Trudi, an experienced narrow boater and member of the Waterways Holidays booking team, writes about her latest journey on one of her favourite canals, the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal.
“It has surpassed all of my expectations…..”
We began our journey from Northwick, just North of Worcester, on the 69 foot narrowboat ‘Transcendence’. Turning onto the River Severn we were instantly blown a short distance sideways down the River by the wind (our jaunt coincided with the arrival of hurricane ‘Katia’ which hit our Western shores over the weekend of 10thSept) but quickly managed to right ourselves to head North towards Stourport-on-Severn.
Our crew consisted of myself , ‘Captain Ken’ (as he likes to be known) our two faithful hounds Tasha and Banjo and two friends who had never narrow boated before, Claire and David, who soon fell in love with the whole boating experience. We taught them how to steer the boat using the tiller whilst we travelled up the River as it’s much wider than the canal. A cloudy sky reflected in the wide open waters as we cruised happily along spotting wildlife, church spires, motor cruisers and millionaire mansions. There are mechanised locks on the Severn and we pulled in to the left-hand side in order to share with another group on a motor cruiser, chatting away together as the water level rose. These large locks are all manned by lock-keepers, and this lets you get used to handling the boat in a lock (if you’re unsure) before attempting the smaller ones yourselves. The skies opened at one point and it pelted down, but our trusty golfing umbrella kept the worst of it off and any disappointment was made-up for by the fabulous rainbow that appeared to our right above the trees and the cottages. At around 6pm we moored up outside ‘The Angel’ in Stourport and stopped there for the night, our only disturbance being the ‘Disco Trip Boat’ that passed us twice that evening, much to our hilarity.
The first set of ‘real’ locks are found at Stourport and they are not typical, as you need to fill one lock from the other, checking beforehand that no-one is coming down the other way. These lead into the Stourport Marina / Basin where you can re-fill with water if needed. The Marina is rather interesting, with it’s familiar clock tower and wind-dial rising above the many rows of colourful boats moored below. The locks are surprisingly narrow and entering them is like threading a needle, but they fill quickly, which is always a bonus. As we left the marina we began our discovery of the Staffs & Worcs. (as it’s known in short). And the sun came out, thank goodness.
At first the area surrounding the canal was quite urban, with terraced houses and playing fields overlooking the waterway. Gradually these receded and countryside prevailed, with a meandering route that takes you under bridges and past pretty cottages, skirting the over-hanging willows en-route. Soon, we reached the outskirts of Kidderminster, where we stopped at a big ‘well-known supermarket’ which is conveniently situated right alongside the canal. As we continued, we wondered at the intricate Victorian architecture of ‘Weavers Wharf’, once a textile mill providing yarns for the booming carpet industry Kidderminster became so famous for, now a shopping centre re-opened in 2004 which houses chain stores, shops and restaurants. From under the dark and artistically graffitied bridge number 16 (below a main roundabout) at Kidderminster Lock, we emerge slowly upwards to see an absolutely gorgeous church tower, complete with turquoise-blue clock face….a real photo opportunity.
As we wend our way further along the canal, the countryside opens out into green and golden fields, fringed with bullrushes and grasses. The map says that there’s an aqueduct here but it must be hidden by the trees. The route becomes more wooded, with the various colours of leaves rustling on the trees above us and reflected in the tranquil waters below. One thing we are enjoying very much is that the locks are quite far apart which allows for a lovely long run-up, with much appreciation of the surrounding scenery and many wild flowers along the way…reminding me of a book with intricate botanical illustrations. There are also many interesting red and yellow sandstone rock formations along some parts of the canal, at one point we see that caves have been made out of the rock and I understand that these caves can be found in surrounding areas too.
On our second evening we passed Wolverley and stopped just after the Cookley tunnel, which is just 65 yards long and is cut out of the local sandstone which passes directly under the town itself. The walk up from the towpath to the main road is very steep (beware) and even more difficult with two bags of delicious food from the local, very reasonably priced, curry house!
The next day we continued on towards Stourbridge with the strong winds whipping at the sides of the boat and making it quite hard going for Captain Ken and slowing our progress. The scenery however, was delightful. Even the gardens of houses that we passed were either landscaped beautifully or had vast vegetable patches, where ducks, geese, herons and squirrels roamed. Fields of sheep, drinking from shallow patches of the canal were interspersed with summer houses and follies. We stopped at Kinver for a walk around the town, which was very traditional with it’s butcher, antique shops, baker and pubs (also supermarket, Chinese take-away and fish & chip shop). There was a lovely ivy-clad walkway between shops which lead to a café, where we stopped for a late breakfast.
