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Top of the Locks 2022

There are over 1,800 locks on the 2,000 miles of navigable waterways in England and Wales, all enabling boats to travel up and down hills.

There’s no mystery to using locks – just a series of step-by-step tasks.  A lock is simply a chamber with gates at either end.  By emptying or filling the chamber with water, boats can move up or down onto a new section of waterway.

There are many different kinds of locks, but they all on work on a similar principle.  With the lock gates closed, boaters should open the sluices (paddles) to let the water in or out.  When the water level under the boat is the same as the level it’s moving to, the boat can move in or out of the lock.

Some locks are operated by boaters, others by lock-keepers.  Tuition is included in all our canal boat holiday packages.  During your handover procedure, boat yard staff will usually be able to take you through your first lock.

To celebrate these marvels of canal engineering, we’ve put together a guide to the Top 7 lock flight destinations for 2022 narrow boat holidays:

1. Caen Hill in Wiltshire

Caen Hill on the Kennet & Avon Canal in Devizes is one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’ and a Scheduled Ancient Monument.  With 29 locks spread out over two miles, raising the canal by 72 metres, it takes around six hours to passage through.  The 16-lock section clustered together up the hill is truly a magnificent site, and one of the most iconic on the waterway network.  Drifters’ Devizes narrowboat hire base is at the base of the Flight at Foxhangers Marina.

2. Wigan in Lancashire

This epic flight of 21 locks on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal is said to be one of the most fearsome on the waterways.  Descending 70 metres in less than two miles, it takes around five hours to pass through all the locks.  The flight travels through New Springs, a suburb of Wigan which was once an industrial hub with collieries and ironworks lining the canal.  Today it’s a post-industrial landscape of waste ground, modern housing and terraced streets.  From Drifters’ base at Barnoldswick, it takes around 19 cruising hours to reach Wigan Top Lock Junction, travelling 48 miles and passing through 20 locks.

3. Tardebigge in Worcestershire

With 30 locks spread out over two-and-a-quarter miles, this awesome flight of locks on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal is the longest on the inland waterways system.  In total, the locks raise and lower boats 67 metres and it takes around five-and-a-half hours to travel through them.  In recognition of the effort it takes, the Canal & River Trust issues certificates to boaters rising (or lowering) to the challenge.  Drifters’ nearest canal boat hire base is at the top of the flight at Tardebigge Wharf.

4. Bingley 5 Rise in West Yorkshire

Another of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’, this spectacular staircase of five locks on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal near Bradford, raises (or lowers) boats 18 metres in five cavernous chambers.  The locks open directly from one to another, with the top gate of one forming the bottom of the next.  It takes around one-and-a-half hours to work through.  The size of the chambers can be intimidating even for experienced boaters, but friendly lock-keepers are on hand to help.  Drifters’ nearest canal boat rental base is 25 miles and 20 locks away at Barnoldswick. The journey takes around 14 and a half hours.

5. Hatton in Warwickshire

The Hatton Flight on the Grand Union Canal was nicknamed ‘The Stairway to Heaven’ by the boaters who once carried cargos on the canals.  This impressive flight of 21 locks raises boats up 45 metres over two miles, and takes around four-and-a-half hours to travel through.  Just below the Top lock, you’ll find the popular Hatton Locks Café for welcome refreshment. Drifters’ nearest canal boat hire base is eight cruising hours away at Stockton.  The journey travels 11 miles and passes through 22 locks.

6. Foxton in Leicestershire

Surrounded by stunning views of the Leicestershire countryside, this set of 10 locks on the Leicester Line of the Grand Union Canal raises boats up 23 metres in just a quarter-of-a-mile.  Foxton Locks is the longest set of staircase locks in the UK, and is designated a Grade II Listed structure.  In staircases, the locks open directly one from another so that the top gate of one forms the bottom of the next.  It takes around 45 minutes to pass through. There are lock keepers on hand to help, providing key advice when it comes to opening the paddles, “Red before white, you’ll be alright. White before red, you’ll be dead.”  Drifters’ nearest narrowboat boat hire base is around 13 cruising hours away at Braunston.  The journey to Foxton Top Staircase travels 27 miles and passes through 13 locks.

