A boating holiday on the Scottish canals gives you the opportunity to explore and meander your way along both the Forth & Clyde Canal and the Union Canal, linked together by the impressive Falkirk Wheel. The once derelict canals have been wonderfully restored and have opened up some of the most beautiful waterways in the United Kingdom for you to discover, with some fascinating attractions along the way.
The Falkirk Wheel is conveniently located at our Falkirk base, situated between Edinburgh and Glasgow. It is an ideal starting point for your Scottish canal holiday. The Falkirk Wheel, opened by Her Majesty, The Queen in 2002, is a rotating boat lift that connects the Union Canal (towards Edinburgh) and the Forth & Clyde Canal (towards Glasgow). Before the wheel, the canals were joined by a series of 11 locks which took almost a day to travel through. The Falkirk Wheel is the only rotating boat lift in the world, standing at a whopping 115ft high, it can carry 8 boats at one time and raises them by an impressive 79ft from the Forth & Clyde canal at the bottom to the Union Canal at the top. There is no charge but it is recommended to book your passage through the Falkirk Wheel in advance.
The Kelpies structure is another must-see, located on the Forth & Clyde Canal either side of a lock, at a staggering 100ft tall it is the largest equine structure in the world, with each of the horses weighing 300 tonnes! The Kelpies were built as a monument to the heavy horse industry in Scotland, based on heavy-horse breeds such as Shires, Clydesdales and Percherons. A 45-minute walking tour of the Kelpies is available at their home at the Helix, Falkirk. Arrival to the Helix by boat is welcomed- just cruise into the Kelpies Hub through the Forth & Clyde lock.
Departing from the Falkirk Wheel is the perfect place to begin your holiday on the Scottish waters as you are able to visit both cities in a one week cruise. Cruising towards Edinburgh, you’ll venture through the Falkirk Tunnel, an impressive tunnel of 631 metres, cut through solid rock and stone. You’ll also go across the Almond Aqueduct; Scotland’s largest at 420ft long, standing at 76ft high. Once in Edinburgh you’ll be spoilt for choice with the variety of attractions on offer. There’s something for all ages, with shopping, and the Edinburgh Zoo, home to the UK’s only giant pandas. Edinburgh Castle, recently named the top UK heritage attraction is also worth a visit, along with the Scotch Whisky Experience for those partial to the occasional scotch.
On your way to Glasgow from Edinburgh you’ll get to experience the Falkirk Wheel once again, this time descending onto the Forth & Clyde Canal. The scenic journey to Glasgow is often described as one of the most attractive stretches of canal in the UK; it will take you through the villages of Kirkintilloch, Cadder and the village of Auchinstarry which hosts the remains of a Roman fort. Once you reach Scotland’s largest city, which is known as the ‘cultural hub’ of Scotland, due to it being the home of many museums and galleries, along with the Scottish Opera and Ballet and the National Theatre. For the shopping enthusiasts, there is a huge variety of high street and designer shops to explore. One week before you start your journey to Glasgow, a phone call to Scottish Canals Boat Movement is necessary to book passage through the Bonnybridge road bridge lift.
For more information on Scottish boating holidays, visit our website www.waterwaysholidays.com/scotland_canals.htm or call our specialised boating team on 01252 796400.
The canals in Wales host some of the most beautiful scenery on all of the waterways in the UK. With either the north of Wales or the south available to choose from, the Llangollen and the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal both have a lot to offer on your boating holiday.
The Llangollen Canal
Located aross the Welsh and Shropshire borders, the Llangollen canal is the host of the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct nicknamed ‘the stream in the sky’ and the smaller Chirk Aqueduct. The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is the highest and longest in the world, carrying an impressive 1.5 million litres of water. It has achieved World Heritage Status, being of specific cultural and physical significance. The aqueduct is fed by the Llangollen and Horseshoe Falls, a scenic semi-circular weir, one of the historic landmarks along the 6 mile Llangollen History Trail walk. Once you’re on the canal there’s plenty to see and explore. Horse-drawn boat trips to the Horseshoe Falls are available if you fancy letting someone else take over the reins and relaxing for a while. The enchanting town of Llangollen itself is worth a visit, with a steam railway and plenty of charming pubs. The village of Chirk also has some exciting attractions, on and off the water, including the ruins of Dinas Bran Castle, a 460-yard long tunnel and the Chirk Aqueduct, at 710-foot long and 70 metres high, it spans across two countries, allowing its users to travel across the England-Wales border.
The Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal
The Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal is often referred to as Britain’s prettiest canal. Peaceful, scenic and rural, the Monmouth & Brecon Canal is the perfect choice for an unwinding, relaxing holiday. Passing through the Brecon Beacon’s National Park there are plenty of quaint country pubs and villages to stop at and explore. The whole canal can be explored in a one week holiday, along the way you may encounter a variety of wildlife including kingfishers, herons, frogs and even the occasional otter. The canal is now over 200 years old, it was originally created to transport lime, coal and iron. The lime kilns at Goytre Wharf have been preserved and now form part of the Goytre Wharf & Canal Visitor Centre, one of the attractions along the Monmouth and Brecon Canal. The 36 mile canal gives you the opportunity to get a full canal experience, hosting an aqueduct, a tunnel, lift-bridges and 6 locks.
For more information on Welsh boating holidays, visit our website www.waterwaysholidays.com/wales_canals.htm or call our specialised boating team on 01252 796400.
Fancy a boating holiday with that extra bit of added luxury?
The widebeam boat ‘Larkspur’ is perfect for a family or friends holiday, sleeping up to 6 people, with an extra 4ft of width compared to traditional narrowboats; it’s like being on a quaint, floating holiday cottage.
Located on the beautiful Kennet and Avon Canal, in Bathampton, there are plenty of locations to explore on your holiday. Take a trip into the picturesque city of Bath, a city steeped in history, famous for its architecture and home to the original Roman Baths. Or for the more adventurous, tackle the Caen Hill Locks, the longest continuous flight of locks in the country!
‘Larkspur’ is fully equipped with a kitchen-diner area, featuring a cooker, oven and grill, and a fridge with a freezer compartment. A dining table and chairs and a sofa, which converts into an extra double bed, along with a contemporary wood burner stove, completes the set-up for the saloon area. A selection of board games are available to provide the evening’s entertainment if you choose to spend it on the boat.
No previous experience is needed to hire ‘Larkspur’; a full 2-hour tuition will be given to you on arrival at the boatyard.
To check availability have a look at our website www.waterwaysholidays.com or call us on 01252 796400 to find out more.
In this year when HRH Queen Elizabeth celebrates her 90th Birthday, the Norfolk Broads hire yacht ‘Zoe’ is celebrating her 120th. year!
Built in 1896 by Ernest Collins of Wroxham as a lugsail rigged counter stern hire yacht, she was originally named ‘Jubilee’ in honour of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. She appeared in the very first Broads holiday hire boat brochure published over 100 years ago and is now thought to be the oldest self steer holiday hire boat available anywhere in the UK.
After many pre-war years of providing visitors with enjoyable sailing holidays on the Norfolk Broads, Zoe sadly fell into a state of disrepair and remained an abandoned hull, rotting in a field until her re-discovery in 1945. She was then restored to her former glory and today continues to give holiday makers an absolutely unique sailing experience. She has recently been fitted with a brand new suit of sails (including a top sail) based, it is believed, on her original sail plan (using a set of drawings only recently discovered).
You can hire Zoe for weekly and short break holidays to discover for yourself the magical inland waterways that make up the Broads National Park. For prices and availability of Zoe plus our full range of classic and modern self steer Broads yachts, please visit www.waterwaysholidays.com/sailing_holidays.htm or call our boating holidays team on 01252 796400
Looking for a bit of inspiration for your next UK holiday? We’ve looked at some of the top attractions either on, or very close to the waterways all over England. Whether you’re after a relaxing, scenic holiday or one packed full of adventure- there’s something for everyone on the UK waterways.
Situated in the North of England is the Anderton Boat lift. An impressive structure, located on the banks of the River Weaver in Cheshire. Built to lift cargo boats from the river below, to the Trent and Mersey Canal above, the lift went under major restoration in 2002, costing around 7 million pounds. Visitor moorings are available should you wish to stop off and grab some lunch at the visitor centre, offering spectacular views and the chance to discover the history of the lift. To view this waterway attraction, search for holidays departing from Preston Brook, Anderton, Acton Bridge, Middlewich or Northwich on the Trent and Mersey Canal.
