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P_Est

Route suggestions (next June)

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Hello everyone. I am looking for suggestions for a canal holiday next June.  We are from the United States, but we will be visiting family in London this summer.  I hired from the Wyvern Shipping company two summers ago in August. I was a solo adult with my then 11yo and 13yo children.  Thanks in part to the advice in this forum, we had a fantastic time for our four days --we didn't get very far (and had a few mishaps), but we enjoyed ourselves immensely and met a few lovely and friendly people along the way. We went north from Leighton Buzzard and did not quite get to Blisworth tunnel though if we had pushed ourselves harder, we might have made it.

 

I would like to return next summer. The kids will be even older (13 and 15) and thus even more able to help. Though honestly, even at 11 & 13, my kids actually grasped how to steer the boat and work the locks far more quickly than I did!  However, I am not entirely sure where to go. We would like to have more time since four days wasn't quite enough. I am thinking more like 7-10.  We enjoyed working the locks, but we don't particularly want or need a lot of them. Ahead of our trip, I thought we'd do a lot of eating at pubs, but we actually only ate out once. Instead, we cooked on the boat itself. Mostly, we just liked the gorgeous scenery and spending slow lazy time together as a family. Really we just read, chatted, played games, listened to music, went on a couple of walks, and watched the scenery go by. That plus learning to actually operate the boat was quite enough for our four days. Still, I do wonder if the kids might get bored during a 7-10 day trip and want some more variety beyond just cruising especially now that they will both be teenagers, but I don't really know. 

 

Anyway, having tried to do some research, I was considering the following canals:

  • Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal --seems very scenic and pretty with not too many locks
  • The Llangollen Canal --again seems scenic. From what I read, it will be busier than the others, but still pretty quiet in June.
  • The Lancaster Canal --I like the idea of seeing the sea shore from the canal. Is that true?

 

But I am very open to suggestions. Part of me would like to try the South Oxford or the Stratford-Upon-Avon Canal or The Union Canal in Scotland just because all three of those might let us see places that we would enjoy visiting like Oxford, the Royal Shakespeare Company and Edinburgh. But it sounds like they all might be harder to navigate and it might be difficult to find places to moor. We have almost a month in the UK and maybe it is better to keep the narrowboat portion of our trip separate from the city sight-seeing.

 

I don't really know what I am asking here except advice for choosing a route now that we are no longer quite novices but still aren't experienced narrowboaters. We loved it enough to do it again, but we don't really know where. Maybe a route that offers a few places to stop and explore, but we don't need a lot. And as a woman alone with two kids, I do want to feel safe and I'd like to hire from a company that will be helpful and friendly. Wyvern was really great. We could also just do Leighton Buzzard again under the theory if it worked well once, why not repeat. Thanks!

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Welcome back to the forum!

The Mon & Brec is indeed scenic, though when my wife and I hired a boat on there a few years ago we began to suffer from scenery overkill after a few days.

   May I suggest that you consider hiring from Napton Narrowboats - a company with a good reputation. From their base you can either go South down the South Oxford, which slices most pleasantly through Middle England, some locks but long, pleasantly winding stretches without any. You might reach Oxford and get back in a week, but it would be easier to moor at Banbury and get a train (station 10 minutes' walk, frequent trains to Oxford) or Heyford (station one minute from the canal, trains not so frequent) for the day. Or you could go North (only a few locks) and take a right turn along the Ashby Canal (pastoral, peaceful, a steam railway halfway along, no locks). Navigation is made easier because the locks in both directions are narrow (single-boat width) so it's easy to hold your boat in place and the locks empty and fill more quickly.

   I admit to being biased, as we moor our boat at Cropredy on the South Oxford.

 

Your post is slightly confusing in one respect: your avatar says that you are male, but in the text you say that you're female. You may like to decide, and adjust your post accordingly!

Edited by Athy

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As Athy says the south Oxford is a great canal for your needs. Do ensure the hire fleet will allow you to hire as some stipulate two adults have to be onboard. Enjoy.

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Make certain that you check with any hire company that they are OK with only one adult, I think many require at least two adults.

 

South Oxford would make a good trip, there are plenty of hire boats based in the Napton area to choose from.

