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A Bloody Yankee on the Canals


Greg K

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Greetings!

 

Yes, I'm another one of those bloody yanks who've seen the canal boat documentaries (some better than others) and it's piqued my interest in a narrowboat holiday.

 

It's be a major undertaking in travel just to GET to the narrowboat, so I wouldn't consider anything less than a fortnight on the water.  And definitely not this year, and definitely not during a school holiday.  TOO CROWDED.   I very much enjoy the fall, and fortnight on the canals in mid-September 2022 would be the plan.

 

To that end I'll be lurking about the message boards absorbing all the knowledge and wisdom I can.  It's over a year until the trip so enough time to plan the whole lot.  Only one hitch; I'm traveling solo, so don't know if any of the for hire companies will rent to just one bloke like me.  Hope so, and I better settle that bit first before I get too deep into the plan.

 

I know this much; I'd like to hire a narrowboat, and then one that's 45ft maximum so I'm not limited in the route I choose.  A nice "circle" tour would be ideal.   Don't fear locks, just don't want the trip to turn into a locking exercise.  Tunnels?  I ain't scared.  Pubs aren't important since I'm not that much of a boozer, more interested in the classic English countryside and small towns and village.  And I'll be cooking on board most nights and mornings with an occasional lunch.  That one guy w/ the narrowboat program that cooks a lot has me wanting to try steak & kidney pie, toads in the hole w/ gravy, Yorkshire pudding, and of course that classic big English breakfast.

 

I'm sure to have a lot more questions after I dive into the research, and that's the fun end of it for me.  

 

So thanks to the mods and those who maintain this website, and for the members who participate actively.  Look forward to learning a lot.

 

gpk

 

 

 

 

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Welcome aboard Greg! I think you've made a good start by commencing your research and planning early. Use the search facility here and you'll find much advice and tales of experiences to and from folk in a similar position. Enjoy the prep and, ultimately, your vacation afloat! 

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Hello Greg,

Can I suggest think about booking for next year.

I know hirer companies are already take a good number of bookings for next year.

So as not to be disappointed.

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19 minutes ago, Mad Harold said:

Choose a part of the country that is relatively flat.

Hills = locks,and as you have stated,you don't want your holiday to turn into a locking excercise.

Not necessarily.  Some canals go over hils.  Some go between them.  The Welsh end of the Llangollen is very hilly, but no locks.

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2 hours ago, doratheexplorer said:

Not necessarily.  Some canals go over hils.  Some go between them.  The Welsh end of the Llangollen is very hilly, but no locks.

Yes,that's true,but my view is coloured by my location (Huddersfield!) so around here you don't go boating,you go locking!😰

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Whilst you can go much longer than 45’ and still get round most of the connected network (57’-58’ is more like the limit), 45’ is perfectly fine for one person anyway.

 

Whilst  it’s one of our best I would avoid the Leeds & Liverpool canal as it’s full of swing bridges that can be a real pain for a single handler.

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57 minutes ago, John Wareing said:

Whilst you can go much longer than 45’ and still get round most of the connected network (57’-58’ is more like the limit), 45’ is perfectly fine for one person anyway.

 

Whilst  it’s one of our best I would avoid the Leeds & Liverpool canal as it’s full of swing bridges that can be a real pain for a single handler.

Agreed -- and they're bad enough even if there are two of you, some are well-nigh impossible for one person to move. With most of them when you open the bridge you're stuck on the offside and can't get back to the boat, *very* tricky if you're on your own... 😞

 

As a single-hander you'll find the locks on narrow canals considerably easier than broad canals, so as a first-timer I'd suggest staying narrow if possible.

 

Many of the rings that are rural have a lot of locks on (typically around 100) which you say you don't really want to do, the ones with fewer locks tend to be more industrial in places which also isn't what you're looking for. A ring also has the problem -- especially as a first-time single-hander -- that you're committed to getting round it, which can mean some very hard work and long hours if there are unexpected delays or you don't make as much progress as planned -- CanalplanAC is great for working out where you might be able to get to.

 

The Llangollen is often chosen by novices, it has spectacular aqueducts and not too many locks and out-and-back would be an easy fortnight, but it gets *very* busy (even in September) and long stretches of it are quite boring, all you can see is hedges.

 

An out-and-back trip on the Southern Oxford might suit you better -- lovely rural narrow canal, no time pressure, starting from Napton Junction and going to Oxford and back would be a very relaxed fortnight for a single-hander. Napton Narrowboats are good, I've used them several times in the past, and they have some very nice high-quality 2-berth boats.

 

But I don't know if they'll hire to novice single-handers, finding a firm that will do this (any suggestions from the forum?) could be your biggest problem... 😞

 

["you" is Greg here, not John...]

Edited by IanD
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8 hours ago, Greg K said:

Greetings!

 

Yes, I'm another one of those bloody yanks who've seen the canal boat documentaries (some better than others) and it's piqued my interest in a narrowboat holiday.

