A weekend break on the River Wey

The River Wey is one of Surrey’s best kept secrets. Today the 20 mile navigable stretch of the river and its 16 locks, are owned and maintained by The National Trust.

The River Wey holds both surprises and untold stories round every bend, it offers people the chance to experience and see the lovely countryside of Surrey from a completely different direction. A narrow boat holiday provides holiday makers of all ages and with any level of experience to relax and unwind from everyday life. When will you make your own mark on the River Wey?

Holidays on the River Wey run from March until October. In the book: ‘The Wind In The Willows,’ it was said “there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”

A boat going for a short break

A boat going for a short break

 

Day 1 – Friday: In a short break you will find yourself cruising the length of the River Wey passing through quiet river side villages and main towns, such as Send, Pyrford, Godalming and Guildford and Weybridge, with their shops, cinemas and resturants attracting many.

2pm: Arriving at Farncombe you will be greeted by the very friendly and easy to talk to staff and receive the directions to your boat so that you can load your belongings on to the boat to start your weekend.

Tuition: The tuition that you receive will include being shown the inside of the boat and how everything on the boat works. Then you will be taken by the expert demonstrators up through Catteshall Lock and up towards Godalming Town Bridge, where you will be shown how to turn the boat around and do the return journey back down through the lock. At this point you will be able to drive the boat away and enjoy your holiday.

First Night: The first night on the River you would expect to get down through Unstead Lock and St Catherines Lock, the place that I would recommend that you stop would be on the Meadow at Guildford, because then you are not completely in the town but close enough to walk in. The Restaurant that I would recommend would be The Ye Olde Ship Inn, which if you go across the bridge by St Catherine’s Sands. Then walk along the towpath back towards the town, then coming up on the left is a turning called Ferry Lane you will need to walk up the steps all the way the top on that road, when it meets the main road you will need to turn right a the Pub will be right in front of you.

Day 2 – Saturday: After your first night in a narrowboat you will be up and ready to start another day cruising on the beautiful River Wey. The things that you would expect to see along the way a wide variety of birds, dragonflies, maybe a kingfisher and maybe, just maybe you could be lucky enough to see a roe deer or a mink because on a narrowboat you have all the time in the world to enjoy the exceptional picturesque landscape and the beauties of nature. The wide range of plants and flowers that you will see along the river will leave you stunned. Today you will find yourself going down through a number of locks. But please do remember, however much cruising you do you will need to do the same amount to get back to Farncombe for Monday at 9am. 

Second Night: The second night you would probably find yourself at The Anchor at Pyrford, but if you wanted to go further you can. The main things that you will see are other boats, animals and plants. You will continue going through lock as you go down the river. As you go along the river there are nice places to stop and walk, eat and go in to towns and villages. You will find yourself completely at one with your surroundings and peace and tranquillity will shine through.

Day 3 Sunday: Today you will aim to get back past Guildford so that you are ready to come back in to the boat house and 9am tomorrow.

This is The River Wey

Third Night: For the third night expect to find yourself round by the Manor pub that has a riverside garden or alternatively, you could up through Catteshall Lock up towards Godalming and turn around, so that you are ready to come back in with the boat in the morning. Being moored up there it is quiet and you are within walking distance along the towpath from the town, where there are shops that sell food, takeaway restaurants and eat-in restaurants that are all very nice.

Day 4 – 9am Monday: It’s now time to return the boat to the marina, the time for the sad goodbyes has arrived, time to unload the boats and depart. When you find a holiday that you enjoy you will keep coming back for more.   You never know, you may want to go for longer next time!

Morring along the towpath

Mooring along the towpath

Search for available boating holidays on the River Wey:

Departing between which dates?
For how long?

www.waterwaysholidays.com/southern_england.htm

Trudi’s Boating Holiday on the Kennet & Avon Canal

We began our weekend cruise along the lovely Kennet & Avon Canal from the pretty town of Bradford on Avon, next to the lock. We were staying and cruising on the Princess 2, which was perfect for just the two of us, plus our two dogs. The Princess 2 has a ‘reverse’ layout, which means that the kitchen and saloon area is at the back of the boat rather than the front, making it easier to get drinks or snacks when required without completely deserting the person who is steering the boat. The Princess 2 also had a very comfortable sprung mattress and plenty of storage space (including a very useful wine rack).

