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Looking for holiday advice from across the pond


Ozwaldster
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Greetings all;

 

My wife and I have been wanting to make a canal trip for about 5+ years now based on a friend's trip experience.   We retired last year and were intending to go then as we could spend more time but, you know...    Although it seems things have become considerably more expensive and hectic, we're still going to go for it.   

 

Our thought was a 2-3 week trip so we can piddle along, stop often and enjoy strolling some market towns, visit some ancient stone piles, sit on a pub patio and watch the world go by, or take a train for a day trip.    Not afraid of doing locks but don't think dozens in a day would be all that relaxing.    We're thinking first of September to avoid the crowds.

 

With those in mind, what are your thoughts on routes, hire vendors, boat size recommendations, must see stops etc.     We've been to England, Scotland and Ireland before all as road trips or metro visits but haven't spent any time 'up country' in England proper. 

 

Any and all advice would be much appreciated. 

 

Warm Regards-

 

Dan & Judy

Edited by Ozwaldster
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As you are flying a long way maybe go for 3 or even 4 weeks, just not so good if you decide you don't like it. Some companies might offer a good discount. September is a good choice.

Maybe do the 4 counties ring with a diversion up the Caldon Canal, or if you have time the Macclesfield and Upper Peak Forest. Or maybe Chester?

If you like cities and decaying industry then a diversion into Birmingham is possible, but this will involve a lot of locks.

Get a decent size boat to have a bit of comfort, no less than 50 foot but probably a bit bigger, larger boats are, in some ways, actually easier to handle than shorter ones.

 

Unless you have any specific things to see then day trips are not required, the canal system itself and its towns and villages should keep you busy.

  • Greenie 2
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Do you want to do the usual American tourist thing and visit locations like Stratford on Avon, Warwick, Chester or York, all of which can be visited by boat (although York is away from the regular narrow boat waterways)? Or do you want to visit the smaller towns and villages of Middle England?

If you want a bit of both, the Shropshire Union Canal will give you plenty of quiet countryside, as well as take you alongside the city walls of Chester, and for ancient stone piles, Beeston Castle is only a short walk away.

Edited by David Mack
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I think I might consider going in June. It's very pleasant in September but there is more risk of restrictions due to water shortages whereas in June it should still be OK.

 

I would look to be flexible in the route plan. That way, you can establish what is enjoyable for you. For example, we went round the Four Counties plus the Caldon in a week this August, but that would be a week of long days travelling. If you had three weeks to do that, if you just potter along, stopping at pubs and towns, it would be very relaxed. If you were enjoying travelling more, you could add more side-trips in, for example heading to the centre of Birmingham, stopping at the Black Country Museum on the way (maybe with a trip into the Dudley Tunnel), or down the southern Staffs. & Worcs. which is very scenic, or up the Llangollen which has some spectacular engineering, or up to Chester and Ellesmere Port with its Boat Museum, or go and look at the Anderton Lift. The thing about a ring with branches is that you can decide to head off down them or not.

 

When we plan routes of that type, we try to put the side branches we really want to do nearer the back end of the trip rather than at the beginning. That way we don't have any issues with knowing whether we can fit them in or not. This would have a bearing on where to hire from, so for example if your top choice was the Caldon you might hire from Great Haywood and go round clockwise, but if your top choice was to head into Birmingham you might hire from Autherley, Brewood or Norbury and go round clockwise, but if you wanted to go up the Llangollen or to Ellesmere Port you might hire from Norbury and go round anticlockwise etc.

 

As a very specific recommendation, if it fits your plans then Phoenix from Norbury Wharf was an excellent boat and might suit well for an extended cruise, although note that it has a trad stern, so you can't have two people sat out at the back. That's another consideration actually - a trad stern only really has space for the steerer whereas a semi-trad or cruiser stern has more space for other people. However, a trad stern does keep the steerer warmer and drier, and if the other person/people want to sit at the bow anyway away from the engine noise then there is no disadvantage.