Heading close to Stoke-on-Trent, just a short taxi ride from Froghall on the Caldon Canal, you can find yourself at the impressive Alton Towers, one of the UK’s biggest attractions. There’s plenty to do for all ages, including some of the most famous rollercoaster’s in the United Kingdom. For the children there are lots to choose from, why not visit the farm, have a go on the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ride or enjoy the views from a cable car. To take a trip to Alton Towers search on our website for breaks from our base at the ‘Peak District’ from here it would take around 7 hours cruising (each way) to get to Froghall, alternatively book from our base on the Caldon Canal for a shorter journey to Alton Towers.
Moving into the Midlands now and onto Birmingham- where there are said to be more canals than in Venice! A very good option for those with children or adult-only groups, as there’s plenty to do and see. Cadbury World is a great option no matter what age! If you’re coming by narrowboat you can moor up at the purple Bourneville Station and enjoy a fifteen minute stroll following the fingerposts into Cadbury World. Once inside you can enjoy a 4D chocolate adventure, chocolate making, and have a spending-spree in the world’s biggest Cadbury shop! The Gas Street Basin is in the centre of Birmingham, it is known as the heart of Britain’s canal network. The basin is 200 years old and aptly named due to it being the first street to have gas lighting in Birmingham. Brindleyplace, the canal-side development has plenty of restaurants, bars and cafes. The clubs of Broad Street are very close by, making Birmingham an appealing location for a stag or hen-do! To experience all that Birmingham has to offer, search for holidays departing from our bases at Alvechurch or Tardebigge on the Worcester and Birmingham Canal.
Dudley, in the West Midlands, is an exciting option when considering a holiday on the waterways. The Dudley Canal trust provide excursions through the tunnels, mines and caverns, and you can explore Dudley Tunnel (the second longest tunnel on the UK canals) from the comfort of your own hire boat, via the Dudley Canal Trust’s free towing service. Dudley Canal Trust hosts a range of special events throughout the year, including Santa Boat Trips from the 5th December. Very close by is the Black Country Museum, a 26 acre open-air museum where you can explore a recreated 19th Century village, take a trip down a coal mine and catch the tram to the canal-side village. Canals were essential to the Black Country, providing the industrial area with the ability to transport heavy cargo. The museum hosts the last original steam-powered narrowboat in the world named the ‘President’.
Warwick Castle is easily accessible from the Grand Union Canal, just 8 hours (each way) from our base at Stockton. A perfect place to stop for a fun day out with the kids, Warwick castle is home to the ‘Horrible Histories Maze’, the castle dungeons and ‘The Mighty Trebuchet’- the largest, fully functioning catapult replica in the world. Further along the Grand Union Canal is a fun, but challenging flight of locks. The Hatton Flight- dubbed ‘The Stairway to Heaven’ by boaters, consists of 21 locks, allow yourself at least 2.5 hours to pass through the 2-mile stretch that climbs 45 metres.
Heading further South, The Blisworth Tunnel is the longest self-navigable tunnel on the UK canal network that is still in frequent use. Located on the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire, the tunnel was originally built to provide a link between London and the Midlands. The tunnel has a tragic history and is claimed to be haunted by the workers who lost their lives working on the tunnel since the start of its construction in 1973. The tunnel is 1 ¾ miles long and takes around 45 minutes to an hour, be prepared and bring your waterproofs- water droplets from the roof of the tunnel are frequent! The Canal Museum is just south of the Blisworth Tunnel, in the town of Stoke Bruerne on the Grand Union Canal. Here you can learn the history of the Canal Network and discover the stories of the boat families, leggers and lock-keepers who worked on them. Check our website for departures on the Grand Union Canal from Linslade to experience the Blisworth Tunnel and the Canal Museum.