Day 1, arrival at the boat yard:

On our first afternoon we turned away from Bath and proceeded east along the canal towards Semington, where we stopped for a delicious meal at the Somerset Arms. The scenery along this stretch is mainly farmland and the bright yellow fields full of rapeseed flowers looked stunning. En route we passed two other boat bases, our 2nd base at Bradford-on-Avon (approx 20 minutes cruising from the first base) and the marina at Hilperton, with it’s imposing offices suspended above the water. We particularly enjoyed looking at some of the attractive stone cottages and typical ‘English Country Gardens’ that we passed along the way, many with painted rowing boats moored nearby. After a couple of hours we passed through the white swing bridge (using the windlass) at Semington and moored up at the next bridge within easy walking distance of the pub.

Stone Cottage's on the Kennet & Avon Canal

Stone Cottage’s on the Kennet & Avon Canal

Day 2, cruising to Bathampton:

The next morning we awoke bright eyed and bushy tailed and went under the bridge, turning just before the first proper lock at the wide ‘winding hole’ there, and cruised back the same way that we had come on our first afternoon. Being late Spring, there were numerous ducks with their cute, fluffy ducklings paddling about along the way and it was great fun to feed them little tit-bits of bread. Moorhens sat on their nests, still awaiting their tiny arrivals, and rabbits hopped about, grazing in the surrounding fields.

After doing the Bradford-on-Avon lock, surrounded by picturesque waterside cottages and town houses, we moored up next to the nearby 13th Century Tithe Barn and walked the short way back to the canalside Lock Inn, where we had an excellent lunch (served in rather large portions). There were plenty of other boats moored along the towpath here, including a floating café and a floating hair salon! Moving off again, we headed towards the aqueduct at Avoncliff which stretches over the River Avon and we crossed over whilst taking in the view. After this there is a long almost straight run for a while, with wooded land and sandstone rocks to the right, hillside villages to the left, including Limpley Stoke where the Hop Pole Inn is situated just 10 minutes’ walk from the canal (serving food once again). The second stone aqueduct at Dundas followed soon afterwards, passing over railway tracks set deep in the valley. At the end of the Dundas aqueduct there is another ‘winding hole’ and a water tap to replenish your water on the boat. Close by, you will find Monkton Combe boat base which has another little café on site or you could walk up the steep hill into the village itself and stop at the Wheelwrights Arms for refreshments.

Avoncliffe Aqueduct

Avoncliffe Aqueduct

Along the next stretch of the canal there are lots of people living on their own boats, known as ‘live-aboards’. It is very important to slow right down as you pass by, just in case the people onboard are cooking or boiling the kettle (as any water movement causes waves which will rock their boats). This does make the journey a bit slower, so you will need to allow extra time for this when planning a route. The various boats moored along here are rather interesting to look at and come in all shapes and sizes. Often there are bikes chained nearby, so that the people who live there can commute to their jobs in the daytime and there is usually a wave or a ‘hello’ as you cruise past. Along this route you will encounter two more swing bridges (at Millbrook and Bathampton) before you reach The George at Bathampton, which has mooring outside and serves rather good food in my opinion. We moored here for the evening, even though we could easily have carried on to Sydney Gardens on the outskirts of Bath, or Bath itself, if we had wished to.

Day 3, arriving at Bath:

The next morning we puttered away from The George with a spring in our step and continued towards historic Bath with panoramic views of the City laid out before us to the right. Soon we spotted the small wrought iron entrance gate that leads in to ‘Sydney Gardens’ as we passed under the ornate bridges and tunnels at Bathwick, followed shortly afterwards by the pretty boatyard at Bath (Sydney Wharf) with it’s interesting architecture and the first of six locks which took us down onto the River Avon, these include the extraordinarily deep ‘Bath Deep Lock’ which is not for the faint hearted (and definitely not for the claustrophobic)! Turning right after the last of these locks, we moored near the centre of Bath and walked into the City. Bath is such an amazing place and well worth allowing 3 or 4 hours to discover. We bypassed the Abbey and the Roman Baths as we had visited them before and headed down the cobbles of Bath Street and into a very pretty square where we had coffee.   Last time we visited Bath we went to the Theatre Royal in the evening. For those of you who like cakes, a trip to nearby ‘Sally Lunn’s Tea Shop’, set in one of the oldest houses in Bath and housing it’s own kitchen museum, is good fun and if it’s your first visit to the City, there are plenty of bus tours or walking tours available too.

