Cruise 2: Coventry to Stratford upon Avon - 9 nights starting on Wednesday 25th April 2019
68 miles , 77 locks, 3 tunnels and a spectacular aqueduct
Coventry Arm, Sutton Stop, Anker Valley, Atherstone Flight, Birmingham and Fazeley, CanalGrand Union Canal, Stratford Canal, Forest of Arden, Wilmcote, Stratford upon Avon and Shakespeare Country
Travel down the intimate Stratford Canal to the heart of Shakespeare country.
We leave the basin in Coventry and begin making our way along the canal towards the edge of the city. The canal here survived the bombing of Coventry during the blitz and, when at risk of closure, was saved by volunteers who fought to keep it open. Our course passes many works of art which have been installed along the towpath, to make an art trail which adds much interest, as we cruise from urban town to rural countryside, all the way to Hawkesbury Junction.
The Coventry Canal travels past old quarries, some used as far back as Roman times. After a flight of locks at Atherstone, we head through a long, lock free section past glorious farmland, which brings us through Polesworth and pretty wooded sections. We eventually descend two locks at Glascote and come to the junction at Fazeley, where we turn southwards and start our journey into the outskirts of Birmingham. Here we have a chance to spot the varied wildlife which is attracted to the flooded gravel pits, before we finally reach the outskirts of Birmingham. We travel through Salford and Bordesley junctions and then head back out of the city on The Grand Union Canal.
Having experienced the only broad locks on this cruise, the attractive Knowle flight, we negotiate the tricky turns of Kingswood Junction and join the Stratford canal. This canal stands out as being full of character with its cast iron aqueducts, barrel roofed cottages, split bridges and pretty scenery. Frequent locks, as well as the flights at Lapworth and Wilmcote, bring us down into the Avon valley, through the Forest of Arden.
Although a helping hand is always welcome, you are free to sit back and enjoy the scenery, or the walk between locks provides good opportunities to stretch your legs. Our final destination is Bancroft Basin in the heart of historic Stratford and, overlooked by the Royal Shakespeare Company Theatre, we come to journeys end.
Cruise 3: Stratford upon Avon to Gas Street Basin - 7 nights starting on Tuesday 7th May 2019
48 miles, 70 locks, 4 tunnels and a magnificent aqueduct
Stratford upon Avon, Stratford Canal, Forest of Arden, Wilmcote, Kingswood Junction, Lapworth Flight, Brandwood Tunnel, King's Norton Junction, Worcester and Birmingham Canal, Old Main Line, Black Country Museum, New Main Line, Gas Street Basin
From Shakespeare’s birthplace to the centre of the industrial revolution.
Having soaked up the atmosphere of Stratford, we travel up the canal with its cast iron aqueducts, barrel roofed cottages, and split bridges. Pretty scenery surrounds us through a selection of exclusive Warwickshire villages, such as Wilmcote, the location of Mary Arden’s House, and the Forest of Arden. Many and frequent locks provide good opportunities for stretching your legs and, although a helping hand is always welcome, there is no obligation to work, as the crew take the boats through the narrow locks.
At Kingswood Junction we stay on the Stratford Canal. We make our way through the perfect bow hauling locks at Lapworth, where the top of one lock is only yards from the bottom of the next. The final twelve miles of the Stratford Canal are lock free, rural at first before entering the residential outskirts of Birmingham. Passing through the unique guillotine stop lock that marks the end of the Stratford canal we approach King’s Norton junction where we turn towards the centre of Birmingham.
Rail and canal share this route into the city, passing through the centre of the Bournville chocolate factory. We enjoy fine views from the Edgbaston embankment of Birmingham University and the residential splendour of this suburb. The railway now makes it way to New Street station, whilst we make a sharp left to pass through Worcester Bar and Gas Street Basin.
To cross the city to Dudley we have to choose between Brindley and Telford, the Old and New Main Line. Each has its attractions; crossroads, junctions, flyovers, sliproads, nature and industry. In Dudley we’ll spend the night at the Black Country Museum moorings ready for our visit the next day. Finally we cross the city once more, back to Gas Street, for the final night of the cruise.
Cruise 4: Gas Street Basin to Gas Street Basin - 7 nights starting on Thursday 16th May 2019
42 miles and 52 locks
The Birmingham main line, Wyrley and Essington Canal, Daw End Branch, Rushall Canal, Tame Valley Canal and the Birmingham and Fazely.
Explore the industrial heart of the English canal system on this tour of the BCN.