Edited by john6767

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3 hours ago, Athy said:

Welcome back to the forum!

The Mon & Brec is indeed scenic, though when my wife and I hired a boat on there a few years ago we began to suffer from scenery overkill after a few days.

   May I suggest that you consider hiring from Napton Narrowboats - a company with a good reputation. From their base you can either go South down the South Oxford, which slices most pleasantly through Middle England, some locks but long, pleasantly winding stretches without any. You might reach Oxford and get back in a week, but it would be easier to moor at Banbury and get a train (station 10 minutes' walk, frequent trains to Oxford) or Heyford (station one minute from the canal, trains not so frequent) for the day. Or you could go North (only a few locks) and take a right turn along the Ashby Canal (pastoral, peaceful, a steam railway halfway along, no locks). Navigation is made easier because the locks in both directions are narrow (single-boat width) so it's easy to hold your boat in place and the locks empty and fill more quickly.

   I admit to being biased, as we moor our boat at Cropredy on the South Oxford.

 

Your post is slightly confusing in one respect: your avatar says that you are male, but in the text you say that you're female. You may like to decide, and adjust your post accordingly!

I think you meant Heyford station on the Oxford, Great Haywood being on the Trent & Mersey.

Edited by Athy

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To throw in another boaty idea where you won't have locks and therefore will probably beat the 2 adult thing - how's about the Norfolk Broads? It gets busy, but June is outside of the UK peak holiday time. Really beautiful, a real mix of places to visit and the gentle rivers and broads (lakes) are not a demanding place to go boating (except for a couple of easily avoided more tricky tidal bits if you don't fancy that).  Lots of hire boat choice too. Just an alternative to consider - have a fab holiday wherever you go :)

 

  • Greenie 2

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17 minutes ago, Flyboy said:

I think you meant Heyford station on the Oxford, Great Haywood being on the Trent & Mersey.

I think you are perfectly correct, thank you for pointing that out.

As John Peel once memorably wrote, "I have sentenced myself to be whipped with rods while listening to electronic stereo L.P.s of Jay & The Americans". I never quite forgave him for that - I used to like Jay & The Americans, though the rods I could do without.

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Quote

 

This is a canal forum - so 'other rivers' don't get a look in.....

How's about hiring from Oxfordshire Narrowboats at LOWER Heyford (the also have a B&B available) if you want to align your arrival and departure.

You can the go up the canal to Braunston and beyond OR downstream to Oxford. You can add a visit to the Thames which is delightful. Up to Lechlade (more like a windy wide canal but with very easy locks, or downstream to (say) Reading. You'll need to purchase an extra licence to do the Thames.

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How about the Ashby and Coventry Canals. We have done this with our children. A day at Bosworth is interesting and then a trip on the Steam Railway. When you get up to Fazeley Jct. a side trip to Drayton Manor Park gives the children a day off the boat at a theme park, and the run round to Fradley from there is very pretty, and if you wish a trip in the other direction gives tou a day out in Coventry

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But don't go into the Coventry arm to Coventry , or get the bus  or taxi into Coventry , it's a concrete jungle, terrible place, the arm is. Strewn with rubbish, an ugly place in my opinion, I I  only went once, the basin is fine, but ugh, I won't be goin again. Other people say it's fine, but I wouldn't advise it as a holiday destination with kids.

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8 hours ago, Timx said:

But don't go into the Coventry arm to Coventry , or get the bus  or taxi into Coventry , it's a concrete jungle, terrible place, the arm is. Strewn with rubbish, an ugly place in my opinion, I I  only went once, the basin is fine, but ugh, I won't be goin again. Other people say it's fine, but I wouldn't advise it as a holiday destination with kids.

Somewhat harsh, methinks.

The canal system in the "Birmingham area" was all much the same as the Coventry when we started boating aeons ago - we assumed that all / most urban areas were much like that. While places like Birmingham have been tidied up by the decline of factories making things and the empty spaces filled with housing, Coventry is only just 'getting there'.

If you make an effort you can move into and around the central area on pedestrian routes - so that's not too bad for youngsters.  

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You should also have a look at Black Prince in Stoke-on-Trent. Go north to Bugsworth or alternatively south along the Caldon. Both superb 1 week trips.

