Trudi, part of our team here at Waterways Holidays has been gracious enough to write up her experiences of the Worcester & Birmingham Canal and Birmingham Navigations:
Beginning our holiday at Stoke Prior near Bromsgrove on the brand new ‘Princess 4’ narrowboat, our trip to Autherley – on the junction between the Shropshire Union Canal and the Staffordshire and Worcester Canal – began by travelling East towards the lengthy ‘Tardebigge flight’ (which also makes up part of both the Stourport Ring and the Avon Ring). We had just four crew in total: Me, Captain Ken, our good friend Bob and our little dog Tasha.
Having cruised along the rather attractive River Severn / Staffordshire & Worcester route to the West of Stoke Prior before, we chose to do something different and have a ‘bit of a challenge’. So off we set off in the direction of the 36 Tardebigge locks, towards the Gas Street Basin, Central Birmingham and the 21 locks through Wolverhampton. We fully understood that parts of the route we had chosen may not be the most scenic on the UK canal system, but were very interested to see some of the more historic, industrial and urban areas that we expected to pass through along the way.
The locks start almost immediately after Stoke Prior and follow a meandering route through pretty countryside, past fields of sheep and horses and next to some lovely old canal side cottages. Although the thought of 36 locks in a row can be daunting, this flight is nothing like the famous ladder of the Caen Hill Flight near Devizes in Wiltshire. Instead, it wends its lazy way up the hill and around one or two bends in the canal. In fact, sometimes you can’t even see the last lock as you reach the next. There’s no doubt about it, it takes a while (4 hours and 25 minutes in total) to complete, but as you’re waiting for the water in the locks to fill or empty, at least you have something pleasing to look at.
After the locks, you have a new aspect of this particular canal to look forward to…..3 marvellously long tunnels (the 580 yard Tardebigge Tunnel, the 613 yard Shortwood Tunnel and the amazing 2726 yard Wast Hill Tunnel). After the second of these tunnels you may wish to stop for some dinner or a pint and there are two pubs to choose from, the Crown or the Weighbridge, both of which serve very decent food. Having stopped briefly at the Crown, we continued on towards another pub/restaurant, Hopwood House at Hopwood, and moored outside there for the night and enjoyed a rather scrummy meal from their wide selection of pub grub.
The next morning we got up early to continue our adventure and journey through the Wast Hill Tunnel which is so long that the tunnel entrance becomes just a pin-prick of light as you proceed towards the middle and then gradually increases again as you inch slowly closer to the far end (a tip: put all of your internal boat lights on and aim your headlights upwards to help you navigate in a tunnel). Another feature of some tunnels is that you often get cold water that drips from the ceiling on onto your head, so make sure you wear a hat!
Just after the end of the tunnel is a junction at which we turned left towards central Birmingham. However, if you peer to the right as you pass the junction you will see a very interesting ‘Guillotine Lock’. This lock was constructed to prevent water loss between the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal to the right and the Worcester & Birmingham Canal (to Birmingham) and dates back to 1814.
Continuing towards central Birmingham, we soon passed Cadbury’s World (for you chocolate lovers) and the ‘Cadbury’s’ purple-painted Bourneville Train Station close by. As we proceeded along this stretch of the canal, the scenery definitely became more urban and it was apparent that we were getting close to the city centre. Countryside turned into old warehouses, views of the clock tower at Birmingham University and then offices overhanging the canal.
Cruising into central Birmingham, Brindley Place and the Gas Street Basin is quite an eye-opener and I could see why it would be so popular with both Stag or Hen parties and families alike; there are so many things to see and do right there within view of the canal and loads of places to eat out or to go for a drink. There are bustling, modern bars with balconies overlooking the water; restaurants offering Italian, Indian, Chinese and Thai cuisine and placid pavement cafés with colourful parasols, perfect for a quiet breakfast in the morning or for afternoon tea. Nightclubs are just a taxi (or bus) ride away, as is Jongleurs Comedy Club. For families, the National Sea Life Centre and the ICC loom over the canal; the Symphony Hall and the National Indoor Arena are just a short distance away. In fact the Gas Street Basin itself could be described as a visitor attraction, with it’s narrow channels between bustling wharfs – very interesting.
