish.

8. Float across ‘The Stream in the Sky’

Our base at Trevor on the beautiful Llangollen Canal in North Wales, is next to the awesome UNESCO World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.  From there, you can reach historic Ellesmere in the heart of the Shropshire Lake District on a short break.  Standing 38 metres high above the Dee Valley, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct carries the canal in a cast iron trough, supported by 19 enormous hollow pillars.  With not even a hand rail on the south side of the aqueduct to obscure the stunning views of the valley below, you feel like you are floating above the earth!

9. Cruise to Todmorden for stunning Pennine scenery

On a short break from our Sowerby Bridge base in West Yorkshire, you can travel to Todmorden and back along the Rochdale Canal. The journey, which travels a total of 20 miles, passes through 34 locks and takes around 16 hours.  The historic town of Todmorden offers visitors fine Victorian architecture, plenty of pubs and restaurants, and a busy market.  Along the way, you’ll pass through the beautiful Calder Valley village of Mytholmroyd, the birthplace of Ted Hughes. And the old mill town of Hebden Bridge, with a variety of shops, cafes, restaurants and pubs and a series of scenic waymarked walks.

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.

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/

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.

Drifters prepares for a record narrowboat holiday season

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

Drifters’ director Nigel Stevens explains:

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

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

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

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

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

Drift through the Calder Valley

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

Travel round the Birmingham Ring

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

Float across ‘The Stream in the Sky’

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

Cruise to the ancient City of Chester

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

Travel round the Droitwich Ring

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

Watch out for wildlife on the Ashby Canal

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

     

    Sculpture on the canals

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The Kelpies on the Forth & Clyde Canal in Scotland

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

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

    Opening the Lock Gate, City Road Basin in London

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

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

    James Brindley, Coventry Basin

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

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

    The Dragonfly at Hatton in Warwickshire

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

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

    The ‘Hawk/Creation’ at Mytholmroyd in West Yorkshire

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

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

    Visit an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty by canal boat

    Britain’s 3,000-mile network of inland waterways flow through some of our most beautiful and unspoilt countryside.  This includes many Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs).  So a canal boat holiday is a great way to explore the countryside.

    From gliding through the Vale of Pewsey, to cruising through Cannock Chase, here’s our Top 6 AONB cruises:

    1. Explore the Staffordshire countryside & Cannock Chase

      On a short break from our new narrowboat hire base at Kings Orchard on the Coventry Canal, you can cruise to the wildlife rich Tixall Wide and back.  Along the way you’ll pass through Cannock Chase AONB. The journey there and back travels 32 miles, passes through 10 locks (five each way) and takes around 16 hours.

    2. Drift through the prehistoric Vale of Pewsey to Hungerford

      From our canal boat hire base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Devizes, on a week away, you can cruise to the historic town of Hungerford.  You’ll pass through the beautiful Vale of Pewsey, part of the North Wessex Downs AONB. The journey there and back takes around 40 hours, travelling 54 miles through 106 locks.

    3. Navigate along the Pennine Summit to Barrowford

      From our narrowboat hire base at Barnoldwick on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal you can travel Barrowford.  This is close to Pendle Hill and the Forest of Bowland AONB. The journey there and back covers 20 miles, passes through six locks and takes around eight hours.

    4. Cruise to the Aylesbury Vale

      On a week’s break from our canal boat hire base at Gayton Marina on the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire, you can travel south to the Aylesbury Arm. This will take you into the Vale of Aylesbury, part of the Chilterns AONB. The journey to Aylesbury, which passes through Stoke Bruerne, travels 44 miles, passes through 41 locks and takes around 22 hours.

    5. Float through the Dee Valley in North Wales

      From our canal boat rental base at Chirk on the Llangollen Canal, you can float through the Dee Valley AONB.  On a short break, you can reach the pretty Eisteddfod town of Llangollen. Along the way the route passes over the UNESCO World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. The journey to Llangollen and back takes around eight hours, travelling 14 miles, with no locks.

    6. Take a Thames boating holiday to the edge of the Cotswolds

      On a four-night break from our narrowboat rental base on the River Thames at Oxford, you can reach the pretty market town of Lechlade. This is in an AONB on the edge of the Cotswolds. The route passes through 22 miles of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire countryside.  It takes you past Kelmscott Manor, once the Cotswold retreat of William Morris.  It passes through 14 locks (seven each way) , and takes around 17 hours.

     

     

    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.