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tipton1947

Four Counties Ring - Scheduling Question

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Hello again from the “experienced American couple”.  We have decided to do the Four Counties Ring. In order to minimize crowds we are looking at a September time frame. Does this decision make sense? Is there a particular time in September when the traffic levels on the canals drop. Or is this scheme just naive? 

 

We have completed to previous trips. In 2016, we attempted the Llangollen canal at the end of July and found that we must have hit pretty much peak conditions. We did not complete the entire canal. In 2018 we returned in early June and found the crowds much reduced and the going much quicker. We are hoping to find September to be like June. We are all retired so we are pretty flexible in our timing.

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When the kids are in school, not on summer holidays or half term break, the canals are noticeably quieter.

As a guide, when the hire bases are charging their maximum prices is when they expect it to be busy, unfair but true.

I have found the 4 counties to be quieter going clockwise for some obscure reason. Its also easier to descend the lower Shroppie I find 'cos of the fierce by washes on Audlem locks

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School holidays normally finish around the first week of September so the rest of September is usually a bit quieter although many, like us, then go on holiday to avoid the crowds of families.

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Yup, you need to bear in mind the school summer holiday period when all the schools take more or less the same 6 weeks off from mid July. Holiday activities are at their busiest in this period, and so are the roads.

 

Actually, the long haired Admiral and I are beginning to wonder if the roads aspect has a more detrimental effect on our lives than being out on the boat in peak season would be. We normally end our summer cruise mid July, visit the boat at our mooring in August and recommence cruising in September. We're reconsidering that policy right now, but for an annual canal holiday I'd definitely avoid the school holidays. 

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I've found the mainline of the Shropshire Union to be just as busy in June and September as it is during the summer holidays, though can't speak for the Trent and Mersey bit. The Middlewich Branch locks should be a bit quieter since they carry a lot of Llangollen Canal traffic, which very much is busier during the school holidays.

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Avoiding the school holidays is the best way to avoid crowds.  In 2020 the state schools in our area go back on Tuesday 1st Sept, so other areas will be the same give or take a day.  So starting on the weekend of 4/5/6 Sept should mean you miss the school holidays and you should see the hire price will have dropped by then.

 

The schools start breaking up mid July, so June should also be a quieter time.  That said we have done the Llangollen twice in August and did not find it too busy (excepting a few hours wait at Grindly Brook).  The key with the Llangollen is timing, the majority of hire boats start from the eastern end of the canal or the SU on Friday or Saturday and get to Llangollen on Tuesday or Wednesday.  So if you can time things to be in Llangollen at a weekend when all the hire boats are way down the canal you will not hit so much traffic, you will of course pass a lot going the other way!

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I find that there is often a peak in traffic just after the end of the school holidays, particularly of private boats, as a whole load of people go cruising then "to avoid the crowds". Those first 2 supposedly quiet weeks can actually be busier than the last week of the school holidays.

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Wot Alan said.  Once the Schools go back Gran and Grandad can go boating as they aren't keeping an eye on the kids.  Means the first two weeks of September can be pretty busy with private and share boats.  Much depends on the weather for the numbers of private boats but that is not easy to forward plan when you are hiring.

 

N

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Is it fair to say most private boaters stick to the Shropshire Union and leave the Llangollen to the hire boats, be it the school holidays or September? Seem to have noticed that sort of pattern.

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35 minutes ago, BEngo said:

Wot Alan said.  Once the Schools go back Gran and Grandad can go boating as they aren't keeping an eye on the kids.  Means the first two weeks of September can be pretty busy with private and share boats.  Much depends on the weather for the numbers of private boats but that is not easy to forward plan when you are hiring.

 

N

I think it is worth gently mentioning that at least half the share boats on the system are private boats! :cheers:

 

Howard

 

 

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1 hour ago, Philip said:

Is it fair to say most private boaters stick to the Shropshire Union and leave the Llangollen to the hire boats, be it the school holidays or September? Seem to have noticed that sort of pattern.

No.

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Simple answer -- look at the boat hire prices, the week where they drop is when kids are back at school. Starts just before the end of August (e.g. 29th) in 2020, which is exactly when we'll be going...

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1 hour ago, IanD said:

Simple answer -- look at the boat hire prices, the week where they drop is when kids are back at school. Starts just before the end of August (e.g. 29th) in 2020, which is exactly when we'll be going...

Not sure where you get the 29th from, that is the Saturday of August bank holiday weekend, which in 2020 is as late as it can be, ie the 31st is a Monday.  Therefore the schools go back the day after the bank holiday Monday on 1st Sept.  Of course some schools are now going for a two week half term, and could possibly go back in the last week of August, before the bank holiday.

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1 hour ago, john6767 said:

Not sure where you get the 29th from, that is the Saturday of August bank holiday weekend, which in 2020 is as late as it can be, ie the 31st is a Monday.  Therefore the schools go back the day after the bank holiday Monday on 1st Sept.  Of course some schools are now going for a two week half term, and could possibly go back in the last week of August, before the bank holiday.

So if the schools go back on Tuesday Sept 1st parents won't be booking a holiday starting on Saturday Aug 29th, hence that's the week when the prices drop...

 

(and it's the same most years, which is why that's the week we nearly always choose -- first week with lower prices and fewer boats, but still early enough to get reasonable weather)

Edited by IanD

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Twice now, I've done the trip down from Chas Hardern on the SU then up the LLangollen and back. The first time was in the second week of September and the second time was the last week of August.

 

The September trip was busier than the August trip........took a couple of hours to get up Grindley brook in September but got straight up with no wait in August. Finding a mooring was tricky at Ellesmere in September, but easy in August. The Lock keeper at Grindley brook was of the opinion that September is noticeably busier because everyone hits the canal to avoid the 'summer crowds' but they actually make it busier!

 

Also Chas Hardern (who has been hiring out boats for over 40 years), mentioned that over the years he has seen a big decline in families with kids hiring boats......it's mostly couples or adult groups these days which would kind of support the busy September theory.

 

Of course the term 'busy' on the canal is relative. Even my 'busy' September trip was very enjoyable and memorable. 

Edited by booke23

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On 29/12/2019 at 21:32, tipton1947 said:

Hello again from the “experienced American couple”.  We have decided to do the Four Counties Ring. In order to minimize crowds we are looking at a September time frame. Does this decision make sense? Is there a particular time in September when the traffic levels on the canals drop. Or is this scheme just naive? 

 

We have completed to previous trips. In 2016, we attempted the Llangollen canal at the end of July and found that we must have hit pretty much peak conditions. We did not complete the entire canal. In 2018 we returned in early June and found the crowds much reduced and the going much quicker. We are hoping to find September to be like June. We are all retired so we are pretty flexible in our timing.

Four counties we did in 7 days peak time, we hire boats. I would recomend 10 days it was tough in 7 and didn;t really give us time to enjoy some of the villages enroute

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Did the four counties ring single handed in September in not the best weather; 7 full days and 2 half days and this included the Caldon Canal down to Froghall/Uttoxeter Canal basin and the Leek Branch to the feeder. Probably averaged around 9-10 hour days but still managed a couple of 'lazy' mornings, so hardly breaking my neck! Was enjoyable, particularly the Caldon, but others may prefer shorter days and to stop off and visit places en route. Each to their own.

Edited by Philip

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