Next the canal splits into two routes, then two again: the ‘New Main Line’ which is a very direct route through the City, mostly running alongside the train line, or the ‘Old Main Line’ which drifts through the suburbs, behind yards, past new housing estates and around old terraces, empty red brick warehouses and even right under some vast concrete motorway bridges at a couple of points! We chose to cruise along the Old Main Line until, passing a statue of the bare-knuckle boxing champion William Perry as we skirted some ornamental gardens in the Tipton area, we stopped for some lunch and to buy a few basic provisions. Whilst we were there we tried a local ‘delicacy’ called Grey Pays & Ham at the nearby Fountain Inn (yum yum).
After lunch we continued on towards the Wolverhampton Flight on the last leg of our journey. Something that we all commented on as we cruised along, surrounded by crumbling red brick storage houses, weeds and scrap yards, was how surprisingly clear the water was along the Old Main Line. We could see right to the very bottom, with various fish darting away from our engine noise as we passed – perhaps the result of fewer people choosing to travel this route now that the New Main Line is available. There were also plenty of ducks and geese nesting amongst the reeds alongside the canal too… Just a few days later and we would no doubt have been enjoying the ‘splash of tiny feet’.
Very soon we passed the junction for Dudley and it’s famous open air ‘Black Country Living Museum’ which has it’s own historic canal basin as well as lots of early 20th Century buildings which have been relocated from around the Black Country and rebuilt with painstaking detail to reflect life at the time (1850’s to 1950’s) in a specially built village with staff dressed in costume. It features a 1930’s fairground, original trolleybuses and a canal trip boat that takes you through the 2900 metre long Dudley Tunnel (second longest tunnel in the UK). However, there was no stopping for us that day as we wanted to get the Wolverhampton Flight completed in good time.
The outskirts of Wolverhampton as you enter along the canal are nothing much to look at, with high rise flats and offices and the odd double decker bus passing over bridges that span the waterway; but the scene changes considerably as you enter the pound just before the first of the Wolverhampton Locks. There are colourful flower beds, lovely old red brick cottages, attractive signage and the feeling of being in a quiet oasis, separated from the roaring traffic above you. Here began our next challenge – 21 locks, each of which requires not just a lock key but a ‘water-saving’ key as well, which is a kind of double bolt on the lock to stop any extra water loss. This means they took a little longer than usual to open as we only had one water-saving key and couldn’t risk throwing it from one side of the canal to the other, in case we lost it!
It was a rather cold and breezy afternoon as we moved as a team from one lock to the next, to the next….but we managed to complete all 21 within 2 hours and 50 minutes and had definitely warmed up by the end of it! The route of the flight was quite twisty in places and passed under one or two grey metal railway bridges, close to a couple of tall factory chimneys and what look like robust gas pipes, this being a more industrial section of the canal. Grass verges and fences lined the towpath and lots of cyclists swished past as we gradually continued with our task. The Wolverhampton Flight of locks are individually numbered, so you can keep tabs on how many you have done and how many there are yet to do, so it was great to be able to do a countdown.
Eventually we reached the last of the Wolverhampton locks and emerging from underneath a red brick bridge, came face to face with the lush, green and very pleasant Staffordshire & Worcester Canal. Just a few more minutes, a left turn, then one more lock and we had reached our destination – the pretty base at Autherley Junction, which has a shop, a water point and some very helpful staff. Mooring up for the evening, we stuck a couple of Cornish pasties in the oven and put our feet up…..aaahhhhh.
Click for more information and availability on canal boat holidays in Central England. To speak directly to one of our friendly team at Waterways Holidays Ltd, call us on 01252 796400, open 7 days a week.
Enjoy a relaxed retreat on a Norfolk Broads boating holiday with family and friends. The southern waterways are especially suited to boating novices looking for a classic Great British holiday and a relaxed introduction to boating on the UK inland waterways. The southern rivers include the River’s Waveney, Chet and Yare; all of which offer picturesque scenery and a choice of traditional riverside pubs and restaurants.
