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.
‘Lucy May’, sleeping up to 6 people, has been designed to accommodate families with infants. Located on the Warwickshire Canals from Stockton Top Marina. Stockton is a popular starting point for boating holidays, as there are so many varied route options available including cruising the Grand Union Canal east to Warwick or west towards Northampton. You can cruise the North Oxford Canal towards Rugby or explore pretty villages along the South Oxford Canal. Or head up the Leicester Arm of the Grand Union to navigate the Foxton Locks.
It is sometimes tricky to fit travel cots on-board boats, especially narrowboats, which are located on the UK Canals and Rivers. We are happy to announce that the newly built, ‘Lucy May’, has been fitted with several moderations to suit groups with a baby. Moderations include:
The historic mahogany yachts are part of the Norfolk Heritage Fleet Trust and have traditional gaff rig sails. There are 14 boats available for holiday hire, sleeping up to 4 adults.
Each of the boats offers competent sailors an unforgettable holiday. At least one person in group needs to have sailing experience. The yachts handle easily and the gaff rig makes these boats well suited to the reed-fringed Broads. When there is very little wind, the unique quant pole enables sailors to ‘walk’ the boat through shallow waters.
There are simple home comforts on board including an inside cabin with a dining table flanked by full-sized seating/sleeping berths, a compartment containing wc and washbasin, and a small hob and grill in the aft well.
The boats are very eco-friendly; they don’t have an engine and there’s no electricity on board.
The holidays are priced to attract youth groups and families, the rates being the same throughout the year. A week’s hire of 4 berth ‘Lullaby’ is £805, three night short breaks are £466.
Search live 2015 holiday availablity here:
Boating holidays with WiFi are becoming increasingly popular and the trend is set to continue into 2015. We’ll have WiFi on over 30% of our narrowboats and Broads cruisers next year. Here’s some useful information about using WiFi on your next boating break:
There are a couple of points worth bearing in mind:
To find boats with WiFi on Waterways Holidays, select the WiFi option in the advanced holiday search or look out for the WiFi symbol on the search results page.
Don’t forget, you can also find local WiFi hotspots in many pubs and some marinas. Small charges may apply locally.
Looking for a boat with WiFi? Search live availability below:
Penton Hook Marina is situated near to the vibrant town of Staines-on-Thames and about a mile downstream from Runnymede where King John signed the Magna Carta. The marina is ideally situated for cruising through Surrey villages on the Royal River, spotting wildlife and mooring beside the many waterfront pubs. The majority of the locks on the River Thames are electronic and manned, making it a perfect location for those wishing just to relax whilst taking in the picturesque scenery.
As an example of what’s available, ‘Mississippi’ is a 6 berth narrow boat offering two cabins with permanent double beds and a makeup double in the saloon. There are two bathrooms on board, making it a great boat for two couples. The first bathroom has a sit-in hip bath with shower, toilet and basin, whilst the second incorporates a shower, toilet and basin. The boats are fully equipped and have a cosy, cottage feel with chequered furnishings and warm wooden interiors.
Route Suggestions for Short Breaks:
Cruise north from the marina and stop off at Runnymede for a stroll across the meadows to the tranquil memorial to the Magna Carta. Set on a gentle slope looking out towards the Thames and surrounded by oak trees, the memorial is the perfect place to pause and reflect on past time. In around 3 – 4 hours you can reach Windsor and the charming village of Datchet, taking in the many waterside restaurants on the way. If you fancied a family day out, you can get a taxi from the Windsor area and visit either LEGOLAND or Windsor Castle.
Cruising Downstream: Within 3 hours of departure you can reach Weybridge and Shepperton Lock, which leads to the junction of the River Wey. To cruise onto the Wey Navigations you would need to purchase an additional licence at the first lock. The 2014 prices for this is £18.00 for 24 hours, £37.00 for three days or £75.00 for a week’s licence. Alternatively, continue cruising on the River Thames, passing rows of immaculate bungalows and chalets, to Hampton Court Palace. You should be able to reach Hampton Court by boat within 4 hours. Visit the Great Hall, the famous Maze, the lovely gardens – featuring sparkling fountains, glorious displays of over 200,000 flowering bulbs and 750 acres of tranquil royal parkland, or the Chapel Royal – a beautiful chapel in continuous use for over 450 years.
On a 7 night break you could explore the River Thames cruising to Reading. This takes around 32 hours (out and back), passing several quaint Surrey villages and towns such as Henley on Thames, Maidenhead, Hambledon and Marlow.
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.”
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.