7. Marple in Cheshire

One of the steepest flights on the system, the 16 locks on the Peak Forest Canal at Marple raise boats by 64 metres over just one mile.  The locks are built of local stone and are mostly tree-lined, giving the canal a lovely secluded feeling.  The Peak Forest Canals is said to be one of Britain’s most scenic waterways, running through beautiful countryside on the edge of the Peak District National Park.  Drifters’ Stoke on Trent canal boat hire base is around 19 cruising hours away from Marple Bottom Lock.  The journey there travels 32 miles and passes through 14 locks.

 

 

Enjoy a day afloat on the Jubilee bank holiday weekend

Day boat hire on Britain’s peaceful network of inland waterways is a great way to enjoy the countryside, and offers a great family day out over the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee long weekend, 2-5 June 2022.

Drifters’ offers day boat hire from 14 boat yards across England and Wales, with weekend and bank holiday prices starting from £15 per person.  Full tuition is included so if you are new to narrow boating, it’s a great way to get the hang of steering, mooring up and working the locks.

All our day boats are equipped with cutlery, crockery and a kettle, and most also have a toilet, cooker and fridge.  So you can plan a picnic afloat or stop off for lunch at a canalside pub along the way.

Here’s a guide to our Top 8 day boat destinations for the Jubilee bank holiday weekend:

  1. Cruise through the Shropshire countryside to Oswestry

From Drifters’ day boat hire base at Blackwater Meadow Marina on the Llangollen Canal, near Ellesmere, you can cruise to Oswestry and back.  The route passes through farmland, glacial scenery and beautiful green countryside.  The journey there and back takes around five hours and there are no locks.

Day boat ‘Lazy Days’ can carry up to 10 people. Prices start at £109.

  1. Glide through the remains of the Forest of Arden

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

Day boat ‘Emma’ can carry up to 10 people.  Weekday hire is £99, weekends & bank holidays £150.

  1. Navigate to The Star Inn at Mamhillad in the Brecon Beacons

From our day boat hire base at 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 boats ‘Robin’ and Rooster’ can carry up to eight people each.  Prices start from £137.

Day boats ‘Dolly’ and ‘Charlie’ can carry up to 10 people each. Prices start at £99 weekdays, £150 on weekends and bank holidays.

  1. Boat to Avoncliff Aqueduct and the Cross Guns pub

From our narrow boat hire base at Hilperton Marina on the Kennet & Avon Canal near Trowbridge, you can head west past the picturesque town of Bradford on Avon and its striking 14th century Tithe Barn and on to Avoncliff Aqueduct for lunch at the Cross Guns.  The return journey to Avoncliff takes around six hours and there’s just one lock to pass through each way.

Day boat ‘Cheers’ can carry up to 10 people.  Prices start at £119.

  1. Navigate through Cannock Chase to the Wolseley Arms

From our day boat hire base Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal near Stafford, you 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 through the Cannock Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the popular Wolseley Arms pub at Wolseley Bridge.

Day boats ‘Daphne’ and ‘Abi’ can carry up to 10 people each.  Weekday hire starts at £99, £150 on weekends and bank holidays.

  1. Boat along ‘The Shroppie’ to Nantwich Aqueduct

From our canal boat hire base at Bunbury Wharf on the Shropshire Union Canal near Tarporley, day boaters can cruise south for six miles, and travel across the impressive Grade II* listed Nantwich Aqueduct, enjoying with panoramic views across the town.  With no locks along the way, the journey to Nantwich takes around two hours.

Day boat ‘Bella’ can carry up to 10 people.  Weekday hire is £99, weekends & bank holidays £150.

  1. Cruise through the Shropshire Lake District to Ellesmere

From our narrow boat hire centre at Whixall Marina, on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal, day boaters travel to Ellesmere in the heart of the Shropshire Lake District.  The journey takes around two-and-a-half hours, cruising through eight miles of beautiful countryside, and Lyneal Moss and Colemere Country Park along the way.