A selection of pretty Norfolk and Suffolk villages are waiting to be explored on a boating holiday on the Norfolk Broads, such as Loddon, Somerleyton and Reedham. Moor up and explore Somerleyton Hall & Gardens, an impressive Tudor-Jacobean stately home whose rooms and gardens are open to the public. Somerleyton offers a host of attractions including pony trekking through the pretty countryside, nine hole golf course, adventure playground and a selection of interesting walks.
Well worth a visit by boat is Lowestoft, a traditional British seaside resort home to a selection of sandy beaches and the historic Claremont Pier, which has also just launched a new skating rink. Just 3 miles south of Lowestoft is ‘Africa Live’, which is ideal for a family day out.
Cruise your hire boat onto the River Waveney to explore the scenery just south of Great Yarmouth. Endless skies and a variety of wildlife can be spotted on the tranquil winding rivers, allowing your party to relax and enjoy the slow pace on your hire boat. Cruise to Burgh Castle, part of a string of forts known as the ‘Saxon Shore’, the area is a perfect mooring spot offering panoramic views over Breydon Water.
Norwich city offers a cultural day out, being one of the most complete medieval cities in Britain. Norwich offers something to suit everyone’s taste, home to a couple of shopping centres, Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery, and various cafes and restaurants. Visit the landmark millennium building in Norwich, ‘The Forum’, which offers free entry to a selection of arts and crafts, activity days, galleries and exhibitions. Take a break and enjoy tea at Jarrods, a family run department store since 1823, boasting a selection of independent brands and restaurants.
From Brundall marina you can currently enjoy savings of up to £200.00 off summer boating holidays on selected boats. Book a 7 night holiday throughout June until the 20th July 2013 and save £200.00 off a week’s boating on the Broads, or for a weekend getaway enjoy savings of £100.00 off short breaks.
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Celebrate the re-opening of the Trent & Mersey Canal following the canal breach last year, and go on a boating holiday on the Cheshire Ring. This two week cruising ring takes your boat crew onto several canals, floating through Cheshire countryside, and the Peak National Forests, past the Anderton Boat Lift and through Manchester City.
Which Canals make up the Cheshire Ring?
Although not the most lock heavy ring route, we would recommend two weeks to navigate to allow time for exploring the various attractions on route.
Commencing on the Trent & Mersey Canal you can choose to travel south, and complete the Cheshire Locks first before navigating onto the Macclesfield Canal, or you can choose to cruise north onto the Bridgewater Canal cruise into Manchester City.
We will start by cruising south and stopping off for a quick detour onto the River Weaver via the Anderton Boat Lift. A very popular attraction on the waterways, built by Edwin Clark in 1875, an amazing piece of engineering which lifts your hire boat over 60ft from the Canal onto the River running alongside. This is something not to be missed if you have the time, a unique Victorian experience, giving the whole crew a chance to take a tour through iconic British history.
Cruising down the Trent & Mersey Canal you will pass several towns such as Middlewich and Sandbach, this area is home to an impressive collection of garden landscapes and historic halls, such as Little Moreton Hall, one of the most famous Tudor Halls in England. Cruising Cheshire, you can expect to see salt mountains along the waterways on the Trent & Mersey Canal, remains from the Roman salt sites. Passing these you will reach the Cheshire Locks before navigating onto the Macclesfield Canal. The Cheshire Locks are a flight of 26 locks dating back to the 1770′s. The lock flights, often called ‘Heartbreak Hill’ raise the canal to the Summit Level at Kidsgrove through the Cheshire Plains.
Joining onto the Macclesfield Canal travelling North you begin to run near the Peak District National Parks, enjoying quite a lot of lock free cruising, once past the Bosley Locks of twelve. The canal will lead you past the Gawsworth Mill and Paradise Mill Museum where you can stop to see experts demonstrating the process of weaving on the traditional handlooms, and then into Macclesfield town centre, here you will find plenty to see and do with various eateries and the Macclesfield Silk Museum & Heritage Centre. Leaving the town centre after spending the evening you will benefit from 4 hours or so of lock free cruising.