 

It's be a major undertaking in travel just to GET to the narrowboat, so I wouldn't consider anything less than a fortnight on the water.  And definitely not this year, and definitely not during a school holiday.  TOO CROWDED.   I very much enjoy the fall, and fortnight on the canals in mid-September 2022 would be the plan.

 

To that end I'll be lurking about the message boards absorbing all the knowledge and wisdom I can.  It's over a year until the trip so enough time to plan the whole lot.  Only one hitch; I'm traveling solo, so don't know if any of the for hire companies will rent to just one bloke like me.  Hope so, and I better settle that bit first before I get too deep into the plan.

 

I know this much; I'd like to hire a narrowboat, and then one that's 45ft maximum so I'm not limited in the route I choose.  A nice "circle" tour would be ideal.   Don't fear locks, just don't want the trip to turn into a locking exercise.  Tunnels?  I ain't scared.  Pubs aren't important since I'm not that much of a boozer, more interested in the classic English countryside and small towns and village.  And I'll be cooking on board most nights and mornings with an occasional lunch.  That one guy w/ the narrowboat program that cooks a lot has me wanting to try steak & kidney pie, toads in the hole w/ gravy, Yorkshire pudding, and of course that classic big English breakfast.

 

I'm sure to have a lot more questions after I dive into the research, and that's the fun end of it for me.  

 

So thanks to the mods and those who maintain this website, and for the members who participate actively.  Look forward to learning a lot.

 

gpk

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome.

 

Your potential stumbling block will be single handing. One way you might get around this is booking direct with a company rather than through somebody like Hoseasons who from memory make ar least 2 on board a blanket condition of hire.

 

And of course lots of companies only go with direct bookings anyway. Best course would be to ring them and ask. ISTR people have found companies that will hire to single handers, though your lack of experience may be a further issue.

 

Good luck.

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32 minutes ago, IanD said:

Agreed -- and they're bad enough even if there are two of you, some are well-nigh impossible for one person to move. With most of them when you open the bridge you're stuck on the offside and can't get back to the boat, *very* tricky if you're on your own... 😞

 

As a single-hander you'll find the locks on narrow canals considerably easier than broad canals, so as a first-timer I'd suggest staying narrow if possible.

 

Many of the rings that are rural have a lot of locks on (typically around 100) which you say you don't really want to do, the ones with fewer locks tend to be more industrial in places which also isn't what you're looking for. A ring also has the problem -- especially as a first-time single-hander -- that you're committed to getting round it, which can mean some very hard work and long hours if there are unexpected delays or you don't make as much progress as planned -- CanalplanAC is great for working out where you might be able to get to.

 

The Llangollen is often chosen by novices, it has spectacular aqueducts and not too many locks and out-and-back would be an easy fortnight, but it gets *very* busy (even in September) and long stretches of it are quite boring, all you can see is hedges.  The Llangollen is in no way boring, and certainly no 'hedgier' than the South Oxford.  Both the South Oxford and the Llangollen have quite a few lift bridges which can be a pain for a single hander though.

 

An out-and-back trip on the Southern Oxford might suit you better -- lovely rural narrow canal, no time pressure, starting from Napton Junction and going to Oxford and back would be a very relaxed fortnight for a single-hander. Napton Narrowboats are good, I've used them several times in the past, and they have some very nice high-quality 2-berth boats.  That trip would be relaxed for a week's holiday.  I reckon the best choice would be the 4 counties ring which would be an easy and fun fortnight.  Nothing tricky for a single hander, and lots of side journeys available off it if time permits.  I have a feeling that Chas Hardern will hire to single handers, which would be a perfect starting point.  Much more variety than the South Oxford and a BIG tunnel which the OP might enjoy!

 

But I don't know if they'll hire to novice single-handers, finding a firm that will do this (any suggestions from the forum?) could be your biggest problem... 😞

 

["you" is Greg here, not John...]

 

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One thing to bear in mind is that if you select the 4 Counties are that area in general and Chas Hardern in particular is that you should plan on flying into Manchester not London - it will be much more convenient and the boatyard may well organise a direct transfer for you.

 

Under normal times there were a number of direct flights from the US into MAN and they may well be back by next September. But, even if not, a one stop through Dublin would work very well with the added advantage of pre-clearance for the US at Dublin on the way back.

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27 minutes ago, doratheexplorer said:

 

Opinions on the Llangollen differ, depending what you consider boring 😉

 

The Four Counties Ring is very pleasant (I've done it several times) and has some lovely offshoots like the Caldon, without any of these it's 94 locks and easy to do in a week if you like long days of cruising and not much stopping. How suitable this (or any ring) is for a novice single-hander like Greg is difficult to say without knowing how many locks he considers "a lot", how many hours a day he wants to travel, and how much time he wants to spend looking round places he's stopped at. These are all known by experienced forum members, but our idea of what constitutes "easy" may well be very different to his.

 

Personally I like doing rings, and when there are four or more of us (which there usually are) we *love* doing locks -- our most enjoyable holiday was probably the Rochdale/HNC ring which was well over 200 locks in 10 days. But no way would I suggest this to a newbie... 😉

 

Whenever I'm asked to recommend a route for people who've never been on the English canals before, I *always* suggest an out-and-back trip for all these reasons -- there's then no target to be forced into hitting, they can spend anywhere from a couple of hours to ten hours a day cruising depending on what they find they like.