 

Alec

 

 

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13 hours ago, dmr said:

As you are flying a long way maybe go for 3 or even 4 weeks, just not so good if you decide you don't like it. Some companies might offer a good discount. September is a good choice.

Maybe do the 4 counties ring with a diversion up the Caldon Canal, or if you have time the Macclesfield and Upper Peak Forest. Or maybe Chester?

If you like cities and decaying industry then a diversion into Birmingham is possible, but this will involve a lot of locks.

Get a decent size boat to have a bit of comfort, no less than 50 foot but probably a bit bigger, larger boats are, in some ways, actually easier to handle than shorter ones.

 

Unless you have any specific things to see then day trips are not required, the canal system itself and its towns and villages should keep you busy.

I agree about the Four Counties and if you follow the advice of a three or four weeks trip you could have a look at one or two hire companies and use combine their suggested weekly or two weekly  holiday routes into a slightly extended cruise. Another diversion off the Four Counties ring would be the Llangollen which will not be quite as busy in September once the children go back to school and the run up to Llangollen is very scenic with not too many locks. 

 

Enjoy your search.

 

Howard

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Avon Ring, plus an extra bit if there's time.  Very varied, lots of pretty countryside.  Bigger towns and cities:  Birmingham, Worcester, Stratford, Pershore, Evesham, Tewkesbury, Bromsgrove sort of.  Gloucester on an extra bit.

 

Small towns and villages:  Lapworth, Lowsonford, Wilmcote,  Preston Bagot, Bidford, Wire Piddle, Fladbury, Hanbury, Stoke Prior, etc, etc.

 

Ancient buildings, cathedrals, and stately homes along the route too.

 

The only downside are two big lock flights, but both of them can be worked quite easily and are less trouble than many small flights.

 

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Some years ago a friend and I (together with our respective wives) managed the four counties ring and the Cheshire ring in a total of 10 days. Early starts and late finishes. If you are ready for some beautiful scenery, some amazing industrial heritage and some locks, then I would say three or four weeks would be a satisfactory period to spend cruising this route.

As far as hire companies go, there are still quite a few despite Covid. We have booked two weeks next spring with Black Prince whose boats are always well looked after and very smart, do a google (or web search engine of your choice) for Canal Hire Boat Companies and see what you can find.

Good luck and have fun at your own pace.

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Like me you are retired, and i would guess need some comfort in your prime ? I find bench seats of an evening time extremely uncomfortable, and prefer to recline on my own "Captains chair " Few hire companies offer a reclining chair but 2 that do are Anglo Welsh, and Napton Narrow boats . In the case of Napton, they also have bigger beds that offer that much more comfort. Lets be honest, most 4 foot double beds leave a lot to be desired. Over the course of a 3 week hire, these 2 features make a lot of difference . 

  • Greenie 1
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The Grand Union Thames Oxford ring might be another thought too, If you share the wide locks of the GU it can be very sociable and not too strenuous if sharing and the Thames is a delight. You could go up some of the Arms of the Grand Union, higher up the Thames beyond Oxford or The River Wey as detours. 

it just shows what a brilliant inland waterway  system we have as all the other suggestions are very good too. 

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4 hours ago, pomkitanner said:

Like me you are retired, and i would guess need some comfort in your prime ? I find bench seats of an evening time extremely uncomfortable, and prefer to recline on my own "Captains chair " Few hire companies offer a reclining chair but 2 that do are Anglo Welsh, and Napton Narrow boats . In the case of Napton, they also have bigger beds that offer that much more comfort. Lets be honest, most 4 foot double beds leave a lot to be desired. Over the course of a 3 week hire, these 2 features make a lot of difference . 

I've hired boats from both companies and would agree on both seats/chairs and beds -- but this does only apply to their most expensive "luxury" boats, which tend to get booked up early. It makes a difference even on a 1 week hire...

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