Sydney Wharf Marina

Sydney Wharf Marina

Here we turned the boat around and made our way back to Bradford-on-Avon, stopping for lunch just after the Avoncliff Aqueduct at the nearby ‘Cross Guns’ and then continuing at a leisurely pace towards the lock at Bradford-on-Avon, which we decided to tackle in the morning, having had a walk around the pretty stone-built town in the afternoon and another lovely meal at the Lock Inn.

This is a very interesting and scenic route. If you don’t wish to do many locks you can turn at Sydney Gardens instead of going into central Bath, moor nearby and walk in or get a taxi. Thoroughly recommended, particularly for a weekend or a mid-week break.

Search for available boating holidays near Bath:

Departing between which dates?
For how long?

Luxury Widebeam Boat ‘Serenity’

‘Serenity’ is a luxury widebeam boat sleeping four, available for self-hire holidays on the Grand Union Canal in Bedfordshire. This widebeam is fully equipped with top-notch gadgets including flat screen TV’s in the bedroom and saloon (with Freeview), wine cooler in the galley, DVD Players and a DAB Radio/CD player with iPod dock and USB port. You will also find playing cards, Monopoly and Scrabble on board for afternoon entertainment when spending an evening in.

This widebeam has been built in a ‘reverse’ layout, which refers to the kitchen and living room area being at the back of the boat. This is the most sociable layout as you can stay in close proximity to your ‘skipper’ whilst popping into the kitchen to make a cup of tea or grab a snack on the go.

Serenity Widebeam

Widebeam boat ‘Serenity’

Facilities on-board Serenity:

  • Stylish, modern interior featuring solid oak flooring and low-level ambient lighting
  • A small table and chairs on the rear deck for al fresco dining
  • A bike rack (max 2 bikes)
  • A full size cooker and hob, fridge, granite worktops and a wine cooler
  • A full size shower and low-level flushing WC in a spacious bathroom offering plenty of storage
  • Central heating throughout and a diesel fired stove in the Saloon
  • A breakfast bar with two bar stools below for relaxed or additional dining space
  • Flat screen TV’s in the Bedroom and Saloon (with Freeview), DVD Players and a DAB Radio/CD player with iPod dock and USB port
  • Christy towels and Molton Brown toiletries
  • On arrival you will be greeted with a complimentary bottle of wine and flowers
Serenity Galley

Serenity Galley

Search for available boating holidays on ‘Serenity’:

Departing between which dates?
For how long?

http://www.waterwaysholidays.com/

Norfolk Broads Boating Inspiration for the Easter Holidays

Britain’s largest protected wetland, the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads offers over 125 miles of lock-free cruising. Broadland attractions include plentiful waterside eateries, market towns, villages and many pleasant walks.

Hire a boat from Horning on the Norfolk Broads and enjoy a relaxing boating holiday afloat with the family this Easter. There are so many attractions to visit on the waterfront, suitable for all the family you will be spoilt for choice!

Four berth Copper Emblem is currently available throughout the Easter Holidays, suitable for family groups with a double and 2 single beds. The weekly hire charge is £698.00 or for a short break getaway, the hire charge is just £499.00!  The hire charge includes boat hire, collision damage waiver, first tank of diesel, one car parking space, propeller anti-foul protection, bed linen, gas for cooking and buoyancy aids.

Copper Emblem

Copper Emblem Hire Boat on the Norfolk Broads

We’ve compiled a list of Easter activities that are happening on the Norfolk Broads this year:

  • BeWilderwood, The Curious Treehouse Adventure: ‘Bouncing Boggle Bunny Egg Hunt’ 7th April to 22nd April 2014

Make your own bonny Boggle bunny outfit in the Big Hat whilst following the bunny themed trail around the adventure park.

  •  Bure Valley Railway: ‘Easter Eggspress’ 18th to 21st April 2014

Free Easter Egg for every child when accompanied by a fare-paying adult (maximum of 2 children per adult)

  • Fairhaven Woodland & Water Garden:  ‘Scavenger Hunt Bonanza’ Saturday 5th to Tuesday 22nd April 2014

A whole bumper fortnight of scavenger hunting in the woods! The aim of the game is to fit as many tiny objects as you can into a small container.