 

Greg's biggest problem will be finding a boatyard that will hire to him, and the location of this will probably determine where he can go since the vast majority won't 😞

 

So probably some suggestions for boatyards that will do this would be the most useful thing, then we might be able to suggest where he can go from them. It's no good us telling him what a brilliant route would be if nobody on it will hire him a boat...

 

 

If they'll hire to a single-hander (need to ring them?), Hector from Armada (could go down the Oxford Canal from here) would be a lovely little boat for one...

 

https://armadaboathire.co.uk/boat-hector.html

Edited by IanD
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I’m with you on the Llangollen- the last 10 miles or so are spectacular and we like Ellesmere and the access to the Monty but other than that it’s very average.

 

In contrast the section between on the Leeds & Liverpool Wigan and Barrowford is often derided almost as a no go zone and it’s rare to see more one or two other boats moving in a day, but it’s far more interesting with some stunning views.

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36 minutes ago, John Wareing said:

I’m with you on the Llangollen- the last 10 miles or so are spectacular and we like Ellesmere and the access to the Monty but other than that it’s very average.

 

In contrast the section between on the Leeds & Liverpool Wigan and Barrowford is often derided almost as a no go zone and it’s rare to see more one or two other boats moving in a day, but it’s far more interesting with some stunning views.

Indeed, but those L&L swing bridges are frequent and a PITA for a single-hander, and the locks are wide...

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7 minutes ago, IanD said:

Indeed, but those L&L swing bridges are frequent and a PITA for a single-hander...

There's only 3 of them between Wigan and Barrowford ...

 

Well 4, but the extra one is permanently open.

 

 

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Might be worth considering a hotel boat as an option maybe something like the lady Teal on the L&L?

Might be a good option for someone not from around these parts....

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Hi Greg!

 

Don't apologise for your origins, seems there was one at the court of King Arthur.

Just a suggestion as you are a newbie.

Fly into East Midlands Airport

Taxi to Napton (3 hire baotyards to choose from)

Head North through Braunston

Up N Oxford (Hillmorton locks x3 usually have lock keepers if you need them)

Coventry (1 lock with 6 inch difference) 

No more locks until your return.

You can continue to Atherstone.

On way back go up Ashby canal to the end.  

Visit Bosworth Field site of Battle of Bosworth, King Richard III death there of!  Recently found in Leicester car park, filed under K for King.

 

Don't get fixated with doing "Rings" the view back is always different when returning.  Also you'll see places to mark for a visit on the way back.

 

Don't forget to pack your cases with chocolate and chewing gum to throw to the urchins.  Silk stockings and parachute silk still goes down well with the local wenches too.

Finally, even if only talking to yourself try and lose the word "quaint!

 

Good luck, enjoy and have a happy time.

 

Zenataomm

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58 minutes ago, TheBiscuits said:

There's only 3 of them between Wigan and Barrowford ...

 

Well 4, but the extra one is permanently open.

 

 

Forgot that, got so bloody fed up with them on the other side of the hill -- not just stuck ones but broken down electrified ones...

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50 minutes ago, zenataomm said:

Hi Greg!

 

Don't apologise for your origins, seems there was one at the court of King Arthur.

Just a suggestion as you are a newbie.

Fly into East Midlands Airport

Taxi to Napton (3 hire baotyards to choose from)

Head North through Braunston

Up N Oxford (Hillmorton locks x3 usually have lock keepers if you need them)

Coventry (1 lock with 6 inch difference) 

No more locks until your return.

You can continue to Atherstone.

On way back go up Ashby canal to the end.  

Visit Bosworth Field site of Battle of Bosworth, King Richard III death there of!  Recently found in Leicester car park, filed under K for King.

 

Don't get fixated with doing "Rings" the view back is always different when returning.  Also you'll see places to mark for a visit on the way back.

 

Don't forget to pack your cases with chocolate and chewing gum to throw to the urchins.  Silk stockings and parachute silk still goes down well with the local wenches too.

Finally, even if only talking to yourself try and lose the word "quaint!

 

Good luck, enjoy and have a happy time.

 

Zenataomm

From Napton you could also go south down towards Oxford, more locks but prettier countryside, your choice. It's a great starting point...

 

[if one of the boatyards there will hire to a single-hander -- sorry to keep banging this drum but it's the first thing for Greg to sort out before worrying about anything else]

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I recommend the Chesterfield canal. There were 2 narrow boats for hire at West Stockwith when I was last there a few years ago. Lovely quiet stretch of canal with an amazing flight of double and triple locks at the end . Great pubs in Retford as well. 

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I would try a journey from near Tardibigge into Birmingham then down to Stratford, and return. There are locks,  but arent many staffed by Vlockies. I am not sure if ABC or Anglo Welch would hire to single boaters, I dont really see why not, but rules are rules... a group of ten younger people maybe more risky I suspect 

 

 

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