Cruising into Manchester you will float past Marple, a cobbled stone village with the marple locks and aqueduct, running alongside the River Goyt. There are plenty of pubs if you wish to stop off here for a spot of lunch before commencing onto the Ashton Canal to reach Manchester. Manchester City Centre has plenty to offer if you have time to spend the afternoon off your hire boat. Home to a selection of eateries and interesting shops, you can dine out here, spend time shopping or exploring Manchester’s rich Heritage, before returning to you canal boat hire. After departing Manchester, your hire boat will make its descent to the Trent & Mersey Canal via the Bridgewater Canal, built for the transportation of coal during the Industrial Revolution. The navigation is completely lock free, so perfect for catching up your cruising, especially if you have spent a touch too long exploring the sites!
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Enjoy a peaceful break on the southern waterways of the Norfolk Broads this summer and save up to £150.00 off a Broads boating holiday. The southern rivers offer a rich mix of attractions, with something for everyone to enjoy. Relax and unwind, meandering past weeping willow trees and a variety of wildlife tending to their nests in the reed beds, and discover Norwich city centre, offering a rich mix of heritage, shopping opportunities and eateries.
Explore the variety of boating attractions on offer on the southern Broads waterways including Suffolk’s seaside town, Lowestoft, visiting the sandy beaches, Victorian seaside gardens and restaurants. Discover Oulton Broads by boat, popular for those who enjoy water sports, including sailing, canoeing and rowing adventures. If you have some spare time, explore the many heritage buildings and castles, including Norwich Castle, built by the Normans 900 years ago, now home to a collection of fine art and archaeology.
This summer, you can save up to £150.00 off holidays between the 1st June and the 30th August, applicable to seven night and four night breaks. This discount applies to two motor cruisers ‘Jay’ and ‘Kingfisher’, ideal holiday cruisers for a family group or friends. Enjoy the relaxed pace of Britain’s magical waterland, starting your holiday at the village of Chedgrave on the River Chet.
Picture above by Evelyn Simak [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
This summer, enjoy the picturesque Grand Union Canal on a traditional narrowboat from Braunston and take advantage of savings of up to £75.00 off your boating holiday when booked by the 30th April 2013.
Cruising options are plentiful from the marina. You can take your hire boat east along the Grand Union Canal, navigating the Braunston & Blisworth Tunnels, before arriving at the Canal Museum at Stoke Bruerne. Cruising this stretch of the waterway you can expect to enjoy views of the woods of Brockhall Park which give way to plenty of picturesque fields and farmlands. You can also head north after the Braunston Tunnel and take your traditional narrowboat to the Foxton Locks for an active holiday on the Northampton section of the Grand Union Canal.
On a seven night holiday you can take the family boating west of the marina, working the flights of locks leading to Warwick before spending a relaxed day exploring the many attractions at Warwick Castle. Or choose to relax and unwind, cruising the picturesque South Oxford Canal. Join this canal south of Napton junction and cruise through rolling countryside, following the hedgerows alongside the towpath, which provide a safe haven for an abundance of wildlife. Passing Napton on Hill, the canal begins to meander, weaving your hire boat past stone villages such as Fenny Compton, Wormleighton and Cropredy.
The Braunston marina offers a selection of boating holiday routes suitable for novices and experienced boaters alike. For an example of the narrowboats on offer from this location, 50ft hire boat ‘Clent, a four berth semi traditional narrowboat is available for the seven nights starting on the 27th July, 3rd August and 13th August 2013. The discounted hire charge of £1,160.00 includes a £75.00 discount when booked by the 30th April 2013.
The 2013 Crick Boat Show & Waterways Festival takes place over the May Bank Holiday weekend – 25th to 27th May. The festivities will be held at Crick Marina, with the main hub of activity occuring south of the famous Foxton Locks on the Leicester Section of the Grand Union Canal. The Crick Boat Show, located in the heart of England, offers holiday goers the chance to combine a narrowboat holiday with a host of canal boating festivities!
Tickets can be purchased in advance online on Crick Boat Show’s offical website, saving up to 29 per cent on gate prices. Family tickets (two adults and two children aged 5-16) are £24 if bought in advance or £32 on the gate. Entry is free for under 5’s on all three show days and all children (16 or under) go free on the Monday (27 May).