Day boat ‘Julia’ can carry up to 10 people.  Weekday hire is £99, weekends & bank holidays £150.

For more information about Drifters’ day boats go to https://www.drifters.co.uk/day-boats/

Top 10 Summer Canal Boat Holidays for 2022

Travelling through the countryside at just four-miles-an-hour, canal boat holidays are the fastest way to slow down.

You don’t need a licence and it’s easy to learn how to steer a narrowboat.

Drifters offers 550 narrowboats for hire from 45 bases across England, Scotland and Wales.  Our summer holiday prices for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four people start at £979, and at £1,530 for a week.

Tuition is included as part of all our holiday packages.

All our narrowboats have heating, well-equipped kitchens, quality furnishings, flushing toilets, hot water, showers, TVs and DVD players, and many now have WiFi on board too.

Here are our top 10 summer destinations for 2022:

  1. Visit Skipton and its medieval castle

On a short break from our Barnoldswick boatyard, narrow boat holiday-makers can head east along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal to Skipton and back.  The journey travels a total of 26 miles, passes through 30 locks (15 each way) and takes around 20 hours.  This breath-taking route winds along the contours of the side of Airedale, with extensive views of sheep country – farmhouses, barns, stone walls and the occasional village or town.  Once in Skipton, you can moor in the centre of the town, visit shops and restaurants and explore Skipton Castle, one of the most complete and best preserved medieval castles in England.

  1. Glide through the Usk Valley to Brecon and back

From our base at Goytre Wharf near Abergavenny, on a week’s break you can navigate through the wooded Usk Valley to the pretty market town of Brecon, in the heart of the Brecon Beacons National Park.  Brecon offers theatre, cinema, cafes and restaurants and east access to the National Park, with walking routes, cycle hire and pony trekking.  Along the way, you can stop off at Llanfoist to take the old tramway into the Black Mountains, visit the 13th century caste at Crickhowell and walk to the Blaen y Glyn waterfalls at Talybont-on-Usk.  The total journey there and back travels 51 miles, passing through 12 locks (six each way) and takes around 25 hours.

  1. Cruise along the River Thames to Oxford

On a short break from our canal boat hire base on the River Thames at Eynsham near Witney, you can reach the beautiful City of Oxford in just three hours.  Most of the locks on the Thames are manned so it’s a nice easy journey for beginners.  Once in Oxford, you can moor up a short walk from the City Centre, and take time to explore some of the historic attractions.  Climb the Carfax Tower for views across the City of Dreaming Spires, visit the Bodleian Library with its stunning 17th century Schools Quadrangle, and explore the University of Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum of Art & Archaeology.

  1. Travel the Warwickshire Ring

On a two-week holiday from our Napton base on the Grand Union Canal, you can navigate the popular Warwickshire Ring.  The route follows 104 miles of urban and rural waterways, passes through 120 locks and takes around 54 cruising hours. Highlights include: the awesome Flight of 21 locks at Hatton; Warwick Castle; Cadbury World; and Birmingham’s Brindleyplace, home to the Sea Life Centre.

  1. Glide across the awesome Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

Passing through stunning North Wales landscapes, the Llangollen Canal is one of the most popular waterways on the network.  On a short break from our base at Chirk, you can travel to the pretty Eisteddfod town of Llangollen and back.  Along the way, you’ll cruise the 11 miles of the Llangollen Canal that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, including the awesome Chirk and Pontcysyllte aqueducts.

  1. Travel along the peaceful Ashby Canal to Shakerstone

On a week’s holiday from our Braunston base on the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire, you can explore the beautiful Ashby Canal.  With no locks, and mile-upon-mile of countryside to enjoy, this peaceful 22-mile long waterway passes the pretty town of Market Bosworth and the site of the Battle of Bosworth Field.  The journey to Shakerstone and back, travels 95 miles, passes through eight locks (four each way) and takes around 37 hours.