  •  Fairhaven Woodland & Water Garden:  ‘Easter Egg Trail’ Good Friday, 18th April 2014

Follow the Easter Trail through our garden to the glade. There is an eggy prize at the end! Other day activities include face painting and Easter crafts for children.

  •  Somerleyton Hall & Gardens: ‘Easter Egg Hunt’ Easter Sunday, 20th April 2014

The Easter bunny is bringing hundreds of Free Easter eggs to find in the famous maze and gardens, before you get your egg you’ve also got to find the Easter Bunny who will be in the gardens somewhere.

Search for available Norfolk Broads boating holidays for Easter Holidays:

Departing between which dates?
For how long?

http://www.waterwaysholidays.com/norfolkbroads.htm

Extended Cruising on the UK Canals

2014 Unique Long Term Cruising Opportunity!
If you fancy taking 3 months or more to explore the UK’s fabulous historic canal system, we are now offering 70 foot ‘Lillian Ginger’ for extended cruising at a cost of just £1,295 per month (minimum hire 3 months). Cost excludes fuel (depart with full tank and pay for top up on return, first 2 gas bottles supplied). 3 sets of bed linen supplied. Perfect for 1 or 2 couples as she offers 2 double bedrooms each with its own bathroom. Call 01252 796400 for more information and bookings. Available for long term hire from 24th May 2014 onwards.

lillian

Posted in Holiday Inspirations by Waterways Holidays. No Comments

Norfolk Broads vintage cruiser: ‘C’est La Vie’

Available for 2014 holiday hire on our website is four berth vintage cruiser, ‘C’est La Vie.’ Hire this classic boat and experience a holiday on one of the few remaining mahogany trimmed cruisers, a high end boat built in 1967 with a stylish interior reminiscent of times past. The boat sleeps four in comfort, with either one double and two singles or four singles, perfect for family groups or friends looking to return to the Norfolk Broads on a boating holiday. It has a fully equipped galley and a sliding roof to admire the Norfolk Broads in the open air.

Hire Boat 'C'est La Vie'

Hire Boat ‘C’est La Vie’, photo courtesy of Ric Wood

Located at Thorpe St Andrew on the Norfolk Broads, the boat is ideally positioned on the River Yare for cruising to the historic city of Norwich. Along your way to the city, stop off at the Whitlingham Outdoor Centre to experience some outdoor sporting activities, such as kayaking, windsurfing and biking. Norwich offers a mixture of activities/experiences: home to a range of historic architecture including the Cathedral with the second largest spire in England. Norwich also provides a host of shopping experiences including ‘Jarrold’ a department store dating back to 1823.  For those seeking a relaxed get away, avoiding the hustle and bustle of everyday life, simply cruise the rural winding Southern Rivers on the Norfolk Broads, stopping off a historic sites of interest and small villages.

Search for available boating holidays on ‘C’est La Vie’:

Departing between which dates?
For how long?

http://www.waterwaysholidays.com/norfolkbroads.htm

Stretton under Fosse- boating short break routes

A short break from Stretton under Fosse to Braunston:

Arrive at the Stretton under Fosse marina and receive your detailed show through of the boat to make sure you are comfortable with your hire boat. Once you feel comfortable operating your narrowboat, cruise south on the North Oxford Canal, meandering through the woodlands before reaching Newbold Tunnel at Newbold on Avon. After navigating your way through the 250yd long tunnel, you may want to take a break at one of the two pubs located along the moorings here.

Leaving behind Newbold, pass over the two aqueducts on the outskirts of Rugby, where your hire boat will pass over the River Avon. There is a pub located here where you can moor up for some refreshment, as well as a Tesco’s supermarket and a picnic area nearby. As the canal skirts past Rugby you encounter your first set of locks on this route.  After working the three locks at Hillmorton, the next few hours leads you through more scenic views as the Oxford Canal descends to Braunston Turn and the junction of the Grand Union Canal.

Hire boat 'Sunset' at Hillmorton Locks

Hire boat ‘Sunset’ at Hillmorton Locks

Barby village is located near the Oxford Canal and for those looking for land based attractions there is a Sporting Club just off the canal, offering clay pigeon shooting and a bar/restaurant along with corporate or private parties events. You would need to moor adjacent to Barby Lane and walk down the road for 5 minutes to reach the club.