Down to one of our more Southerly bases and to The Caen Hill Locks, located on the Kennet and Avon Canal, they are the longest consecutive flight of locks in the country. With 29 locks in total, it can take around 5-6 hours to complete the flight, which raises your boat 237ft in two miles. For those looking for a more relaxing holiday, just a short distance from the Caen Hill Locks is the beautiful city of Bath. Bath has plenty to offer, including a fascinating history, architecture and of course the famous Roman Baths. The baths are one of the best preserved Roman remains in the world, dating back to 70 AD. With water temperatures reaching 46 °C, the Roman’s used to believe the water was a mystical work of the Gods, unbeknown to them; the baths were built on a natural hot springs. Bath and the Caen Hill Locks can both be reached from our base at Devizes; you should allow yourself a week to reach Bath from here. For shorter breaks Bath can be reached from our bases at Bradford on Avon or Monkton Combe.
For more information on any of these destinations please visit our website or give us a call on 01252 796 400.
Here at Waterways holidays we thought it would be helpful for those of you considering your first boating holiday to put a few frequently asked questions together.
Previous experience is not required so a boating holiday is an exciting, fun option to consider when choosing your holiday. It is a perfect way to discover the British countryside at a slow and relaxing pace, taking in the scenery as you cruise along.
How many people can you fit on a narrow boat?
12 people is the maximum number allowed on a hire boat, this includes infants.
Can you go boating alone?
Yes you can go boating alone; however it is recommended that you choose a lock-free route, like the Norfolk Broads as locks can be tricky to operate on your own. It is also worth noting that some boating companies have a minimum of two people policy.
What are the different types of boat available to hire?
Narrowboats, widebeam boats, motor cruisers and sailing yachts are the main types of boats available to hire.
There are three different types of stern available: a traditional, a semi-traditional and a cruiser stern. The traditional stern narrowboat generally has the smallest amount of space. The semi-traditional narrowboat has a larger rear deck with seats, so this type of narrowboat is ideal for those with children. The cruiser has the largest area on deck so that more of the crew members can stand together with the steerer.
A widebeam boat is like a traditional narrow boat but much wider and allows for more space inside.
Are they difficult to drive?
All boats are relatively easy to drive. You will receive full tuition when you arrive at the boat yard for your holiday, with the exception of the sailing yachts which require you to have previous experience. All of the boats apart from the motor cruisers have a tiller, which you will get used to during the tuition session and with a bit of practice! The boats move at a slow pace so there’s plenty of time to get used to the steering.
Motor cruisers are the most familiar to people as they have a steering wheel. Some of the more modern motor cruisers have bow thrusters which make them easier to moor.
Can the boat run out of fuel?
Normally the boat will hold enough fuel to last you 10-11 nights so for shorter breaks you will be very unlikely to run out. The only reason you would have to top up is if you were going for a longer period. You can top up with fuel at any boat yard.
How do you operate a lock?
You will be provided with a windlass (a lock key) which will enable you to turn the gear to let water into or out of the lock. To enter the lock the water level must be the same as the water level you are entering from. Once the boat is inside the lock you close the paddles to stop water flowing straight through, then open the paddles at the opposite end to let water into/out of the lock. Once the water level in the lock is the same as that ahead of you the lock gates can be opened and the boat can exit the lock.
How do you secure the boat when you’re not on it?
You lock the boat like you would lock a car. We recommend keeping valuables out of sight and the curtains closed when not on the boat.
What entertainment is available on board?
There is usually a Television, generally incorporating a DVD player, so do bring your DVDs along with you. A radio is usually provided on board. Feel free to bring your own cards and games and of course feeding the ducks along the way will provide some entertainment! WiFi is also available on some of our boats.
How far can you travel in a week?
This is a difficult question to answer as it entirely depends on how many hours you cruise for a day. You can only cruise between dawn and dusk and must return your boat back to the place of departure. Generally people cruise for between 4 and 9 hours a day, at a speed of 3-4mph. Operating a lock takes around the same amount of time (15 minutes) as it does to travel one mile. If you add the amount of locks and the actual miles you wish to travel, and then divide by 3, it will work out how long the journey will take. It is also worth noting that the engine needs to be kept running for 3-4 hours a day to keep the boat ticking over.
Are boating holidays suitable for people of all ages?
Yes, as long as you are fit and able. Boating holidays are ideal for families, children if supervised can even steer the boat! You do need someone over 18 on board.
Can you take pets with you?
Yes, 95% of our boats are pet friendly. We do usually ask the sizes of dogs as floor space can be limited on the boats. Some boats will allow a maximum of two dogs so it is worth checking. Other animals are allowed, we’ve even had a duck!
