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smwhitaker

Seeking advice in planning our first narrowboat /canal trip

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Planning a 2-3 week trip for summer 2020 for our 30th wedding anniversary.  We only recently discovered narrowboats and love the idea.  One week doesn’t seem to be enough but two weeks, since we’ve never done it before and don’t really know if we’ll like it (does anyone not like it??), might be too much of our total vacation time.  A 10-day trip sounds ideal but those don’t seem to be an option.  We can only travel in the summer because husband is a teacher so unfortunately we can’t avoid the summer crowds.  We want a route that is scenic with enough sights/pubs/stops/stores to be entertaining and sufficient for water and groceries but not a route with tons of tourists like us haha.  When thinking about a 2 week trip, we were seriously considering the Four Counties Ring with Caldon Canal but that now seems too ambitious for 1 week (or even 10 days if that were even an option).  I’ve already purchased and am reading “Narrowboating for Beginners” and Nicholson’s “Four Counties & the Welsh Canals.”  I’m finding a ton of info on the internet but need some advice and suggestions re: choosing the right route/area.  We’re open to any possibilities.

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Looks like I'm first in - and bound to be attacked / contradicted later - Ho Hum.

By "vacation" I'm guessing you may not be from these shores - and may have expectations that the locals don't (Canal cruising is somewhat slow...)

 

When we hired many years ago we 'did' the 4 counties in a week. Just the two of us, we don't get up early but cruise onto the early evening - but managed - without rushing to cover the ground.

The 4 counties has several flights of locks where reasonable progress can be made if you work like a team (I've seen folks dithering at each lock and that 'wastes' a lot of time.

Now, let's see others rubbish my comments...

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3 minutes ago, OldGoat said:

Looks like I'm first in - and bound to be attacked / contradicted later - Ho Hum.

By "vacation" I'm guessing you may not be from these shores - and may have expectations that the locals don't (Canal cruising is somewhat slow...)

 

When we hired many years ago we 'did' the 4 counties in a week. Just the two of us, we don't get up early but cruise onto the early evening - but managed - without rushing to cover the ground.

The 4 counties has several flights of locks where reasonable progress can be made if you work like a team (I've seen folks dithering at each lock and that 'wastes' a lot of time.

Now, let's see others rubbish my comments...

Thank you OldGoat.  No, we're not locals.  From the US and would like to avoid the touristy places.  The slow cruising and seeing parts of England that are off the beaten path is what is so attractive about narrowboating to us.  I expect there will be some dithering at our first few locks but that should pass as we figure out what we're doing.  We still work pretty well together after 35 years.  We might like a more leisurely pace than your trip on the 4-counties ring...did you stop for lunch every day and/or a pub dinner every night?  We want to slow cruise but also enjoy the local towns/pubs/sights.  Is the 4-counties ring very crowded in the summer (we're hoping to go mid-June)?  Any other canals/routes you recommend?

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2 minutes ago, smwhitaker said:

Thank you OldGoat.  No, we're not locals.  From the US and would like to avoid the touristy places.  The slow cruising and seeing parts of England that are off the beaten path is what is so attractive about narrowboating to us.  I expect there will be some dithering at our first few locks but that should pass as we figure out what we're doing.  We still work pretty well together after 35 years.  We might like a more leisurely pace than your trip on the 4-counties ring...did you stop for lunch every day and/or a pub dinner every night?  We want to slow cruise but also enjoy the local towns/pubs/sights.  Is the 4-counties ring very crowded in the summer (we're hoping to go mid-June)?  Any other canals/routes you recommend?

Aha! - You fell into my trap (trying to find out what you really want...)

We have lunch on the fly, though  not necessarily junk food. My Management (British term) loves cooking and neither of us enjoy staying overnight outside a pub, thus with food on board  we can find a pleasant stopping place before we eat. All the nice pubs seem to be in grotty surroundings...

Mid June is great - although getting more popular by folks avoiding the peak season which is late July - August.