After returning to your hire boat you can make your way to Braunston, where you have the choice of four pubs: the Admiral Nelson, The Mill House Hotel, The Old Plough (10/15 minute walk from the canal) and The Wheatsheaf. The Wheatsheaf has live music at the weekends. There is also a chip shop and a local butcher, ideal for picking up some fresh bacon or sausages for the following morning’s cooked breakfast!

Book a 2014 boating holiday from Stretton under Fosse before the 31st December 2013 and save up to 15% off the all-inclusive price!

Search for available boating holidays from Stretton under Fosse:

Departing between which dates?
For how long?

Click to find out more about canal boat hire.

Canal boat hire – Bath by boat

Hire a canal boat on the Kennet and Avon Canal and cruise to Bath on a traditional narrowboat, a relaxing break ideal for novices. Select your favourite narrowboat from either Bradford on Avon, Hilperton or Bath and explore the historical city of Bath including the iconic architecture, Roman Bath Spa’s and shopping facilities.

Canal boat holidays to Bath

Canal boat holidays to Bath

An ideal short break to Bath City Centre on a boating holiday

Hire a canal boat from Bradford on Avon or Hilperton and cruise to Bath City Centre on a traditional narrowboat holiday.

Day 1:

Upon arriving at the marina in the afternoon, you will be greeted by the marina staff and once you’ve hopped on board you will receive full tuition.  Once you’ve been shown the ropes and are feeling confident to cruise independently you can get used to the steering for an hour or two before stopping at one of the many waterfront pubs for the afternoon.

Passing through the Cotswolds town of Bradford on Avon you weave over the River Avon on the Avoncliff Aqueduct, your first encounter of the River that follows your journey to Bath. As you journey away from the River, the canal starts to wind its way through woodland, leading you over the Dundas Aqueduct and Claverton village, which can be spotted on your guidebook as it appears hidden by the forest. Claverton Pumping Station is well worth a look if you are stopping off here.

Avoncliff Aqueduct on the Kennet & Avon

Avoncliff Aqueduct on the Kennet & Avon

Day 2:

Once you have explored the village at Claverton you continue your journey, approximately 6 miles from Bath City, passing Bathampton and Bathwick, there is a selection of waterfront pubs to moor outside for quick refreshment before arriving at Bath top lock. You can then choose to moor your canal boat at Bath top lock and walk into Bath city centre in about 25 minutes or continue through the deep locks and onto the River Avon to moor in the centre in one of the visitor moorings.

Having arrived at Bath City you can explore the sites for a couple of hours, relax in the hot springs, explore the stunning architecture and great shopping opportunities, before grabbing a quick refreshment and heading back to your hire boat.

Day 3:

On the last full day of your short break is the best time to start making your return journey. Allow a minimum of six hours cruising to return to the marina, the return journey will be spent mooring up outside that pub you spotted yesterday, and taking in what appears to be all new sights. You can enjoy your last supper aboard your cosy narrowboat or at a favourite pub near to the marina.

Search for available boating holidays into Bath:

Departing between which dates?
For how long?

Click to search all suitable canal boat hire to Bath.

Traditional sailing holidays on the Norfolk Broads

‘Lutra’, a traditional sailing yacht, has been introduced to the Norfolk Broads for the 2013 Autumn season. She is ideal for experienced sailors looking to holiday on the Norfolk Broads, offering an excellent sailing performance as well as providing a comfortable stay for holiday hirers. Perfect for small family groups or couples, Lutra sleeps up to four people comfortably, with a fully equipped galley and a spacious light interior.

On-board Lutra is well equipped with:

  • warm air heating
  • hot water
  • fridge
  • Two burner cooker, grill and oven
  • Spacious shower
  • Duvets
  • Diesel engine for quiet cruising
Traditional sailing yacht - Lutra

Traditional sailing yacht, ‘Lutra’

Lutra is available to hire from the first week of October 2013 for a short break or 7 night hire. A perfect time for drifting down the rivers and exploring the Norfolk Broads on a sailing holiday, avoiding the bustle of motor cruisers out on holiday hire. Situated on the River Bure, Upton is an ideal start location for sailing on the Norfolk Broads. From Upton yacht station you can travel north onto the Barton Broad, which is the second largest Broad in Norfolk and is said to be where Nelson learnt to sail. Explore the southern waterways, passing Great Yarmouth through Breydon Water onto the River Yare, Waveney and Chet. These waterways are generally quieter and picturesque, providing a home to a variety of wildlife.