Cruise 5: Gas Street Basin to Nantwich - 7 nights starting on Saturday 25th May 2019
55 miles and 53 locks
Gas Street Basin, Old Main Line, Wolverhampton Flight, Shropshire Union Canal, Woodeaves Cutting, Tyrley Locks, Audlem flight, Nantwich.
From the heart of Birmingham to Elizabethan Nantwich through the beautiful Shropshire countryside.
Leaving the apartments, fashionable shops, cafes and bars of Birmingham centre behind, we head west on the New Main Line. Telford’s nineteenth century improvements, with their impressive cuttings, embankments and aquaducts, speeds us through the city to Factory Junction where we rejoin Brindley’s Old Main Line and head north towards Wolverhampton.
Having navigated the 21 locks of the Wolverhampton flight, we make a brief journey on the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal. Making the turn at Autherly Juction we pass through the stop lock which marks the beginning of the ‘Shroppie’. The Shropshire Union Canal is another prime example of Telford’s engineering, straight and wide, employing cuttings and embankments to level the route whenever the landscape refuses to cooperate.
We pass through the lovely towns of Brewood, Wheaton Aston and Gnosall on this relatively lock free section, enjoying the long views over the open countryside from our elevated position. The short aqueduct over Watling Street and the boater’s hub of Norbury Junction adding extra interest to our journey. The easy life comes to an end as we approach Market Drayton and make our way down the first of three pretty flights of locks.
Tyrley and Adderley flights, of five locks each, get us back into practice for the fifteen at Audlem. Perhaps the promise of two good canalside pubs at the bottom of the flight will keep our spirits up? We head back into the countryside for our approach to Nantwich, passing through our final two locks at Hack Green, before finding our last mooring on the outskirts of the town.
Cruise 6: Nantwich to Llangollen - 7 nights starting on Monday 3rd of June 2019
46 mile and 21 locks
Hurleston Locks, Wrenbury, Grindley Brook Staircase, Ellesmere, Chirk Tunnel and Aqueduct, Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, Llangollen.
Dramatic engineering and peaceful countryside on this journey from England to Wales.
Leaving our mooring on the embankment overlooking Nantwich, a short journey north on the Shropshire Union brings us to Hurleston and the junction with the Llangollen Canal, where we ascend the flight of four locks, often in heavy crosswinds. We cruise through farmland, and infrequent locks and lift bridges to the flight at Grindley Brook and its steep three lock staircase, where the lock keepers ensure the smooth flow of traffic.
We then pass through more gentle countryside, and wooden lift bridges of a design more typical in Holland. We cruise alongside Wixhall Moss, Britain’s third largest upland bog and have pretty views out across Shropshire’s Lake District, before mooring in the adorable, small town of Ellesmere.
Beyond Ellesmere, we cruise along sections of canal with views far out over rural farmland and pass the staircase lock at Frankton and the junction with the Montgomery Canal. North of here, we pass through the last locks at New Martin. The aqueduct at Chirk marks the beginning of some spectacular scenery and our entry into Wales.
Through the long Chirk Tunnel, we eventually reach the climax of this cruise, the famous landmark of the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which stands 120 ft high and crosses the expanse of the Dee Valley. This lead us up the pretty, narrow and shallow stretch along the side of the valley, to the tourist town of Llangollen itself. There is time to explore, maybe take a trip on the steam railway or sit and enjoy a drink looking out over the white waters of the Dee river.
Cruise 7: Llangollen to Nantwich via the Montgomery - 8 nights starting on Tuesday 11th June 2019
61 miles and 31 locks
The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, Chirk Tunnel & Aqueduct, Frankton Locks, The peaceful Montgomery, Grindley Brook Staircase Locks, Wrenbury, Hurleston Locks.
Dramatic engineering and peaceful countryside on this journey from Wales to England.
Our first morning is spent making our way along the sides of the Dee Valley, down the narrow and shallow upper stretch of this canal. We eventually arrive at Trevor Basin and turn to cross the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, 120ft above the valley floor, on what is possibly Telford’s finest piece of engineering. We continue along the other side of the valley, before crossing the watershed into the Cerriog valley through Whitehouse Tunnel, and then into the long, dark Chirk Tunnel. Chirk aqueduct runs parallel to the arches of the viaduct and is our crossing place at the Welsh Border into England.