 

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Wow. So many possibilities even if I am only looking at Napton Narrowboats and Black Prince. It is really hard to figure out given at the moment, I don't have many constraints besides money of course and it has to be sometime in June, but money spent on the boat is money that does not have to go to an airbnb or hotel. We could even spend longer and try a ring, but it feels like a ring might be a lot of pressure to cruise a certain number of hours per day.  I am consoling myself by believing that we probably can't go wrong no matter which option we choose. I will check with hire companies about being a solo adult. Wyvern was OK with it, but I realize other companies may not be. 

 

Anyway, it sounds like no one really recommends the three that I had originally identified (Monmouthshire & Brecon, Llangollen or Lancaster) or the Scottish canals. Is that true?

 

 Many thanks!

 

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10 hours ago, P_Est said:

Wow. So many possibilities even if I am only looking at Napton Narrowboats and Black Prince. It is really hard to figure out given at the moment, I don't have many constraints besides money of course and it has to be sometime in June, but money spent on the boat is money that does not have to go to an airbnb or hotel. We could even spend longer and try a ring, but it feels like a ring might be a lot of pressure to cruise a certain number of hours per day.  I am consoling myself by believing that we probably can't go wrong no matter which option we choose. I will check with hire companies about being a solo adult. Wyvern was OK with it, but I realize other companies may not be. 

 

Anyway, it sounds like no one really recommends the three that I had originally identified (Monmouthshire & Brecon, Llangollen or Lancaster) or the Scottish canals. Is that true?

 

 Many thanks!

 

Being disconnected from the main system the forum isn't actually that familiar with the Mon & Brecon. The same can be said of the Lancaster which is only recently and restrictively connected. You seem to have suggested these based on scenery so I think you need to decide if you want to kill two birds with one stone - canals and scenery - or opt for the most suitable canal journey.

 

My experience of family hire trips both as a child and as a parent is that kids like locks and tunnels to keep them interested and active. Neither the Mon & Brec or the Lancaster offer much on the way of either. Also neither are really long enough for a 7-10 day trip.

 

The Llangollen would be the choice from your list and it's an easily feasible 7-10 days from say Wrenbury but it is a long way on ordinary canal to get to the scenic bit which is essentially the top 10 miles or so.

 

For a holiday of that duration you may be much better off with the Leeds & Liverpool canal if scenery is a key factor.

 

As far as the Midlands canals go the Ashby is a canal I wouldn't advise for children. It's a minimum of two full days with very little for them to do. To make matters worse the second of those days will essentially be the first of them in reverse. As an aside my wife and I both rate the trips we each did to Bosworth battlefield as pretty much the most boring day of our respective childhoods. What rivals it for me was spending a very long day on a cruise around Loch Lomond watching the view barely change for hour after hour after hour. That's why I think the canal itself has to offer something for the children.

 

If you can stretch to 10 days you will have no problem with the main cruising rings. I don't subscribe to the idea that they pose a risk to getting home or rushing any more than an out and back trip that aims for a particular point. I think they are fine for folk who like to plan ahead and less so for those who are more spontaneous by nature.

 

All of the major rings involve significant numbers of locks but the Stourport, Warwickshire, Cheshire and Four Counties rings are all achievable in 7 days and should be comfortable in 10 days. They all also have at least one full day of mostly cruising with few if any locks. All have places of interest to visit and I am sure the forum will advise of those if you decide to do one of these.

 

The Oxford Canal is good advice for a combination of all things.

 

And lastly I doubt even CWDF's Scottish members would recommend the Scottish canals.

 

JP

 

 

Edited by Captain Pegg

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10 hours ago, P_Est said:

Wow. So many possibilities even if I am only looking at Napton Narrowboats and Black Prince. It is really hard to figure out given at the moment, I don't have many constraints besides money of course and it has to be sometime in June, but money spent on the boat is money that does not have to go to an airbnb or hotel. We could even spend longer and try a ring, but it feels like a ring might be a lot of pressure to cruise a certain number of hours per day.  I am consoling myself by believing that we probably can't go wrong no matter which option we choose. I will check with hire companies about being a solo adult. Wyvern was OK with it, but I realize other companies may not be. 

