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Three month winter cruise - suggestions please


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Good morning and thank you for having me on the Forum - First post!

 

We have hired a narrow boat for December through to February this winter. We'll be starting North of Oxford. Whilst I know bits and pieces of the canal system both from time on boats and the tow path, I'd love your input as to suggested itineries, must see and (possibly) must miss sections.

 

I appreciate that this is a "bit of string" question, so I'll try and narrow it down. The boat is a 56' narrow boat. We will be 2 on the boat for most of the time. We like to make a bit of progress, but are certainly not aiming to break any records - we will have our folding bikes with us and also enjoy a good walk. We can get tempted to a few days stop in particularly nice places. Whilst we love the countryside and peace and quiet, we also enjoy towns and some industrial heritage. Again, whilst not aiming for a "most locks" prize, we're not averse to 'em. We have seen quite a lot of the K&A, Grand Union down to London, the Stratford / Sharpness area and have also headed across to Llangollen before.

 

As to experience, we have spent quite a few months on narrow boats through the years, but are in no way experts. We have also spent the past 5 odd years living and traveling on a relatively small yacht, so this boat will be rather luxurious! We are using this as an opportunity to see if we want to purchase our own boat and, if so, garner as much information about every aspect of canal life. I grew up in Tring and my family now live in Devizes, so I've knocked around the canals quite a bit.

 

I find the various articles and books about canals and various "rings" very attractive and inspirational, but I'm having trouble putting it all together into some sort of sensible route or wish list. I have the Nicholson large scale map for planning, the various on-line maps for drilling down, intend to get the relevant Nicholson guides for detail, the on-line OS maps for the country for walks/cycles, the CAMRA app for essential pub planning, on-line subscription to all the Canal magazines and good waterproofs and wellies! We are very used to a bit of cold, rain, wind and MUD! I've also worked out the information for the various stoppages, so can plan that into any intended route.

 

So, thank you for reading and any suggestions for "must see" bits of the network & itineraries are gratefullly received. I you have any tips, tricks, equipment advice and so on, I'd love to hear them. Let me know if I've omitted any essential info.

 

Cheers.

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December to February is in the middle of the "stoppage season" when various sections of the network are closed for maintenance, although there is a bit of a boating window over Christmas/New Year. So your itinerary will necessarily be constrained by which bits of canal are actually open.

 

Edited to add: Beaten to it by John. Check the CRT stoppage list on his link. Or if you are thinking of venturing south of Oxford onto the Thames (for which you need a separate licence which may not be included in the hire fee) check stoppages at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/river-thames-restrictions-and-closures

Edited by David Mack
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Also be aware of any bookable structures as over the winter CRT often reduce the days of operation. Examples are River Severn locks, Harecastle tunnel so something else to check on any route planning.

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Without researching the stoppages, none of us can really advise you on where to go and places to see. Your route will very largely be determined by where is open!

For example, if you are hiring from south of Shipton Lift Bridge 219, you will have to be back south of the bridge by 10 January or you won't get back to base.

https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/notices/19565-bridge-219-shipton-lift-bridge-oxford-canal

Edited by David Mack
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10 minutes ago, Bristolfashion said:

Thank you - yes, I've already been studying the various stoppages.

Whatever you try to organise will be very hit and miss, just go with whatever is thrown at you. As a for instance, november iirc of 2009 or 10 we were frozen in solid for near on two months and lots of snow.

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13 minutes ago, David Mack said:

Without researching the stoppages, none of us can really advise you on where to go and places to see. Your route will very largely be determined by where is open!

For example, if you are hiring from south of Shipton Lift Bridge 219, you will have to be back south of the bridge by 10 January or you won't get back to base.

https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/notices/19565-bridge-219-shipton-lift-bridge-oxford-canal

Thank you. I do appreciate this, I'd be happy with a selection of recommended rings/canals from which we can select as stoppages & other restrictions emerge.

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I haven’t looked at the stoppages as our boat is now tucked up for the winter but I’ll put a word in for the South of the T&M. Never too far from civilisation, plenty of places to eat and drink and good transport links but also some quiet moorings. 

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24 minutes ago, mrsmelly said:

Whatever you try to organise will be very hit and miss, just go with whatever is thrown at you. As a for instance, november iirc of 2009 or 10 we were frozen in solid for near on two months and lots of snow.

Yes, thank you. As yachties, we are very used to the vagaries of boat travel. If freezing up is likely, we'll ty and find a nice spot and enjoy bracing walks and the multi fuel fire with a  few good books.

 

I'm not sure what the narrow boat equivalent of the yachting maxim, "plans are written in the sand at low tide" is?

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5 minutes ago, Bristolfashion said:

Thank you. I do appreciate this, I'd be happy with a selection of recommended rings/canals from which we can select as stoppages & other restrictions emerge.

I don't think you understand the point I and others have made. For the time you are looking at it us not a case of choosing a ring or a route, and adapting it around the stoppages, which you could do in summer. It is more of a case of only being able to use those sections of canal which are not closed, being mindful of the need not to end up towards the end of your trip on the wrong side of a stoppage between you and the hire base. And that may mean shuffling up and down the same section of canal, or staying put for days at a time, whereas on a trip of the same duration in summer you could cover much of the network.