Near Oulton Broad

Near Oulton Broad

Search for available sailing holidays on ‘Lutra’:

Departing between which dates?
For how long?

Click to search all our Norfolk Broads sailing holidays or for all our boating holidays across the UK. Alternatively call one of our boating team on 01252 796 400, for some friendly advice.

Trudi’s Narrowboat Holiday – From Stoke Prior to Autherley

Trudi, part of our team here at Waterways Holidays has been gracious enough to write up her experiences of the Worcester & Birmingham Canal and Birmingham Navigations:

Beginning our holiday at Stoke Prior near Bromsgrove on the brand new ‘Princess 4’ narrowboat, our trip to Autherley – on the junction between the Shropshire Union Canal and the Staffordshire and Worcester Canal –  began by travelling East towards the lengthy ‘Tardebigge flight’ (which also makes up part of both the Stourport Ring and the Avon Ring).  We had just four crew in total: Me, Captain Ken, our good friend Bob and our little dog Tasha.

The Tardebigge Flight

The Tardebigge Flight

Having cruised along the rather attractive River Severn / Staffordshire & Worcester route to the West of Stoke Prior before, we chose to do something different and have a ‘bit of a challenge’.  So off we set off in the direction of the 36 Tardebigge locks, towards the Gas Street Basin, Central Birmingham and the 21 locks through Wolverhampton.  We fully understood that parts of the route we had chosen may not be the most scenic on the UK canal system, but were very interested to see some of the more historic, industrial and urban areas that we expected to pass through along the way.

The locks start almost immediately after Stoke Prior and follow a meandering route through pretty countryside, past fields of sheep and horses and next to some lovely old canal side cottages.  Although the thought of 36 locks in a row can be daunting, this flight is nothing like the famous ladder of the Caen Hill Flight near Devizes in Wiltshire.  Instead, it wends its lazy way up the hill and around one or two bends in the canal.  In fact, sometimes you can’t even see the last lock as you reach the next.  There’s no doubt about it, it takes a while (4 hours and 25 minutes in total) to complete, but as you’re waiting for the water in the locks to fill or empty, at least you have something pleasing to look at.

Exploring the Tardebigge Tunnel

Exploring the Tardebigge Tunnel

After the locks, you have a new aspect of this particular canal to look forward to…..3 marvellously long tunnels (the 580 yard Tardebigge Tunnel, the 613 yard Shortwood Tunnel and the amazing 2726 yard Wast Hill Tunnel).  After the second of these tunnels you may wish to stop for some dinner or a pint and there are two pubs to choose from, the Crown or the Weighbridge, both of which serve very decent food.  Having stopped briefly at the Crown, we continued on towards another pub/restaurant, Hopwood House at Hopwood, and moored outside there for the night and enjoyed a rather scrummy meal from their wide selection of pub grub.

The next morning we got up early to continue our adventure and journey through the Wast Hill Tunnel which is so long that the tunnel entrance becomes just a pin-prick of light as you proceed towards the middle and then gradually increases again as you inch slowly closer to the far end (a tip: put all of your internal boat lights on and aim your headlights upwards to help you navigate in a tunnel).  Another feature of some tunnels is that you often get cold water that drips from the ceiling on onto your head, so make sure you wear a hat!

Just after the end of the tunnel is a junction at which we turned left towards central Birmingham.  However, if you peer to the right as you pass the junction you will see a very interesting ‘Guillotine Lock’.  This lock was constructed to prevent water loss between the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal to the right and the Worcester & Birmingham Canal (to Birmingham) and dates back to 1814.

Continuing towards central Birmingham, we soon passed Cadbury’s World (for you chocolate lovers) and the ‘Cadbury’s’ purple-painted Bourneville Train Station close by.  As we proceeded along this stretch of the canal, the scenery definitely became more urban and it was apparent that we were getting close to the city centre.  Countryside turned into old warehouses, views of the clock tower at Birmingham University and then offices overhanging the canal.