 

Anyway, it sounds like no one really recommends the three that I had originally identified (Monmouthshire & Brecon, Llangollen or Lancaster) or the Scottish canals. Is that true?

 

 Many thanks!

 

Have a look at the Leeds and Liverpool. Often overlooked in favour of the busier parts of the network but it's stunning scenery in the 'middle bit' is hard to beat. 

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Regarding your original three suggestions

 

If you want total relaxation the Mon & Brec has beautiful scenery, some history, and only 6 locks. The whole length can be done in a week but 10 days would be ideal for a more relaxing time. However there might not be enough there to occupy two teenagers. We have hired 3 times on there, the last time was since we bought our own boat because you probably know that it is isolated from the main network.

 

That Lancaster Canal I haven't been on (but plan to do it next year). but you are correct in that part of it overlooks the sea in Morecambe Bay and you can even descend 6 locks and moor in the harbour. I believe it is a scenic canal and there are towns like Lancaster to explore. But with there being no locks, your teenagers may become a little bored.

 

As for the Llangollen Canal, it has pretty much everything - scenery, nice towns and villages, and of course the amazing architecture of the aqueducts and tunnels. But the down side is that it can get extremely busy and has a high proportion of hirers who are inexperienced first timers because so many choose this canal as their first ever, and not helped by the fact that it has some challenging sections.  Having said that, although only 4 days, you should now have enough experience to cope fine with it. It shouldn't be too busy in June either.

 

But whichever canal you choose, try to avoid being too ambitious with your plans. So many people try to get as far as they can and therefore don't have the time to explore or appreciate the places they are passing through, and miss out one of the main pleasures of narrowboating which is the relaxation. I also cannot understand some folk's obsession with rings. I think they merely add pressure to the holiday unless plenty of time is allowed for. A 'there and back' can be just as rewarding because just like when you go for a walk, you notice things you hadn't seen on the way out. It can also mean that with less time pressure you might not have to cruise along in dreadful weather because you have to make progress.

 

If you choose the Llangollen Canal bear that in mind and choose hire company that isn't too far from the ultimate destination of Llangollen ( a lovely town which should not be missed). Depending on the duration of holiday I suggest Whitchurch as being the furthest away you'd want to start from so any one of them west of that. And if you find you get back to the base earlier than expected you can carry on past there and go as far as time permits and then turn back accordingly.

 

The other suggestions such as the South Oxford Canal are good ones too. We have so many great canals and rivers it's difficult to choose. Whichever one you pick I'm sure you will have a wonderful time.

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Thank you everyone. I will check out the Leeds & Liverpool. South Oxford still seems to be in the lead.

 

I'm sorry to ask so many questions, but I also have some questions about types of narrowboats. I am a little confused about the rear of the boat. As I understand it, there are several types of sterns (traditional, semi-traditional and cruiser). But looking at pictures on the web, Wyvern's seem different than any other company's stern.  I really like what we had on that trip for two reasons. First, it meant that we could all be out in the rear of the boat together. Usually, one or two of us would be perched on the boxes while another one of us would be standing and steering. Also, sometimes when my back hurt, I could sit or half-lean on the box while I steered, but even then, there was room for both kids to sit out there with me. I can't quite remember, but I think one would perch in front of me and the other would sit on the second box. It was really nice.

 

So I think that I would want something similar. Knowing my teens, if they have to stand for any length of time in order to be outside with me, they are more likely to retreat indoors to their phones/music/screens/books. The goal of the trip is for us to have significant screen-free time together, and in small quarters, I am sure that they'll want to retreat to get away from each other (and me!) from time to time. That is OK. But I don't want them to retreat merely because it is more physically comfortable to be inside their cabin instead of out with me. Also, Wyvern at least, wanted me on the deck whenever a child was steering. That rule about adult presence makes sense (though to be honest, my kids learned so much more quickly than I did and are just generally more physically fit). But if I am standing outside whenever either kid is steering in addition to all the time that I spend steering, I will basically be standing for the entire day every day of the trip. I just don't think that I am physically up to that many hours in a row unless we only spend 4 or so hours a day cruising and build in lots of time to be moored for me to rest or for off boat activities. If I can sit while the kids are steering, we could probably up the time to 6+ hours if we want to since I'd be able to be resting and outdoors at the same time.