Enjoy half price moorings at the Crick Boat Show when you book your boating holiday with Waterways Holidays! The moorings are online just outside Crick Marina with a bridge across the canal directly into the Show Site. The normal mooring price is £1.86 per foot.
Attractions and exhibitions include:
To visit the Crick Boat Show over a weekend, you can hire a narrowboat from North Kilworth or Braunston. Alternatively over a seven night break, you can give yourself a longer cruise to Crick, starting from Stockton, Napton, Hillmorton, Rugby, Gayton, Clifton on Dunsmore, Stretton under Fosse or Market Harborough.
Picture above by David Merrett from Daventry, England (Crick Boat Show Uploaded by Oxyman) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
The River Wey & Godalming Navigations runs from Godalming to Weybridge, just below Shepperton Lock, where the navigation meets the River Thames. The Wey Valley offers a rich source of interest and natural beauty, the meandering waterway follows the yellow fields on the North Downs and passes under the dappled shade of willow trees. These navigations have provided commercial transport and leisure boats twenty miles of waterway connecting Surrey Villages like Godalming, Send, Farnham and Ripley with the bustling River Thames to London for over 350 years.
Cruising north from our marina at Farncombe village you can expect to meander through pretty countryside, passing Mill houses, meadows and St Catherine’s Hill, before arriving at Guildford’s centre within approximately an hour’s cruise. Here you’ll find a selection of classic pubs on the waterfront. Alternatively you can moor just outside Debenhams and cross Town Bridge to the bottom of the main high street where you can choose from several other restaurants, the cinema, theatre and shopping facilities.
Leaving Guildford behind, you pass a series of parks and gardens, including Loseley Park and Sutton Place Gardens. There are a selection of excellent walks in the area, including the North Downs Way which stretches from Farnham to Dover. The scenery becomes more rural, with an abundance of fields of cattle and woodlands. Passing Send village to Pyrford village from Guildford takes approximately three to four hours by boat, meandering through the countryside. Here you will find a waterfront pub next to the Pyrford Lock, if you are looking to stop for the night.
On a short break you can expect to experience the full River Wey & Godalming Navigations, turning in the winding hole just south of Weybridge. Alternatively cruising for seven nights will allow you to continue your cruise past Weybridge onto the River Thames navigating to Windsor, visiting the Windsor Castle or cruising to Hampton Court and returning down the picturesque River Wey.
Click to search for all our canal boat holidays availability or to search for Norfolk Broads boat hire.
To speak directly to one of our friendly team at Waterways Holidays Ltd, call us on 01252 796400, open 7 days a week.
Cruise through the pretty Warwickshire countryside this spring and enjoy savings of up to £100.00 off selected boats from our Stockton and Warwick marinas. Savings are applicable to Easter holiday bookings, a perfect get away for the family during the school holidays.
Seven night cruising options include visiting Warwick Castle and navigating the famous Hatton Flight of locks or cruising east towards Gayton through the Braunston and Blisworth Tunnels.
Book four berth, five star graded hire boat ‘Molly May’ for a midweek break commencing 1st April 2013 for an all inclusive price of £635.00 (saving £50.00)
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Cruise the Cheshire Plains and enjoys savings of up to 20% on all narrowboats hired from the base at Congleton on the Macclesfield Canal.
20% saving apply to holidays completed before 01 June 2013. For example, a week’s hire during the Easter holidays (30 March to 15 April 2013) on ‘Bosley’ – 44ft narrowboat sleeping four – now costs £696 (saving £173). Or a short break holidays are reduced to £472 (saving £117).
Alternatively, families looking further ahead to the school summer holidays can take advantage of a 15% saving on holidays completed between 26 July and 02 September. With this offer, the discounted cost of seven nights’ hire of ‘Hazelhurst’ or ‘Bosley’ is £1020 (saving £179). To take advantage of this special offer, book and pay a deposit by the 31st March 2013.