The stoppage lists have already been published, so you can plan your route now. Of course other restrictions may emerge by the time you are actually boating. But the hire company will be much more tolerant of you getting stuck the wrong side of an unplanned restriction than they will if you embark on a route which could never have been completed.

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1 minute ago, David Mack said:

I don't think you understand the point I and others have made. For the time you are looking at it us not a case of choosing a ring or a route, and adapting it around the stoppages, which you could do in summer. It is more of a case of only being able to use those sections of canal which are not closed, being mindful of the need not to end up towards the end of your trip on the wrong side of a stoppage between you and the hire base. And that may mean shuffling up and down the same section of canal, or staying put for days at a time, whereas on a trip of the same duration in summer you could cover much of the network.

The stoppage lists have already been published, so you can plan your route now. Of course other restrictions may emerge by the time you are actually boating. But the hire company will be much more tolerant of you getting stuck the wrong side of an unplanned restriction than they will if you embark on a route which could never have been completed.

I don't wish to labour the point - especially in a first post, but I do understand the point regarding stoppages. Perhaps I have not really been clear enough in my original post. With the resources I have, I can easily plan a number of executable routes over that period. What I am trying to get a handle on a present is some preferred sections of canal, routes or rings that I might look at trying to visit - at the moment, I'm struggling to differentiate between, for want of a better word, the quality of various options. Any recommendations that are not possible on this trip will be gratefully filed away for subsequent adventures.

 

As might be expected of a cruise at this time of year, I'm already in discussions with the hire company about stoppages and ensuring, barring the unexpected, that we can get back on time. I'm pretty relaxed about the up and back approach or having to wait in a (hopefully) nice location for a stoppage to clear.

 

Whilst it is often said that there's no such thing as a stupid question, there are questions with no sensible answers- I apologise if I've asked one. Thanks to everyone for their responses so far. I shall get back to my stoppages list and my planning map and see how I go.

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Can you post what the routes are you are trying to decide between so folks who know the areas can give their views on their quality? You've already been through the stoppages and worked out what is possible. Otherwise, you are asking other people to do the same time consuming job again themselves, before being able to make any comments. I'd not expect to see much useful.

Rather than someone say, "You must visit the Exploding Duck at Little Wittering", only to be told that that will be on the wrong side of a stoppage, ask the question, "Is it worth visiting the Exploding Duck?".

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I think I've got the picture that this is considered an impossible question to answer. Perhaps we could consider this thread closed. Thank you for your input.

 

I think it's been rather interpreted as a request for a detailed itinerary rather than for some nice places, routes or circuits to consider when planning a trip such as this during the winter. Subject to stoppages, weather, travel times and all the rest of course.

 

I'll go back to the stoppages list & planning map to see what is possible and the guides & magazines for what looks interesting.

 

Cheers

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1 hour ago, Slim said:

Totally impossible question to answer without knowing some facts the first of which is where is 'north of Oxford'? 

Thank you for your response - although I'm not sure I could rely on any directions you gave if you're unsure which way is North!😀 I might end up in London when I'm heading for Birmingham.

 

However, you are obviously someone that appreciates precision, so the start point is  

 

52.1756773,

-1.369984552

 

The finish point is a little south of that - that's towards the bottom of the map of the UK - as long as you've got it the right way up.

 

Cheers

2 hours ago, Jen-in-Wellies said:

Can you post what the routes are you are trying to decide between so folks who know the areas can give their views on their quality? You've already been through the stoppages and worked out what is possible. Otherwise, you are asking other people to do the same time consuming job again themselves, before being able to make any comments. I'd not expect to see much useful.

Rather than someone say, "You must visit the Exploding Duck at Little Wittering", only to be told that that will be on the wrong side of a stoppage, ask the question, "Is it worth visiting the Exploding Duck?".

Ah, yes, I rather forgot that those on the canal tend to navigate by pubs - perhaps the CAMRA app will prove more useful than the Nicholson's Guide! 😀

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7 minutes ago, Bristolfashion said:

Thank you for your response - although I'm not sure I could rely on any directions you gave if you're unsure which way is North!😀 I might end up in London when I'm heading for Birmingham.

 

However, you are obviously someone that appreciates precision, so the start point is  

 

52.1756773,

-1.369984552

 

The finish point is a little south of that - that's towards the bottom of the map of the UK - as long as you've got it the right way up.

 

Cheers

Ah, yes, I rather forgot that those on the canal tend to navigate by pubs - perhaps the CAMRA app will prove more useful than the Nicholson's Guide! 😀

Leaving aside the sarcasm in your comments I wish you the best of luck.   

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3 hours ago, Slim said:

Totally impossible question to answer without knowing some facts the first of which is where is 'north of Oxford'? 

Well I flagged a link to a stoppage at Shipton which is a little north of Oxford. If you are hiring from North of there that stoppage probably won't bother you. If you are starting out from somewhere between Oxford and Shipton, then the second half of your trip will be very constrained.

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