New Martin signals the first locks of this cruise, and through the softer contours of England we progress down to Frankton where we join the Montgomery Canal, to enjoy the peaceful surroundings of this completely rural canal. There are strict limits on the number of boats allowed into this area to ensure the local array of flora and fauna are not disturbed. We can explore the newly opened section of this canal on foot, beyond Maesbury which will bring us back to within just a few hundred yards of the Welsh border and the unrestored miles to Welshpool. We work our way back up to the Llangollen main line and cruise to the small town of Ellesmere and past the meres, formed in the ice ages, which fringe the canals’ route. From here we pass through the upland bog of Whixall Moss, before passing through several lift bridges whose design is more commonly seen in Holland. Gentle, rolling countryside brings us to the triple staircase lock at Grindley Brook with its canal side shop. From here we descend for the last part of the Llangollen Canal, through flat Cheshire farmland to Hurleston Junction. Here we turn right onto the wider course of the Shropshire Union and travel the short distance to Nantwich.
Cruise 8: Nantwich to Whaley Bridge - 8 nights starting onThursday 20th June 2019
59 miles and 48 locks
The Shropshire Union Canal, the Middlewich Branch, Cheshire Paired locks, Hardings Wood Junction, Macclesfield Canal, Bosley Locks, Marple Junction, Peak Forest canal, Bugsworth Basin.
From the Cheshire plains to the Peak District on five unique canals.
We leave Nantwich Basin for a short boat through flat Cheshire countryside as we travel north on The Shropshire Union Canal. At Barbridge we turn on to the Middlewich branch and make our way east towards Middlewich itself. Four infrequent locks bring us through quiet and remote countryside on this scenic link canal. We cross the River Weaver by aqueduct and have superb views of the river and of Winsford Top Flash. At Middlewich we turn right on to The Trent and Mersey. At Wheelock we begin our ascent of the twenty-five paired locks, known as ‘Heartbreak Hill’. Originally all paired most have undergone restoration recently and the butty and motor rise in the locks adjacent to each other, with ropes linking them up again for towing to the next pair of locks.
This brings us to the junction with the Macclesfield Canal where we immediately cross the Trent and Mersey over Poole Aqueduct. On our right is Mow Cop, the first folly castle of its type in England. At Bosley we encounter twelve of the thirteen locks on the Macclesfield in a single flight overlooked by a large hill known as the ‘Cloud’. Each lock has a cast iron bridge over the tail which has grooves cut into it from years of boats being hauled out on ropes. Winding along the summit level at 500ft the navigation follows the contours of the upland country crossing several valleys on embankments and aqueducts.
There are stretches of canal that have a beautiful isolation to them along our route before Marple marks the end of The Macclesfield Canal. No need to descend the flight of sixteen here, as we continue along the upper section of the Peak Forest Canal towards Whaley Bridge, taking in the dramatic and mountainous scenery of the Peak District hills as we go. We cling to the steep wooded sides of the Goyt Valley for the last leg of our cruise, taking a short detour down the arm of Bugsworth Basin to see the last remaining example of a canal and tramway terminus before we arrive at Whaley Bridge.
Cruise 9: Whaley Bridge to Stoke on Trent via the Caldon - 9 nights starting on Saturday 29th June 2019
65 miles and 37 locks
Bugsworth Basin, Peak Forest Canal, Marple Junction, Bosley Locks, Macclesfield Canal, Hardings Wood Junction, Caldon Canal, Churnet Valley Steam Railway (if available), Leek Branch.
Peaks, valleys and industrial heritage on this four canal cruise.
Our first night on this cruise will be spent at the atmospheric Bugsworth basin, the transhipment terminus which has been carefully restored with its many alcoves and wharves. We then make our way along the Goyt valley with magnificent views of the Peak District around us, to Marple where we turn left to avoid the flight of sixteen locks and cruise instead along the Macclesfield Canal.
The turnover bridges on this waterway are a unique and attractive feature. At Bollington we cross the valley on a stone aqueduct and continue past the houses, built in the same local grey stone, towards Macclesfield, which we skirt. The scenery is secluded and peaceful, with wooded sections interchanging with open farmland just the other side of the hedgerows, which follow the towpath until we reach the twelve locks at Bosley, the only flight of locks with split gates top and bottom. As we rise in the locks we are overlooked by the hill known as ‘The Cloud’ and beyond, the timber framed Moreton Hall and folly of Mow Cop. Each lock here has a cast iron bridge at the tail of the lock with grooves worn into the underside from the hauling lines of horse boats and buttys over the years. Some stunning views can be seen from the Porters Farm Aqueduct near Congleton.