The nicest -scenery wise - canals don't always have pubs and shops conveniently spaced out - however with a modicum of planning you should be able to meet your needs. I suggest you have a look at Canalplan for route planning and the multiplicity of YT videos from "Minimal List" (who - as it happens) have just published their trip up the 4-counties....

It's a good route, mostly rural, but with some interesting diversions from green fields. However, you might care to consider a there-and-back type of route, so you could turn round if you've found that you haven't progressed as far as you thought you might.

 

If I might make so bold - where are you Stateside? (we have a friend south of DS and family in GA / FL  and remember travelling 'all over' many years ago)

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Hello, and welcome to the forum. I'm sure once you have decided on a location to hire from there will be loads of advice coming your way. Very very few try Narrowboating and dislike it. You'll enjoy yourselves, but be warned, its infectious. You'll end up liking it, end up buying a boat and coming to live in the UK in no time. 

 

Not all pubs are in grotty surroundings I can assure you. Do research, ask as many questions as you need, no matter how silly they may seem to you, if you don't ask you don't find the answer you are seeking. 

 

There may well be othersalong soon who will try to poo poo your party. Form your own opinions.

 

we have recently 'done' theTrent and Mersey and now on the Coventry. Other canals are just as lovely.

 

Martyn.

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28 minutes ago, OldGoat said:

Aha! - You fell into my trap (trying to find out what you really want...)

We have lunch on the fly, though  not necessarily junk food. My Management (British term) loves cooking and neither of us enjoy staying overnight outside a pub, thus with food on board  we can find a pleasant stopping place before we eat. All the nice pubs seem to be in grotty surroundings...

Mid June is great - although getting more popular by folks avoiding the peak season which is late July - August.

The nicest -scenery wise - canals don't always have pubs and shops conveniently spaced out - however with a modicum of planning you should be able to meet your needs. I suggest you have a look at Canalplan for route planning and the multiplicity of YT videos from "Minimal List" (who - as it happens) have just published their trip up the 4-counties....

It's a good route, mostly rural, but with some interesting diversions from green fields. However, you might care to consider a there-and-back type of route, so you could turn round if you've found that you haven't progressed as far as you thought you might.

 

If I might make so bold - where are you Stateside? (we have a friend south of DS and family in GA / FL  and remember travelling 'all over' many years ago)

Thank you again, OldGoat.  Some great information here.  I'm Management but don't like to cook, especially on my vacation.  Breakfast and either lunch or dinner on board would be fine but I think we'd like to have good food and ale in a pub.  Your points about pubs and their surroundings are good to know.  Perhaps we could make lunch our pub meal and have a lighter dinner on board further down the canal (though that would prohibit too much enjoyment of the pub ale at lunchtime so...).  Also good to know that mid-June is not yet in peak season.  I will definitely check out "Minimal List' youtube videos -- thank you for that reference.  Any particular "interesting diversions" you recommend on this route?  We are in Tampa, FL and visit north GA often to visit family.

 

Edited by smwhitaker

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I really love this area and someone who know it well introduced me to this web site, there is a lot of info on it and a loads of photos so it's well worth giving yourself time to explore it. 

 

http://penninewaterways.co.uk/index.htm

 

 

 

Edited by Tumshie
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24 minutes ago, Tumshie said:

Hello smwhitaker, and welcome ?

 

canalplan can be found here in case you're wondering - https://canalplan.org.uk/index.html

 

 

Thank you, Tumshie.  I have been to the canalplan site but since we haven't chosen a route yet it's a bit overwhelming.  Any recommendations for a 1 week trip?

Just saw your post about the Pennine area, thank you!  I will definitely check it out.  I apologize for my fumbling with the posts.  I hope I have figured out how to properly post a reply.

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6 minutes ago, smwhitaker said:

Thank you, Tumshie.  I have been to the canalplan site but since we haven't chosen a route yet it's a bit overwhelming.  Any recommendations for a 1 week trip?