When we returned to our boat, we decided to turn around at the canal junction for Stourbridge rather than continue to the town itself, as we were being hampered by the wind. Executing a perfect 6 point turn at the winding hole, we progressed back the way that we had come. Believe me, it often looks completely different on the way back (for those of you who dislike the thought of ‘out & back’ cruises) and although we re-visited several places that we had already passed ….the white cottage next to Whittington Lock which actually has miniature lock gates to it’s front garden, the house which was completely covered in creeper, the arched viaduct stretching high above us, pubs that we decided we might try on the way back, the beautiful church spire, the open fields, 2 kingfishers! …..it was just great!
More of Trudi’s holiday snaps can be seen on our Waterways Holidays Facebook page
Thanks Trudi for giving us your review of the River Severn and Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal.
So the weather is getting a little less ‘Summery’ and the nights are drawing in, it may not seem like the best time of year to go on a boat holiday on the Norfolk Broads, right? Wrong. It’s actually almost an ideal season for a boating trip! The Broads are generally less busy, making it less competitive for free mooring spaces and less time waiting for your afternoon grub.
There is still plenty to do and see, so I thought I’d provide some events not to miss and must see things to experience for a bit of holiday inspiration!
Barton Charter Yacht Regatta:
An annual yacht regatta is due to take place from the 8th October to the 15th October on the Norfolk Broads next month. The event is an established series of sailing yacht holidays. Experienced yachtsmen are able to hire sailing yachts from Upton or Horning for the week, enter into the competition and enjoy some competitive spirit! Communal social activities are also scheduled for the evenings of the regatta period, including the prize giving and regatta dinner.
Barton Broad is the second largest Broad in Norfolk, reputedly Admiral Nelson’s sister once lived in Barton Hall and Nelson himself learnt to sail on this Broad. It’s is brimming with wildlife, being part of Britain’s largest nature reserve. Along the Barton Broad is a nature trail that leads you through ancient woodland to a platform with views of the waters awaiting you.
BeWILDerwood is a children’s adventure park, open all season until the 30th October. Snagglefang’s spooky spectacular event is taking place this October half term from the 24th. Not to be missed if taking young children on your boating holiday, with mask decorating and lantern making festivities taking place at the park.
On saturday the 8th October a Norfolk Farmer Market event is taking place here, where you can pick up some of the locals finest food collections, or simply go for the free tasters! Other attractions at Wroxham Barns include mini golf course, a farm and shopping facilities, which are open through out the year.
Norfolk is famous for its churches and historic landmarks, some of which can be spotted from the Rivers and others you can moor up and explore. Medieval churches to check out include ‘St Helens Church’ in Ranworth, dating from the 14th century, this is one of largest Churches on the Broads. Famous for a Medieval Latin book produced in 1460, that is on display here. ‘Langley Abbey’ on the River Yare opened to the public just last year, and visitors can stroll around the Abbots cellar and check out the private chambers and stone carvings created back in 1197.
Bure Valley Railway:
Open all year this railway offers the traditional steam train experience. The train is taking on a Halloween theme called ‘the Spooky Express’ from the 22nd to 30th October. There are lots of competitions for the children to take part in, and beautiful Norfolk views for the adults.
The Norfolk Broads remain alive all year round, all of which can be experienced on a holiday afloat!
If you would like to talk to one of our friendly team with regards to Norfolk Broads boat holidays or any of the boating holidays on the UK canals, please do get in touch. Our number is 01252 796400 and we are open 7 days a week.
We recently posted about Norfolk Broads boating holidays being an ideal holiday for pet owners. Recent holiday goers have shown us just how versatile our boats can be for all sorts of pets, and we thought we would share the latest pet pictures with you!
On the 26th of August we welcomed the Simonnet family onto a boat going from the Wootton Wawen marina in Shakespeare Country. In a week’s break you can expect to cruise to the historic town of Stratford-upon-Avon, a town drenched in culture and beautiful architecture, as well as being William Shakespeare’s birthplace. From the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal you can journey onto the River Avon, where you can experience countryside cruising, vast skies and moor up at ‘Cotswoldy’ towns such as Bidford and Evesham for some classic pub dining.
A beloved pet of the Simonnet family, ‘Crispy’ the Pekin Duck, was a passenger on this voyage! Armed with a pink frilly nappy, the boat yard was happy to accept this slightly less orthodox feathery companion on board. Just goes to show, you really can take just about anything on your holiday afloat!
With thanks to Dominic Simonnet and his family for supplying us with some lovely images of their boating trip on the Stratford upon Avon Canal, more of which can be seen on our facebook page.
Click here to search all our canal boat holidays or give us a call on 01252 796400.
Children and adults alike are set to love an entirely new boating holiday experience – child friendly narrowboat ‘Muddy Waters’ on the South Oxford Canal.