Gas Street in Birmingham

Gas Street in Birmingham

Cruising into central Birmingham, Brindley Place and the Gas Street Basin is quite an eye-opener and I could see why it would be so popular with both Stag or Hen parties and families alike; there are so many things to see and do right there within view of the canal and loads of places to eat out or to go for a drink.  There are bustling, modern bars with balconies overlooking the water; restaurants offering Italian, Indian, Chinese and Thai cuisine and placid pavement cafés with colourful parasols, perfect for a quiet breakfast in the morning or for afternoon tea.  Nightclubs are just a taxi (or bus) ride away, as is Jongleurs Comedy Club.  For families, the National Sea Life Centre and the ICC loom over the canal; the Symphony Hall and the National Indoor Arena are just a short distance away.  In fact the Gas Street Basin itself could be described as a visitor attraction, with it’s narrow channels between bustling wharfs – very interesting.

Next the canal splits into two routes, then two again: the ‘New Main Line’ which is a very direct route through the City, mostly running alongside the train line, or the ‘Old Main Line’ which drifts through the suburbs, behind yards, past new housing estates and around old terraces, empty red brick warehouses and even right under some vast concrete motorway bridges at a couple of points!  We chose to cruise along the Old Main Line until, passing a statue of the bare-knuckle boxing champion William Perry as we skirted some ornamental gardens in the Tipton area, we stopped for some lunch and to buy a few basic provisions.  Whilst we were there we tried a local ‘delicacy’ called Grey Pays & Ham at the nearby Fountain Inn (yum yum).

After lunch we continued on towards the Wolverhampton Flight on the last leg of our journey.  Something that we all commented on as we cruised along, surrounded by crumbling red brick storage houses, weeds and scrap yards, was how surprisingly clear the water was along the Old Main Line.  We could see right to the very bottom, with various fish darting away from our engine noise as we passed – perhaps the result of fewer people choosing to travel this route now that the New Main Line is available.  There were also plenty of ducks and geese nesting amongst the reeds alongside the canal too… Just a few days later and we would no doubt have been enjoying the ‘splash of tiny feet’.

Very soon we passed the junction for Dudley and it’s famous open air ‘Black Country Living Museum’ which has it’s own historic canal basin as well as lots of early 20th Century buildings which have been relocated from around the Black Country and rebuilt with painstaking detail to reflect life at the time (1850’s to 1950’s) in a specially built village with staff dressed in costume.  It features a 1930’s fairground, original trolleybuses and a canal trip boat that takes you through the 2900 metre long Dudley Tunnel (second longest tunnel in the UK).  However, there was no stopping for us that day as we wanted to get the Wolverhampton Flight completed in good time.

Arriving at Wolverhampton

Arriving at Wolverhampton

The outskirts of Wolverhampton as you enter along the canal are nothing much to look at, with high rise flats and offices and the odd double decker bus passing over bridges that span the waterway; but the scene changes considerably as you enter the pound just before the first of the Wolverhampton Locks.  There are colourful flower beds, lovely old red brick cottages, attractive signage and the feeling of being in a quiet oasis, separated from the roaring traffic above you.  Here began our next challenge – 21 locks, each of which requires not just a lock key but a ‘water-saving’ key as well, which is a kind of double bolt on the lock to stop any extra water loss.  This means they took a little longer than usual to open as we only had one water-saving key and couldn’t risk throwing it from one side of the canal to the other, in case we lost it!

It was a rather cold and breezy afternoon as we moved as a team from one lock to the next, to the next….but we managed to complete all 21 within 2 hours and 50 minutes and had definitely warmed up by the end of it!  The route of the flight was quite twisty in places and passed under one or two grey metal railway bridges, close to a couple of tall factory chimneys and what look like robust gas pipes, this being a more industrial section of the canal.  Grass verges and fences lined the towpath and lots of cyclists swished past as we gradually continued with our task.  The Wolverhampton Flight of locks are individually numbered, so you can keep tabs on how many you have done and how many there are yet to do, so it was great to be able to do a countdown.

Eventually we reached the last of the Wolverhampton locks and emerging from underneath a red brick bridge, came face to face with the lush, green and very pleasant Staffordshire & Worcester Canal.  Just a few more minutes, a left turn, then one more lock and we had reached our destination – the pretty base at Autherley Junction, which has a shop, a water point and some very helpful staff.  Mooring up for the evening, we stuck a couple of Cornish pasties in the oven and put our feet up…..aaahhhhh.

Click for more information and availability on canal boat holidays in Central England.  To speak directly to one of our friendly team at Waterways Holidays Ltd, call us on 01252 796400, open 7 days a week.