  1. Navigate through the Scottish Lowlands to Edinburgh

From our base at Falkirk, Edinburgh Quay is an 11-hour, 32-mile journey along the Union Canal, perfect for a mid-week break.  The journey starts with a trip through the world’s first rotating boat lift, the Falkirk Wheel. You’ll then pass through two tunnels and soon after across the magnificent Avon Aqueduct.  Then it’s on 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 top attractions.

  1. Cruise to the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port

On a week’s holiday from our base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal, you can reach the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port.  The museum brings together a unique fleet of historic boats, docks, warehouses, forge, stables and workers cottages, collections and archives, to tell the story of Britain’s canals.  It takes around 11 hours to cruise to the National Waterways Museum from our boat yard on the Shropshire Union Canal at Bunbury.  The journey there and back travels 22 miles and passes through 32 locks (16 each way).

  1. Visit Georgian Bath afloat

On a short break from our canal boat hire base at Devizes, you can navigate to the beautiful World Heritage Status City of Bath.  The journey there and back travels 39 miles of the Kennet & Avon Canal, passes through 20 locks (10 each way) and takes around 19 cruising hours.  Along the way, you’ll pass a series of canalside pubs, and you’ll cross over the beautiful Bath stone Avoncliff and Dundas aqueducts.  There are moorings at Sydney Wharf, a 15-minute walk from Bath City centre.

  1. Cruise through the Shropshire countryside to Market Drayton

On a four night break from our base at Brewood on the Shropshire Union Canal, you can reach the historic market town of Market Drayton.  Along the way, you’ll pass through a series of villages with canalside pubs, including the Junction Inn at Norbury and the Royal Oak at Gnosnall.  And through tunnels of trees in the deep canal cuttings. The total journey there and back travels 42 miles, passes through 12 locks and takes around 19 hours.

Top 8 waterside museums to visit on a canal boat holiday

Britain’s 3,000-mile network of navigable canals and rivers is home to dozens of waterside museums and attractions, many of them linked to our nation’s industrial past.

To celebrate, we’ve published a guide to the Top 8 waterside museums to visit afloat in 2022:

  1. The Black Country Living Museum

Famous as a filming location for The Peaky Blinders, this 26-acre open air museum on the Birmingham Canal Navigations, gives visitors an insight into life in one of the world’s most heavily industrialised landscapes.  From our narrow boat hire base on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal at Tardebigge, it takes around eight hours to cruise to the Birmingham Black Country Museum.  The journey travels 23 miles and passes through three locks.

  1. The Leeds Industrial Museum

Next to the Leeds & Liverpool Canal at Canal Road in Leeds, this museum explores the inventions that shaped Leeds, from Scootacars to steam engines, and space food to Spirograph.  It takes around 26 hours to cruise to the Leeds Industrial Museum from our canal boat hire base on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal at Barnoldswick.  The journey travels 40 miles and passes through 38 locks.

  1. The National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port

On the banks of the Mersey and the Manchester Ship Canal, this museum brings together a unique fleet of historic boats, docks, warehouses, forge, stables and workers cottages, with rich collections and archives, to tell the story of Britain’s canals.  It takes around 11 hours to cruise to the National Waterways Museum from our boat yard on the Shropshire Union Canal at Bunbury.  The journey travels 21 miles and passes through 16 locks.

  1. The Hepworth Wakefield Museum

This modern gallery on the banks of the Calder & Hebble Navigation showcases the extraordinary work by the British sculptor Barbara Hepworth. There are also works on display by Henry Moore, Antony Gormley, David Hockney, Bridget Riley and Anthony Caro.  It takes around 22 hours to reach the Hepworth Wakefield Museum from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Sowerby Bridge.

  1. Warwick Castle

This incredible medieval castle on the banks of the River Avon offers a fantastic day out, with Flight of the Eagles displays, Horrible Histories Maze, Kingmaker exhibition, towers and ramparts to climb, the Castle Dungeon tour and Mighty Trebuchet firing spectacle. It takes around eight hours to reach moorings close to Warwick Castle from our canal boat hire base at Stockton on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire.  The journey travels 11 miles and passes through 22 locks.