The base at Lower Heyford boasts a modern fleet of beautifully maintained narrowboats sleeping up to twelve people. The latest addition to the hire fleet is 69ft ‘Muddy Waters’, a semi-traditional style character narrow boat designed especially with children in mind. Sleeping up to four adults and four children in two doubles and four single bunks, ‘Muddy Waters’ is packed full of goodies, including fun features for children and extras for adults.
Located in the bow of the boat, the dining area has been magically transformed into a children’s playroom. Complete with bean bags, a widescreen TV with Wii games console and a play table, the playroom is the first of its kind on a narrowboat. There’s plenty of extra storage for toys and a large floor space for family play time. When you book your holiday you will receive a free ‘Muddy Waters’ children’s book to read before you start your big adventure.
The playroom is situated at the front of the boat next to the children’s bunk beds, so the children don’t need to sneak past mum and dad! In the top corner of the playroom there is a camera which is linked to a TV monitor at the stern of the boat, so whilst driving you can still see and hear your children playing for peace of mind.
Not just a holiday for children, the rear galley is a sophisticated space designed with adults in mind. The TV monitor doubles as a TV/DVD for adults wanting to stay up past their children’s bedtime in the evening. Waiting for you on arrival is a bottle of wine and other grown up goodies.
Situated on the South Oxford Canal and close to Oxford City centre and the River Thames, there’s an abundance of things to see and do. A fusion of contemporary culture and historic charm, Oxford City centre has lots to offer. Skirting the Cotswolds, the Oxford Canal meanders alongside picturesque parks – great for a family picnic and a chance to walk the dog. A must see for children is Oxford University’s grandest college, Christ Church. This building was the inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s novel, ‘Alice in Wonderland’. J.R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis frequently visited Oxford centre to relax in the many public houses.
Within easy reach of your floating holiday home is the magnificent Blenheim Palace. Set in 2100 acres of beautiful landscaped parkland, the Palace is the birthplace of Winston Churchill and home to the 11th Duke and Duchess of Marlborough.
An adventure on ‘Muddy Waters’ brings imagination to life; it’s simply an unforgettable canal boating experience for all ages.
Click here to search all our canal boat holidays or give us a call on 01252 796400.
The sleepy Droitwich Canals have just reawakened after almost a century of closure. Years of restoration work estimated at a cost of approximately £12.7 million have been invested into the reopening of the canals. The canals and the River Severn link to form the Mid Worcestershire mini Ring-perfect for three night breaks.
The Droitwich Canals, being some of the oldest, were designed by James Brindley, to connect the River Severn with Droitwich town’s salt industry in 1771. After the introduction of the rail network, and following competition from other industrial developments, the Canals were no longer required. The mid 1920’s saw the last boat to cruise the Droitwich Canals before their closure.
The ring stretches approximately 22 miles and consists of 30 locks, achievable in a short break and ideal for holidaymakers wanting to do a ring that isn’t too ambitious.
Dawn, from Waterways Holidays, took to the waters to experience the Mid Worcestershire Ring last week, following the Droitwich Canal Opening and Water Festival. We thought it might be interesting to share a few of her personal experiences of the mini ring with you:
It was comfortable, although we did keep an eye on the time as there are so many distractions along the way! The boat yard at Stoke Prior was really helpful. On arrival, they chat with you about the route, places to moor and eat out before you depart.
We left Stoke Prior at about 3pm and arrived at Dunshampstead within 4 hours of rural cruising, to moor up for dinner at The Fir Tree Inn. The Fir Tree Inn is a pub/restaurant recommended to us by the marina, with lots of great food on the menu and a good selection of real ales and wines.
We arrived at Worcester City centre at about 3pm. If you want to go into the City centre, then its best to moor up above lock 3, and simply cross the bridge. Worcester is a very picturesque city with lots of charming architecture and greenery. The magnificent Worcester Cathedral can be seen towering above the City from almost everywhere. The afternoon was spent exploring the beautiful City and shopping with the girls in the many high street stores. After a pub dinner, we moored overnight at one of the 48 hour mooring spaces.
We journeyed up the River Severn, a stretch with no free mooring spaces- so don’t forget some change if you’d like to stop. The only lock you come to on this part of the river is manned, so just wait for the go ahead and drive the boat in, watching the lockkeeper do the work. It took approximately two hours to get to Droitwich Spa and we moored up at Vines Park, where you can eat out in the town or shop at the Waitrose nearby. We discovered Droitwich is a town known for its salt spa, which is equal in salt density to the Dead Sea. This area is a very pretty, historic hub with lots on natural heritage sites.
“Being able to do a ring in the weekend- even if you’re a beginner”
Thanks Dawn for giving us your review of the Mid Worcestershire Ring.