 

That is a long-winded way of asking whether any other companies have boats like Wyvern, if not, which type of stern would be most suitable for us? Clearly traditional is out, but I am unclear whether we would find the cruiser or semi-traditional stern to be the most comfortable for all of us to be outside together most of the day. And given that I may be doing the lion's share of steering, what type of boat would be the least physically taxing?  I am assuming the shorter the boat, the easier it will be to steer. Is that true? Ours was 45 ft from Wyvern and that was fine.

 

Thanks!

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The majority of hire boats have a "cruiser stern". This is often described by the boat company as a sociable space because several people have room to stand or sit on it together. It is sometimes described by people who have the shorter traditional ("trad") stern as a great place to get soaking wet and bloomin' cold if the weather is adverse.

   The Wyvern stern is a cruiser stern, but one on which there are two boxes, as you say: one holds the gas bottles (which are normally found in the bows) and the other holds such items as mooring stakes, windlasses and empty beer bottles. Our first hire boat circa 1994 was a Wyvern and we liked the stern deck arrangement, but whilst not uniquely peculiar to Wyvern it is quite unusual.

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6 hours ago, P_Est said:

Thank you everyone. I will check out the Leeds & Liverpool. South Oxford still seems to be in the lead.

 

I'm sorry to ask so many questions, but I also have some questions about types of narrowboats. I am a little confused about the rear of the boat. As I understand it, there are several types of sterns (traditional, semi-traditional and cruiser). But looking at pictures on the web, Wyvern's seem different than any other company's stern.  I really like what we had on that trip for two reasons. First, it meant that we could all be out in the rear of the boat together. Usually, one or two of us would be perched on the boxes while another one of us would be standing and steering. Also, sometimes when my back hurt, I could sit or half-lean on the box while I steered, but even then, there was room for both kids to sit out there with me. I can't quite remember, but I think one would perch in front of me and the other would sit on the second box. It was really nice.

 

So I think that I would want something similar. Knowing my teens, if they have to stand for any length of time in order to be outside with me, they are more likely to retreat indoors to their phones/music/screens/books. The goal of the trip is for us to have significant screen-free time together, and in small quarters, I am sure that they'll want to retreat to get away from each other (and me!) from time to time. That is OK. But I don't want them to retreat merely because it is more physically comfortable to be inside their cabin instead of out with me. Also, Wyvern at least, wanted me on the deck whenever a child was steering. That rule about adult presence makes sense (though to be honest, my kids learned so much more quickly than I did and are just generally more physically fit). But if I am standing outside whenever either kid is steering in addition to all the time that I spend steering, I will basically be standing for the entire day every day of the trip. I just don't think that I am physically up to that many hours in a row unless we only spend 4 or so hours a day cruising and build in lots of time to be moored for me to rest or for off boat activities. If I can sit while the kids are steering, we could probably up the time to 6+ hours if we want to since I'd be able to be resting and outdoors at the same time.

 

That is a long-winded way of asking whether any other companies have boats like Wyvern, if not, which type of stern would be most suitable for us? Clearly traditional is out, but I am unclear whether we would find the cruiser or semi-traditional stern to be the most comfortable for all of us to be outside together most of the day. And given that I may be doing the lion's share of steering, what type of boat would be the least physically taxing?  I am assuming the shorter the boat, the easier it will be to steer. Is that true? Ours was 45 ft from Wyvern and that was fine.

 

Thanks!

Most hire boats are cruiser sterns and some are semi-traditional. Traditional sterns are not common on hire boats, partly because they are properly associated with boats with internal engine rooms rather than those with engines housed under the rear deck as almost all hire boats have. Modern traditional sterns are a sort of half way house with the engine usually boxed in beneath the steerers feet but impinging into the rear of the cabin which can restrict access. Not good for hire boats.

 

Wyvern boats are fairly distinctive with the boxes and lack of guard rails. Semi-traditional sterns are intended to look like traditional sterns while offering the benefit of cruiser sterns in terms of the sociability. The problem is that the seats aren't that comfortable because the back slopes inward. Napton Narrowboats have tried to solve this with sterns that are a bit of a combination of both and have seats at the side with railings. In fact I have just checked their website and they even now have tables in the middle of the rear deck! I think you would be fine with one of these boats.