I think you are having some problem with your posts being saved by the editor. Try refreshing the page and starting a new post, if when you click in the box to post your old post shows up then just click 'clear editor', you'll find it just below your typed post but still in the posting box (the box you type in - what ever it's called) :)

 

ETA Ah there you go you've worked it out now. :D

 

:)

Edited by Tumshie

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25 minutes ago, Nightwatch said:

Hello, and welcome to the forum. I'm sure once you have decided on a location to hire from there will be loads of advice coming your way. Very very few try Narrowboating and dislike it. You'll enjoy yourselves, but be warned, its infectious. You'll end up liking it, end up buying a boat and coming to live in the UK in no time. 

 

Not all pubs are in grotty surroundings I can assure you. Do research, ask as many questions as you need, no matter how silly they may seem to you, if you don't ask you don't find the answer you are seeking. 

 

There may well be othersalong soon who will try to poo poo your party. Form your own opinions.

 

we have recently 'done' theTrent and Mersey and now on the Coventry. Other canals are just as lovely.

 

Martyn.

Thank you, Martyn.  I am loving the research but am feeling a bit rushed to do it and make a decision.  Even though the trip is over a year away, I keep seeing substantial discounts on 2020 prices if we book soon.  Perhaps I should not let that be such a big factor.  The Trent and Mersey is very long and is on at least 2 ring routes, correct?  Any particular section/s you recommend?

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4 minutes ago, Tumshie said:

I think you are having some problem with your posts being saved by the editor. Try refreshing the page and starting a new post, if when you click in the box to post your old post shows up then just click 'clear editor', you'll find it just below your typed post but still in the posting box (the box you type in - what ever it's called) :)

 

ETA Ah there you go you've worked it out now. :D

 

:)

I guess an old dog can learn new tricks :)  Thanks Tumshie

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If you're talking about a week in June I would consider starting somewhere like Napton  (Napton Narrowboats, Anglo Welsh at Wigrams Turn or Calcutt Boats at Calcutt} and doing the South Oxford down to Oxford. A number of reasonable pubs Folly, The Wharf,  The Brasnose (not sure about the Red Lion both at Cropredy, any number of pubs/restaurants in Banbury, and any number onwards to Oxford. None of them in grotty areas. Don't worry about the route not being a ring. It will all look different on the way back.   

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2 minutes ago, Slim said:

If you're talking about a week in June I would consider starting somewhere like Napton  (Napton Narrowboats, Anglo Welsh at Wigrams Turn or Calcutt Boats at Calcutt} and doing the South Oxford down to Oxford. A number of reasonable pubs Folly, The Wharf,  The Brasnose (not sure about the Red Lion both at Cropredy, any number of pubs/restaurants in Banbury, and any number onwards to Oxford. None of them in grotty areas. Don't worry about the route not being a ring. It will all look different on the way back.   

Thank you, Slim.  I considered the Oxford area (and Stratford) but initially discarded both because I thought they would have too much traffic and tourists in June.  We want to see England but not too many tourists like ourselves :) Do you think mid-June is early enough to miss the summer rush of boaters in that area?  Yes, I think I'm moving away from the ring idea unless we do end up boating for 2 weeks in stead of one.

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I would look at an out and back from near Leeds on the Leeds and Liverpool canal. Wide, quiet, scenic and some fantastic staircase locks, some of which are manned. And stunning towns like Saltaire.

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5 minutes ago, hider said:

I would look at an out and back from near Leeds on the Leeds and Liverpool canal. Wide, quiet, scenic and some fantastic staircase locks, some of which are manned. And stunning towns like Saltaire.

Thank you, hider.  Wide, quiet and scenic sounds like what we're looking for but I would be hesitant to include an unmanned staircase lock on our first narrowboat venture.

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If you really want to do 10 days I suggest contacting one or two hire companies and ask if that's possible. I think it probably is as most hire companies offer 3 options...

 

7 nights 

4 nights (approx 3pm Monday to approx 9am Friday)

3 nights (Friday pm to Mon am)

The last two are normally the same price.

 

I expect it is possible to combine a 7 nighter with a 3 or 4 nighter to give you 10 or 11 nights.