Stratford upon Avon Canal, home to the birth and death place of William Shakespeare, is an area steeped in culture and history, all of which you can experience yourself when you hire a narrow boat for a holiday getaway. Waterways Holidays offers canal boating holidays from various bases such as ‘Wootton Wawen’, ‘Stratford upon Avon’, ‘Warwick’ and ‘Napton’, all situated in rural Warwickshire. No previous experience needed as tuition is given on arrival, a perfect holiday break for families and couples alike.
Starting a canal boat holiday at Stratford upon Avon, you are situated near the Bancroft Basin and riverside gardens. From this base you have the option to cruise south onto the Upper Avon Navigation, or north up the Stratford upon Avon Canal. The canal offers more locks, suited for the energetic boater, and connects to the Grand Union Canal within 11 hours of cruising. If you are looking for a slightly less active route with less frequent locks, why not try cruising down the River Avon. Suited for a weekend getaway, you can reach the market town, Evesham within 7 hours of departure. This town is renowned for fruit and veg growing, with beautiful fruit blossoms in spring surrounded by medieval buildings. Near the River, is Abbey Park, a local garden, with its Victorian bandstand playing music on Sunday afternoon’s right through from June to September, perfect for those lazy summer afternoons.
In a week’s break you can even reach Warwick from cruising onto the Grand Union canal, and experience all the delights of this city centre, such as Warwick Castle and other magnificent historical buildings. Cruising along this canal, you will come to the Hatton flight, consisting of 21 locks, great for entertaining the children and for a heart pumping work out! Travelling by canals through Shakespeare’s country gives holiday goers the flexibility to moor up their hire boat and visit any sites of interest, whilst having the comfort of being able to return to their portable home on the water. You can pick from a large list of available attractions, pubs and restaurants nearby and simply start cruising!
This weekend on the 2nd and 3rd of July, Stratford upon Avon will be celebrating the River Avon and Stratford canals, with their annual Stratford upon Avon River Festival. The festivities include yoga and martial arts classes, local bands, food and drink stalls, firework displays and lots of boating river displays including a man in a coracle! More than 2,000 visitors are expected to gather to soak in the celebrations and be entertained by the River displays. The town is said to be transformed full of carnival atmosphere, there’s a children’s zone with face painting, donkey rides and a pirate ship to keep the kids entertained, and plenty of riverside Pimms, local ales, and delicious food treats for the adults to indulge in.
For more info, 0845 127 1020 or click here
It is always useful to purchase a map (we recommend a Nicholsons Guide) before you depart on your boating holiday so that you can work out where the locks are and areas of interest to visit.
In terms of items, here are a few items we might suggest:
The sun’s rays are much more powerful when you are on the water, so sunglasses, protective cream and a sun hat are recommended.
All your cooking utensils, crockery and cutlery will be supplied onboard, sometimes the yard will also supply some waterproofs for the helmsman. Although we always hope you won’t have to use them!
If you haven’t been on a boating holiday before and would like a list of suggestions for things that may be useful on the boat, we can supply a list on your confirmation e-mail.
Most of mooring along the canals are free. Occasionally leading up to and in city centres you may be charged for overnight mooring. In Bristol dock there is an overnight fee of £35 every 24 hours for example, and areas of the River Thames may also charge to moor up.
On the Norfolk Broads, you have a choice of free 24 hour overnight moorings along the river bank or within many of the holiday hire boatyards or you can choose to moor on one of the many moorings operated by private Trusts where you will pay an overnight charge or around £10 per night (in cash).”
You can only moor up when it’s not private mooring spaces allocated for people who own boats. You are not able to moor up anywhere were you are obstructing a lock or bridge. There are often mooring posts or rings along allocated areas where you can tie the rope around, or you can use the mooring pins provided on-board. Full tuition will be supplied on arrival.
A fixed bed refers to a bed that can remain set up for your whole holiday. If however you are looking at a layout that shows a dinette double bed, it will have to be made up in the evenings. During the day a dinette double comprises of a sofa bench area, often in an ‘L’ shape, with a temporary table, which is the dining area on-board. To assemble the bed in the evening you either drop down or pull out the table area and put a cushion on top.
The number of fixed beds can sometimes help to determine the price of the boat.
All of the boats have 12V power unless otherwise stated. The 12V boats however, can power already built in appliances like colour TV’s, DVD players, CD players & radios, fridges and lighting, most of which is supplied on the boats as standard. 12V boats have a cigar lighter socket on board which means that all you are able to charge is your mobile phone in the same way as you would in a car.
Some boats have a 240V power supply however. This means that they may have 3 pin sockets on board. Please note that there is always a wattage restriction on the 240V boats, the restriction is dependent on the boat itself and means that you may not be able to use appliances that you can normally use at home. Please do check when booking if you would like to take any electrical items on board that may need to be plugged in.