Heading South from the base at Congleton, families can cruise down the pretty Macclesfield Canal to Kidsgrove Junction, where you meet the Trent & Mersey Canal, here you will find the extraordinary Harecastle Tunnel (1.6625 miles in length). Passing through the tunnel you will pass through our famous ‘Potteries’ – so-called due to the area’s fame for pottery manufacture ever since the industrial revolution. Just after Stoke On Trent, turn left onto the peaceful and scenic Caldon Canal, with just a few locks on the way to it’s end at Froghall Wharf, you can take a taxi to Alton Towers, which is very close by and spend a day there (an excellent idea if you have children with you).
Alternatively you can cruise North of the marina to the Peak Forest Canal. This lovely, peaceful countryside route is a joy, with much added interest provided by the historic buildings and warehouses dotted along the canal, many of which have now been converted. Wind your way through old stone bridges and past green forested areas, open fields and immense mill buildings such as Goyt Mill at Marple and Clarence Mill at Bollington and the Hovis Mill at Macclesfield. The canal is well kept with plenty of character – a real pleasure. There are even a few locks and a couple of aqueducts thrown in!
Click to search all our boating holidays on the UK Canals and Norfolk Broads.
A canal boat holiday is a perfect spring getaway, feeding the ducklings and spotting the kingfishers in the reeds, with the sun shining and picturesque views. There are several boat festivals taking place across the canals to celebrate all things boating over the early May Bank Holiday weekend, offering plenty of family based activities and entertainment. Why not combine your boating holiday with a boat festival, and give the family an experience to remember.
Canalway Cavalcade at Little Venice on the Regents Canal:
A community based festival that has been arranged by the IWA since 1983. Located just off Edgeware Road in Central London, the event is free of charge and runs from Saturday the 4th May until Monday the 6th. Events include a selection of music and a boat procession on Sunday the 5th from 8pm. Over the weekend there will be a selection of stalls and trade shows, offering an opportunity for water lovers to take a look at the selection of boats moored at Little Venice. Other activities include morris dancers, a real ale bar, children’s activities, bands and plenty of snacks and food.
South Pennines Boat Club Rally on the Calder and Hebble Navigation:
A pirate themed rally running over the weekend from Saturday the 4th May on the Calder and Hebble Navigation. a perfect excuse to dress up for under 16’s, as there is a best dressed competition for the most convincing pirate, so come prepared! Other activities include a selection of stalls promoting local charities, entertainers hosting a variety of childrens games, an array of snacks including BBQ’s, live music, and a real ale bar.
Vines Park Water Festival:
Celebrating the reopening of the Droitwich Canals in 2011. Vines Park will be celebrating its first festival following the grand opening of Droitwich Spa Canal, over the May bank holiday from the 3rd to 6th May, 10am – 4pm. Attractions include a large selection of canal boats and working boats as well as a collection of crafts, trade and information stalls open to the public.
Loughborough Canal and Boat Festival:
Enjoy the festival over Saturday the 4th May to Sunday the 5th, from 10.30 am until 5.30pm. This event has been being held annually since 1997, a selection of stalls and hundreds of boats will gather at the canal bank, the Wharf and Schwabisch Hall Way. Originally held as a protest rally to help save the Canal Wharf at Loughborough, which at the time was being threatened by a proposed planing idea to build an inner relief road. After the success of the rally it has become an annual event celebrating the canal.
Norbury Canal Festival:
Promising to be bigger than ever this year! Entertainment includes a fun fair, a bouncy castle, face painting, clown and performers, an education tent and assorted stalls spread over the canal wharf and CRT yard; this festival offers a perfect family outing. Refreshments can be found in the stalls located in the Norbury Junction Inn gardens. There is a large marquee, offering a selection of live music on the saturday and sunday evening. You may be able to spot the very popular cheese boat moored in front of the Junction Inn.
Standedge Family Fun Day:
Visit Standedge Tunnel visitor centre on Sunday the 5th May, for a family activity day! On arrival you will be met with an array of arts and crafts stalls, a bouncy castle and petting zoo. You will also have the opportunity to take a canal boat through Britain’s longest, deepest and highest canal tunnel; Or just enjoy a snack on the canal tow path!
Click for more information and availability on all our canal boat holidays. To speak directly to one of our friendly team at Waterways Holidays Ltd, call us on 01252 796400, open 7 days a week.