 

Also, note that Wigrams Turn is Black Prince, not Anglo Welsh.I

 

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3 minutes ago, Lily Rose said:

If you really want to do 10 days I suggest contacting one or two hire companies and ask if that's possible. I think it probably is as most hire companies offer 3 options...

 

7 nights 

4 nights (approx 3pm Monday to approx 9am Friday)

3 nights (Friday pm to Mon am)

The last two are normally the same price.

 

I expect it is possible to combine a 7 nighter with a 3 or 4 nighter to give you 10 or 11 nights.

 

Also, note that Wigrams Turn is Black Prince, not Anglo Welsh.I

 

I stand corrected and am currently moored in the same marina :clapping:

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Black Prince do 10 days, they call it a "Weekend+week" or a "Midweek+week". The next up is the fortnight. 

 

 

Edited by Tumshie

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1 hour ago, Tumshie said:

I really love this area and someone who know it well introduced me to this web site, there is a lot of info on it and a loads of photos so it's well worth giving yourself time to explore it. 

 

http://penninewaterways.co.uk/index.htm

 

 

 

 

I was about to suggest the same. 

 

Oxford and the midlands/four counties etc are nice enough scenery, but spectacular like the pennine waterways they are not. 

 

 

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1 hour ago, smwhitaker said:

Thank you, Slim.  I considered the Oxford area (and Stratford) but initially discarded both because I thought they would have too much traffic and tourists in June.  We want to see England but not too many tourists like ourselves :) Do you think mid-June is early enough to miss the summer rush of boaters in that area?  Yes, I think I'm moving away from the ring idea unless we do end up boating for 2 weeks in stead of one.

Having moored for a number of years overlooking a lock on the Oxford I don't think you will find it too crowded in mid to late June. Here in England Our schools don't break up for the summer holidays until late July. Anyway, no matter where you wind up I hope (and expect) you enjoy yourselves. :cheers:

 

PS. In the pubs don't allow yourselves to be palmed off with fizzy beers. Best Bitter is the only way to go.:cheers: 

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1 hour ago, Lily Rose said:

If you really want to do 10 days I suggest contacting one or two hire companies and ask if that's possible. I think it probably is as most hire companies offer 3 options...

 

7 nights 

4 nights (approx 3pm Monday to approx 9am Friday)

3 nights (Friday pm to Mon am)

The last two are normally the same price.

 

I expect it is possible to combine a 7 nighter with a 3 or 4 nighter to give you 10 or 11 nights.

 

Also, note that Wigrams Turn is Black Prince, not Anglo Welsh.I

 

Good suggestion! Thank you, Lily Rose

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1 hour ago, Mike the Boilerman said:

 

I was about to suggest the same. 

 

Oxford and the midlands/four counties etc are nice enough scenery, but spectacular like the pennine waterways they are not. 

 

 

You had me at "spectacular."  So three of you on this thread have recommended the Pennine (Leeds and Liverpool is in that area, right?) so now busily researching that area.  Need to buy another Nicholsons.  We are planning to go to York for a couple of days so I think this area is convenient to York.  Do any of you think a staircase lock is too challenging for newcomers?  Any recommendations for boat hire companies in that area?  I had pretty much settled on Black Prince for the 4-Counties Ring/Caldon Canal area but apparently they don't operate in the Pennines.  Thank you all :)

1 hour ago, Tumshie said:

Black Prince do 10 days, they call it a "Weekend+week" or a "Midweek+week". The next up is the fortnight. 

 

 

Thank you! I see that option now and understand what it means.  But now I'm on to the Pennines and there's no Black Prince there unfortunately

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1 hour ago, Slim said:

Having moored for a number of years overlooking a lock on the Oxford I don't think you will find it too crowded in mid to late June. Here in England Our schools don't break up for the summer holidays until late July. Anyway, no matter where you wind up I hope (and expect) you enjoy yourselves. :cheers:

 

PS. In the pubs don't allow yourselves to be palmed off with fizzy beers. Best Bitter is the only way to go.:cheers: 

Thank you again, Slim.  Good to know about England's school break.  I am hoping to avoid US tourists too and most of our schools break in June and July. 

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