 

www.napton-marina.co.uk

 

JP

 

 

Edited by Captain Pegg

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From what you have described in terms of stern type preference, I think semi-trad would work well for you.  Union Canal Carriers have some,  https://unioncanalcarriers.co.uk/

 

As mentioned Napton Narrowboats have a hybrid type between semi-trad and cruiser http://www.napton-marina.co.uk/

 

Either of those would work for the South Oxford canal.

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On 14 October 2018 at 10:27, OldGoat said:

 

Rugby to market harborough, nice scenic route, two long tunnels and a couple of staircase locks, with lock keepers to help you. I would reccomend it.nice towns on the way, and a very safe environment.

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On 21/10/2018 at 17:09, Captain Pegg said:

Most hire boats are cruiser sterns and some are semi-traditional. Traditional sterns are not common on hire boats, partly because they are properly associated with boats with internal engine rooms rather than those with engines housed under the rear deck as almost all hire boats have. Modern traditional sterns are a sort of half way house with the engine usually boxed in beneath the steerers feet but impinging into the rear of the cabin which can restrict access. Not good for hire boats.

 

Wyvern boats are fairly distinctive with the boxes and lack of guard rails. Semi-traditional sterns are intended to look like traditional sterns while offering the benefit of cruiser sterns in terms of the sociability. The problem is that the seats aren't that comfortable because the back slopes inward. Napton Narrowboats have tried to solve this with sterns that are a bit of a combination of both and have seats at the side with railings. In fact I have just checked their website and they even now have tables in the middle of the rear deck! I think you would be fine with one of these boats.

 

www.napton-marina.co.uk

 

JP

 

 

 

We are planning a narrowboat cruise for next June and are looking for some of the same things as you...beautiful scenery, enough locks to be interesting but not so many as to be a chore, and interesting things to do/see along the way.  There are a lot of great suggestions in this thread and I'm wondering what route you ultimately chose...
Also, I too have been wondering about the stern and considering long days at the helm with no where for the skipper or company to sit.  It will just be two of us so I think the stern will be the primary hang-out location during the day.  I just love the design of the stern on this Napton Narrowboat.  Does anyone know of other hire companies with similar seating at the stern?

 

large.regency_rear_deck.jpg.9a088ce271cdb4f8e96d906d76578f94.jpglarge.rear_deck.jpg.8360b762ce49e0e688bd3d6cfcf43799.jpg

Edited by smwhitaker

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10 hours ago, smwhitaker said:
 

We are planning a narrowboat cruise for next June and are looking for some of the same things as you...beautiful scenery, enough locks to be interesting but not so many as to be a chore, and interesting things to do/see along the way.  There are a lot of great suggestions in this thread and I'm wondering what route you ultimately chose...
Also, I too have been wondering about the stern and considering long days at the helm with no where for the skipper or company to sit.  It will just be two of us so I think the stern will be the primary hang-out location during the day.  I just love the design of the stern on this Napton Narrowboat.  Does anyone know of other hire companies with similar seating at the stern?

 

large.regency_rear_deck.jpg.9a088ce271cdb4f8e96d906d76578f94.jpglarge.rear_deck.jpg.8360b762ce49e0e688bd3d6cfcf43799.jpg

I think that post was just information in answer to a query. I have hired in various places over many years but other than one trip to the Kennet & Avon it’s all been centred around the narrow canals of the Midlands. To me those are the archetypal English canals. I note you have started a thread of your own on the subject. I often give a view based on my own experience and particularly in relation to questions regarding the Midlands canals on such threads. Your thread is broad so I have deliberately avoided throwing more suggestions in to the mix that are unlikely to help you make a decision.

 

JP

 

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Napton NBs were the first and IIRC the only hire boats to have an extended cruiser stern in their range, but then they cater for large 'crews' on their boats.

When cruising I've never seen the whole 'company'  assembled on the rear deck at once! It seems to be split some on the foredeck and some at the stern.

However, for you a cruiser stern may work well. My vies of a semi-trad are different... (worst of both worlds - unless, again OK if the sides are replaced by lower railings - as they are on some of Napton's smaller boats. It's possible to sit on the seats without the sides catching your shoulder blades! 

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