Is there a fridge or freezer on board?
On the narrowboats, widebeam boats and motor cruisers there will always be a fridge, some have a small freezer compartment but not always, so we do not usually recommend bringing frozen goods. The majority also have cookers with gas hobs and a microwave can sometimes be provided.
Sailing yachts do not always have these facilities so it is worth specifying which facilities are necessary for your holiday.
What is the minimum and maximum time you can hire a boat for?
There is a minimum of three nights over a weekend for our boat hire, but some people decide to return the boat Sunday afternoon instead of Monday morning which is generally fine to do. The hire charge will however remain the same regardless. The longest is usually for 14 nights but you can hire for longer if there is availability.
Can you do a one-way trip?
There is one boatyard in Northern England that will allow you to do a one-way trip if you have previous experience. If you have no previous experience you generally always have to come back to the same departure point, so do please bear this in mind when planning your route. For holidays in France you can also book one-ways trips.
Can you fish from the boat?
Yes but you have to have a rod license. There is also no live bait allowed on board and you do have to be moored. Bringing your own equipment is also essential as boat yards do not provide it for you. There is a fishing season between 16th June to 14th March on the Norfolk Broads and some inland rivers.
To find out more visit our website or give our specialised boating team a call on 01252 796400.
If you are thinking about trying your first family boating holiday, the Norfolk Broads is a great location to get afloat. Consisting of a series of rivers and open Broads (connected lakes) the Broads extend from North Norfolk all the way down to the Suffolk borders, offering you 125 miles of easy lock free cruising. With stunning scenery, beautiful thatched waterside cottages, a good choice of waterside pubs, an abundance of wildlife and a rich history, the Broads is a truly unique holiday destination.
As the newest of the UK’s family of National Parks, the Broads is often referred to as ‘Britain’s magical waterland’ and it is Britain’s largest protected wetlands and third largest inland waterway. It is home to some of our rarest plants and wildlife (over one quarter of all of the rarest UK species can be found in the Broads). This includes swallowtail butterflies (best seen by taking a gentle walk on the Barton Broad boardwalk), otters, marsh harriers and grey seals.
So what can you expect when taking your first Broads boating holiday? Firstly, on arrival to collect your boat, you will be given full instruction on all of the features and facilities followed by a trial cruise with a trainer. This takes around 30 minutes (more on the canals where lock instruction is provided). You are then ready to set off on your adventure.
After a relaxed day cruising (broken by a lunch in a waterside hostelry) you find a mooring for the evening. This may be on the rivers (normally free of charge for overnight stays) or on the open waters of a beautiful Broad (allow around £10 per overnight stay). You can then explore the local villages and attractions on foot, try the locally brewed ales, try a spot of fishing (check dates for the open season) or simply chill out in the comfort of your boat in front of the TV or with some alfresco dining (weather permitting).
At the end of your holiday, you return your boat to the same location you collected it (usually by around 9am) where your car is waiting. All that remains then is to plan your next adventure afloat!
To find out more about taking your family on a Broads or canal boating holiday, call our team of specialist boating advisors on 01252 796400 today.
A boating holiday is a unique way to discover Shakespeare’s Stratford, courtesy of Waterways Holidays.
The River Avon joins the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal at Bancroft Basin in the very heart of the town, close to the RSC’s Swan Theatre which has productions throughout the season.
Bancroft Basin is also within walking distance of Shakespeare’s Birthplace, the Schoolroom where he was taught to write as well as New Place (his home in later life) and Holy Trinity Church where he is buried. Anne Hathaway’s Cottage is a short bus ride or 30 minute walk from the Avon, and Mary Arden’s Farm lies close to the Canal just north of the town.
“Stratford is a wonderful destination for narrowboating, with moorings in a central spot for sightseeing and theatre events throughout this special year,” says Waterways Holidays’ managing director Nigel Richards.
You can hire a narrowboat from several marinas located the heart of England including Stratford-upon-Avon, Wootten Wawen, Warwick and Pershore.