  1. The Canal Museum at Stoke Bruerne

On the banks of the Grand Union Canal in Northampton, this quirky little museum in a historic tells the story of Britain’s canals through archive films, models and artefacts.  It takes around one and a half hours to reach the Museum from our canal boat hire rental at Gayton.  The route takes boaters through the Blisworth Tunnel, which at 3,076 yards long is the third longest on the canal network and takes 30 minutes to cruise through.

  1. The Anderton Boat Lift

Connecting the River Weaver Navigation and the Trent & Mersey Canal, the Anderton Boat Lift and its museum, tell the story of this incredible Victorian structure, nicknamed ‘The Cathedral of the Canals’.  It takes around 21 hours to reach Anderton Boat Lift from our base at Acton Bridge on the Trent & Mersey Canal. The journey cruises 21 miles and passes through eight locks.  Drifters also has a hire boat base next to the Lift.

  1. We The Curious in Bristol

Part of Bristol’s Floating Harbour, ‘We The Curious’ is a science centre and educational charity with interactive displays, a planetarium and exhibitions. It takes around eight hours to cruise there from our canal barge rental base at Bath.  The journey cruises 17 miles along the Kennet & Avon Canal and Bristol Avon, and passes through 13 locks.

Easter Days Out on the water

Day boat hire on Britain’s peaceful network of inland waterways is a great way to enjoy the countryside this spring, and offers a great family day out in the Easter holidays.

Drifters offers day boat hire from 14 boat yards across England and Wales, with prices starting from less than £10 per person.  Full tuition is included so if you are new to narrow boating, it’s a great opportunity to get the hang of steering, mooring up and working the locks.

All our day boats are equipped with cutlery, crockery and a kettle, and most also have a toilet, cooker and fridge.  So you can plan a picnic afloat or stop off for lunch at a canalside pub along the way.

Here’s a guide to our Top 14 day boat destinations for Easter 2022:

1. Cruise through the Shropshire countryside to Oswestry

From Drifters’ day boat hire base at Blackwater Meadow Marina on the Llangollen Canal, near Ellesmere, you can cruise to Oswestry and back.  The route passes through farmland, glacial scenery and beautiful green countryside.  The journey there and back takes around five hours and there are no locks.

*Day boat ‘Lazy Days’ can carry up to 10 people. Prices start at £109.

2. Glide through the remains of the Forest of Arden

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

*Day boat ‘Emma’ can carry up to 10 people.  Weekday hire is £99, weekends & bank holidays £150.

3. Navigate to The Star Inn at Mamhillad in the Brecon Beacons

From our day boat hire base at 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 boats ‘Robin’ and Rooster’ can carry up to eight people each.  Prices start from £137.

4. Cruise to The Mary Arden Inn at Wilmcote in Warwickshire

From our narrow boat hire base 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.  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 boats ‘Dolly’ and ‘Charlie’ can carry up to 10 people each. Prices start at £99 weekdays, £150 on weekends and bank holidays.

5. Travel across ‘The Stream in the Sky’

From our canal boat hire base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, it takes less than 20 minutes to reach the World Heritage status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.  Standing at over 38 metres high above the Dee Valley, this incredible structure offers boaters stunning views of the Dee Valley below.  After cruising over the Aqueduct, there are two tunnels and another aqueduct to cross, before reaching the The Bridge Inn at Chirk.

*Day boats ‘Jacob’, ‘Daniel’ and ‘Lotty’ can carry up to 10 people each.  Weekday hire starts at £120, £180 on weekends and bank holidays.

6. Boat to Avoncliff Aqueduct and the Cross Guns pub

From our narrow boat hire base at Hilperton Marina on the Kennet & Avon Canal near Trowbridge, you can head west past the picturesque town of Bradford on Avon and its striking 14th century Tithe Barn and on to Avoncliff Aqueduct for lunch at the Cross Guns.  The return journey to Avoncliff takes around six hours and there’s just one lock to pass through each way.

*Day boat ‘Cheers’ can carry up to 10 people.  Prices start at £119.

7. Navigate through Cannock Chase to the Wolseley Arms

From our day boat hire base Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal near Stafford, you 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 through the Cannock Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the popular Wolseley Arms pub at Wolseley Bridge.