For a weekend break, Wootten Wawen is an excellent start point, being only six hours’ cruising time from the Wootton Wawen base. Forty-eight foot narrowboat ‘Teddington’ is a great little boat for one or two couples, with a double in the rear cabin and up to two single berths in the saloon. She is fully equipped with all mod cons including WiFi and central heating. Start from 22 April for a three-night cruise at a cost of £655 plus fuel (allow around £50).
Alternatively why not take a full week’s holiday this summer from Pershore which is just 11 hours’ cruising time to Stratford. Pershore offers great scenery as you make your way through the Vale of Evesham on the River Avon. Seven nights’ August rental of Transcendence – a 69-feet narrowboat sleeping six to eight people costs £1650, including all of the fuel used during your holiday.
We now have our 2016 holidays available to book on the Waterways Holidays website and thought we would share 10 great reasons as to why a holiday on the canals is a perfect holiday for families.
We have a number of early booking discounts currently available, saving up to 15% off the cost of a 2016 holiday, even in peak season. Book by 31 December 2015 to qualify.
Waterways Holidays, 01252 796400, www.waterwaysholidays.com
Trudi, part of our team here at Waterways Holidays, has been gracious enough to write up her experiences of the River Avon on her most recent canal boat trip:
On a lovely bright Saturday afternoon in May, we collected the narrowboat ‘Ostentatious’ from our boatyard just outside Pershore on the River Avon, which flows between the historic towns of Tewkesbury and Stratford-upon-Avon (home of William Shakespeare). Onboard were Captain Ken, my Mum and Dad (both in their 70’s) and myself. This was my parents’ first narrowboating holiday….would they enjoy it?
Ostentatious is a 52 ft. long, 2 to 6 berth narrowboat, with a double cabin, a dinette area with a lovely solid table (3-pin plug socket underneath) and a free standing sofa bed in the saloon. The kitchen is fully equipped and has a microwave. The bathroom has a shower and electric flush toilet. Wifi is available, a map book provided and the walkie-talkies were a nice touch (so that you can talk to the steerer when you’re doing a lock, or even order a cup of tea from the galley).
After the initial ‘show-through’ our hire began at around 3pm and we headed off in an easterly direction towards the town of Evesham. The slow flowing river was bordered by lovely countryside, overhanging willows, pretty riverside homes and thriving wildlife (being Springtime, there were plenty of fluffy ducklings, cygnets, lambs and calves to coo over).
After just half an hour, having navigated under the broad stone arches of the two bridges at Pershore, we came to a weir and our first lock. The locks are large enough to fit two boats side-by-side. At this particular lock you need to open a third paddle first, which is situated to the side of the lock. After this you have the option to moor up at Pershore town itself, with plenty of quiet moorings at the bottom of the Recreation Grounds. There is also a supermarket very close by.
As we continue on, the river meanders through fields and woodland, farmland and small villages. We pass a few pubs en route to Evesham, like the riverside Anchor Inn (at Wyre Piddle) but decide to continue on, looking forward to a nice meal out and a wander around Evesham. Wyre lock, just before the village, is diamond shaped which is quite rare on the UK waterways’ system. Between Wyre Piddle and Evesham there is a tiny river ferry which runs along wires from one side to the other….look out for the signs telling you to sound your horn 3 times to warn the ferryman of your advance, so that he will lower his wires!
At Evesham the river gets wider and there are plenty of moorings available before the bridge. We found that it was best to moor further away from the bridge (well before it) rather than right next to it, as people socialize in the gardens there late into the evening and it’s quieter if you keep your distance. Walking into the town there is a real mixture of new and old, with plenty of modern shops mixed with cobbled squares and historic architecture. Having had a look around we returned to the water’s edge and chose an exceptionally good Indian restaurant for dinnertime, very close to where we were moored.
The next day we headed through Evesham lock towards the village of Bidford-on-Avon, where a local event was taking place. En route, the scenery was calm and serene with a surprising amount of holiday homes lining the banks, many of which were mobile chalets in various shapes and sizes. Stopping just before the gorgeous medieval bridge at Bidford-on-Avon, with its ‘passing places’, we moored next the ‘big meadow’ and walked to the bustling Steam Engine Rally. There were craft stalls, food stalls, classic and vintage cars and gigantic steam traction engines to inspect. After visiting the Rally we walked into the village to look around and buy provisions. We stayed here for the evening and, although there were two nearby pubs that served meals, ate a relaxed dinner onboard the boat.