*Day boats ‘Daphne’ and ‘Abi’ can carry up to 10 people each.  Weekday hire starts at £99, £150 on weekends and bank holidays.

8. Cruise through the West Berkshire countryside to the Spring Inn

From our day boat hire centre at Aldermaston on the Kennet & Avon Canal near Reading, you can cruise to Theale and back, stopping off to enjoy lunch at the Spring Inn, a 10-minute walk from the canal.  The total journey takes just over four hours and passes through two locks each way.

*Day boat ‘Heyday’ can carry up to 8 people.  Prices start from £129.

9. Boat along ‘The Shroppie’ to Nantwich Aqueduct

From our canal boat hire base at Bunbury Wharf on the Shropshire Union Canal near Tarporley, day boaters can cruise south for six miles, and travel across the impressive Grade II* listed Nantwich Aqueduct, enjoying with panoramic views across the town.  With no locks along the way, the journey to Nantwich takes around two hours.

*Day boat ‘Bella’ can carry up to 10 people.  Weekday hire is £99, weekends & bank holidays £150.

10. Day boat through the woodlands of Marbury Country Park to Middlewich

From our day boat hire centre at Anderton Marina, next to the incredible Anderton Boat Lift, boaters can travel to Middlewich and back.  The journey passes through Marbury Country Park and Marston Flash.  There’s a choice of pubs to stop at, including the Broken Cross at Rudheath.  The journey to Middlewich and back takes around six hours.  There are no locks.

*Day boat ‘Daydream’ can carry up to 12 people.  Prices start at £139.

11. Cruise to the picturesque village of Napton-on-the-Hill

From our day boat hire centre at Braunston on the Grand Union Canal, you can cruise to the historic village of Napton-on-the-Hill.  The journey, which takes around three hours, takes boaters through the Northamptonshire countryside and into Warwickshire.  Once at Napton, day boaters can moor up and walk into the village where there’s a choice of pubs, including the Kings Head.

*Day boat ‘Ouzel II’ can carry up to 12 people.  Weekday prices are £150, £195 for weekends and bank holidays.

12. Navigate through Blisworth Tunnel to Stoke Bruerne Canal Museum

From our canal boat hire base at Gayton on the Grand Union Canal near Northampton, you can navigate to the pretty village of Stoke Bruerne, home of the Canal Museum and waterside cafe.  The route takes boaters through the Blisworth Tunnel, which at 3076 yards long is the third longest on the canal network.  It takes around one and half hours to cruise to Stoke Bruerne, including thirty minutes to cruise through the tunnel.

*Day boat ‘Day Lark’ can carry up to 12 people.  Prices start at £129.

13. Cruise through the Shropshire Lake District to Ellesmere

From our narrow boat hire centre at Whixall Marina, on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal, day boaters travel to Ellesmere in the heart of the Shropshire Lake District.  The journey takes around two-and-a-half hours, cruising through eight miles of beautiful countryside, and Lyneal Moss and Colemere Country Park along the way.

*Day boat ‘Julia’ can carry up to 10 people.  Weekday hire is £99, weekends & bank holidays £150.

14. Boat past Bittell Reservoirs to Hopwood

From Alvechurch on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, you can cruise to the Hopwood House Inn and back.  The return journey takes around four-and-a-half hours, passes through the 2,726 yard long Wast Hill Tunnel and past the Bittell Reservoirs, a haven for wildlife.

*Day boat ‘Away Day’ can carry up to 10 people.  Prices start at £137.

For more information about Drifters’ day boats go to https://www.drifters.co.uk/day-boats/

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.

 

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.

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.

Exploring the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire

Last month, Elaine Wilson of Eccentric England enjoyed a weekend away on the Grand Union Canal.

Travelling with her friend Julie, she set off from our Stockton base, and travelled to Napton and Braunston.  She talks about the people they met, the places they ate and the features aboard their boat.

To read Elaine’s review, go to https://eccentricengland.co.uk/home/canal-boat-kateboats/

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.