Continuing east, we struck out in the direction of Stratford-upon-Avon, encountering square church towers and pointed spires in the distance as we passed each new village or hamlet. There were more arched stone bridges to pass under and plenty of posh country homes situated on the banks of the river. This area seemed very affluent and many people had their own rather ‘swish’ motor cruisers moored at the ends of their gardens, or sometimes their own narrowboats.
After couple of rather heavy locks, the skies opened and torrential rain poured down. We fought on through 3 more locks (dripping wet) then decided enough was enough and moored up at the water point at Luddington, filling up with water at the same time as taking a break with a much needed cuppa and some brunch. The skies still looked ominous and we weighed up the options of doing just two more locks and walking around Stratford-Upon-Avon in the rain (which we had all visited before) or turning around and returning past Bidford-on-Avon towards Evesham. We turned around.
For those of you who have NOT visited Stratford-upon-Avon, it is a very interesting town with plenty of tourism celebrating Shakespeare and the well-known characters in his plays. There are numerous Tudor timber-fronted buildings and the Royal Shakespeare Theatre sits on the riverside, easy to visit in the evening if required. There are abundant restaurants, pubs, bars and cafés and lots of shops (some modern, some more ‘crafty’ and historic). There are open-top buses which can show you all of the sights and walking tours available too.
On our way back towards Pershore we bypassed Bidford-on-Avon and cruised towards Evesham. However this time we moored up next to George Billington Lock, near Offenham, where there was a lovely quiet mooring spot just a short stroll from the Fish & Anchor pub, which did excellent food (very impressed). There was also a lovely pub garden at the back for sunny evenings.
One of the things that sets the River Avon apart from other waterways I have been on, is that there is a wide weir next to each of the locks that you do, obviously for run-off if the river gets high. Some of these weirs are very pretty with old mills or warehouses nearby. Behind these weirs there also tend to be small boatyards or marinas with lots of moored boats, just waiting for their owners to arrive again for the weekend and take them out for a run to their favourite pub or waterside restaurant. The locks on the river are quite large and the force of the water can be powerful when you open the paddles, so I would recommend that you always open them half-way first and then fully when the lock is half full. Boats must be kept steady with ropes whilst they are in the lock to stop them buffeting about (Dad was a dab hand by the end of the holiday).
On the Tuesday evening we moored at Pershore and walked into town via the Recreation Grounds (5 minutes). We visited the supermarket there for provisions and had a good look around. The town has numerous shops, cafés, restaurants, takeaways and pubs. Much of the local architecture is really interesting and mainly Georgian. Some buildings had ornate balconies or intricate wrought iron decoration. The town has a market square near its centre and many of the shops surrounding it are very traditional. We called into the Angel Inn Hotel in the heart of the town for refreshments. It has loads of character, with exposed beams, fireplaces, rickety old steps (quite safe I’m sure) and a pretty garden overlooking the river. It also has a rather lovely restaurant area, which we didn’t try, but would have liked to. We had dinner on the boat again that evening and put our feet up whilst watching a DVD.
As we had time to spare on Wednesday morning, we cooked a late breakfast and after that, enjoyed feeding cream crackers to the multitude of ducks and tiny ducklings that homed-in on our boat once they’d heard the recognizable ‘splosh’ of food hitting water. A lovely warm day, we continued through Pershore lock back towards the boatyard at a very slow speed in order to take in the glorious weather and picturesque surroundings. The Canada Geese nursing their young in the fields all around, nestled close to grazing sheep and cows. Willow trees, bright yellow Rapeseed and Cow Parsley moving in the breeze as we chugged by.
Bypassing the boatyard, we began the next leg of our journey down the western part of the river towards Tewkesbury. The scenery along here seemed more open and less wooded, with more water meadows. A couple of Kingfishers flashed past, swans came closer to the boat to say hello and we even spotted a small herd of deer on the nearby hillside. Parts of the river grew curvier and there was actually a hairpin bend called the ‘Swan’s Neck’ to navigate around at one point (slowly). The next lock along, Strensham Lock, has a swing bridge overhead which needed to be moved before the boat could enter to the lock and then put back again as we left, which was different, but easy to do. After that, no more locks stood between us and Tewkesbury itself. We noticed along the last stretch that there were lots of sailing schools and private boat moorings, even a group of children in double canoes paddling down the river.
Skirting past Tewkesbury Marina with its posh private yachts and fabulous Dutch barges, we ducked under the narrow arch of King John’s Bridge to a quiet spot and moored up to the left before the Avon Lock (there is a charge of £3 per night to moor here). There were two bridges in sight, King John’s stone bridge and another cast-iron bridge next to the old Healings Flour Mill (which is now closed). Both bridges will take you into the town centre and one of the main areas, with shops and local supermarkets close by. There are lots of notable buildings here with half-timbered Tudor shops and houses strewn throughout the town with overhanging gables, all overlooked by the central tower of Tewkesbury Abbey. Alleyways lead to little cottages tucked behind the main sweep and there are plenty of pubs, many of which are quite historic, such as the Royal Hop Pole Inn and the Bell Inn. We walked through the grand entrance of the Hop Pole Inn, past some quaint wood-paneled rooms and into to their pretty sun drenched garden, which overlooks the river, where we sat and enjoyed a late lunch and a glass of wine (or two). That evening we got a Chinese takeaway from a nearby shop and ate onboard the boat, with our feet up, watching another DVD.
Having had another walk around Tewkesbury the next day then returning to the boat for breakfast, we told the live-in Avon lock-keeper that we were ready to pass through the Avon lock onto the River Severn and waited for the traffic light to change to green, letting us proceed into the lock. Holding the ropes tightly, it was nice for someone else to be doing the work for a change and the friendly lockkeeper also advised us on parts of the navigation to be aware of on the way to the Severn.
It was a fantastically clear and sunny morning and we happily chugged up the river towards our lunchtime destination: Upton-on-Severn. En route we were passed by several motor cruisers with people out on ‘jollies’ and saw a much larger tanker carrying sand to and from nearby works. The Severn is much wider than the Avon and feels a little bit ‘samey’ as you cruise along because the scenery doesn’t change very much – mainly fields of cows and various hedges. However, it is well worth the effort to visit Upton-on-Severn which is a fabulous, ‘quintessentially English’ country town. As we approached, we had a lovely view of the town and moored up just before the bridge, where moorings are free of charge for 24 hours.
Looking around the town we wished we could have spent the evening there as it actually has one of the most highly recommended Indian restaurants in the country (with lots of awards) but we knew we could only stay for a few hours this time around as tonight would be our last on the boat. There are some truly lovely local shops in this town and so many pubs that we lost count, many serving food. There was a bakery there with a long queue out of the door and people leaving with large boxes of goodies. Loads of events take place at Upton-on-Severn throughout the year, including Jazz and Folk festivals. There are some very interesting historic aspects of the town too, such as the ‘pepperpot’ church tower quite close to the river as you walk into the town and there is a Heritage Centre to wander around with information about the civil war of 1651. It is a very pretty town with lots going on. After a delicious lunch at the Swan Hotel overlooking the River sitting in the sunshine, we got back on the boat and turned around, returning to Tewkesbury at a very leisurely pace to enjoy the fabulous sunshine.
In the morning, we thought we’d have another look around Tewkesbury. As we walked down the main road we couldn’t help but notice the delicious smell of home-baking wafting towards us and located its origin at Halfords Family Bakers. There were pies, pasties and freshly baked goods of all kinds in their shop and we purchased two gorgeous-looking pies for that night’s dinner. This was our last full day, so we made our way back towards the boatyard at Pershore, with just a few locks to do between Tewkesbury and there. We were in no hurry, so enjoyed a relaxing journey east, bypassing the boatyard to moor again at the recreation grounds in Pershore and thoroughly enjoying a couple of glasses of wine in the pretty waterside garden of the Angel Inn. We heated our scrumptious pies from Halford’s Bakers in the oven, having them for our dinner and enjoying our last evening on the boat.
The next morning we passed back through Pershore Lock, under the two stone bridges and moored up at the boatyard. Back at our starting point we made sure the boat was clean, dishes done, rubbish out.
The whole family, including my parents, thoroughly enjoyed our cruise along the River Avon which can be absolutely recommended. And yes, my parents will definitely be joining us again next time around.