A shallow stop lock, once the separation between different canal company waters, brings us to the junction with the Trent and Mersey, where we make a sharp right turn and join the queue for Harecastle Tunnel. At 3000yds long, and narrow, boats must take turns to navigate in each direction. We emerge in Stoke and make our way the short distance to Etruria, where we climb the staircase locks onto The Caldon Canal and begin making our way out of Stoke past old Bottle Kilns and new development. Beyond Milton we emerge into rolling countryside and climb the five locks of Stockton Brook, which bring us into lovely pleasant farmland. At Hazelhurst junction the canal splits and we descend the three locks here and cruise to Cheddleton and past the old flint mill. Two locks here and a further three attractive and isolated locks bring us to the valley floor and we cruise alongside and eventually onto the River Churnet. The scenery of this section is stunning and unspoilt with thickly wooded valley sides encroaching to the canal. The Churnet Valley Steam Railway may be running and our journey along this beautiful valley could be accompanied by the wonderful sound of the steam whistle. We boat just beyond Consall Forge to Flint Lock, parallel with the railway, cruising underneath the platform at one point. We must turn in the last 70ft winding hole, just one mile shy of the terminus at Froghall. We rise back up the locks along this branch and at Hazelhurst Junction turn onto the Leek Branch which offers another stunning and secluded canal, as we see the Churnet Valley from higher up. As we emerge from Leek Tunnel we are surrounded by rolling countryside and some of the best scenery of the network. From here we must turn and make our way back along the canal into Stoke.
This cruise is perfect for keen walkers, wanderers and scenery lovers alike, with frequent places to get on and off and the opportunity to spend some time enjoying the Peak District before or after.
Cruise 10: Stoke on Trent to Coventry - 9 nights starting on Wednesday 9th July 2019
70 miles and 31 locks
Etruria, Meaford Flight, Stone, Great Haywood Junction, Trent and Mersey Canal, Fradley Junction, Atherstone Locks, Hawkesbury Junction, Coventry Canal, Coventry Arm.
Lively canal junctions, rural seclusion and plenty of good old English pubs!
Leaving our Etruria mooring, we immediately turn south to make our way down the first lock of the Stoke flight. Leaving the city behind, we pass through another short flight of locks at Measford, before passing through the boaters’ town of Stone. We’re into the countryside now where intermittent locks allow us to stretch our legs. We see the River Trent, which winds its course close to ours, accompanying us past Shugborough Hall, The Haywoods and Cannock Chase. Once we’ve passed the town of Rugely and the Armitage Shanks factory, it’s rural seclusion once more as we make our way to the busy canal hub at Fradley Junction.
We’re on the Coventry Canal now, following the course of the River Tame toward Fazeley Junction and Glascote Locks. A long, lock free section takes us past glorious farmland and through pretty wooded sections to the Atherstone flight. With the last locks out of the way it’s alternating countryside and suburbs as we make our way to Hawkesbury Junction. We ignore the turn onto the popular Oxford Canal and instead make our way down the little used Coventry arm. The canal here survived the bombing of Coventry during the blitz and, when at risk of closure, was saved by volunteers who fought to keep it open. Our course passes many works of art which have been installed along the tow path to make an art trail which adds much interest, as we cruise from a rural to an urban environment, all the way to our final mooring in the centre of Coventry.
Cruise 11: Coventry to Warwick - 6 nights starting on Saturday 20th July 2019
47 miles and 29 locks
Coventry Arm, Coventry Canal, Hawkesbury Junction, North Oxford Canal, Hillmorton paired Locks, Braunston Turn, Grand Union Canal, Stockton Locks, Bascote Locks, Cape Locks.
Contrast the twisty North Oxford with the straight and wide Grand Union.
We leave the basin in Coventry and begin making our way along the canal towards the edge of the city. The canal here survived the bombing of Coventry during the blitz and, when at risk of closure, was saved by volunteers who fought to keep it open. Our course passes many works of art which have been installed along the tow path to make an art trail which adds much interest, as we cruise from an urban to a rural environment, all the way to Hawkesbury Junction, with its pubs and old engine house.
We pass through the stop lock that marks the beginning of the Oxford canal for a stretch of lock free cruising through the open countryside, although bridges under the M69 and M6 provide reminders of the busy world off the cut. Many of the abandoned arms on this stretch are graced with beautifully preserved Horseley Iron Works bridges. We also travel over a few small aqueducts designed by canal pioneer James Brindley. After passing through Rugby, we see another of the innovations designed to speed boats on their way; the three sets of paired locks at Hillmorton. If the traffic is in our favour you’ll see our pair glide through these locks, separating at just the right moment to allow both boats to enter their own lock!
At Braunston Junction we turn towards Warwick on the wide and deep Grand Union. Flights at Calcutt and Stockton allow us to show how a boating pair makes good use of the double locks on this canal. Finally, we pass below the old Roman Fosse Way and make our way back into town. We pass through the spa town of Leamington, before reaching our final destination in historic Warwick.
Cruise 12: Warwick to Warwick - 10 nights starting on Monday 29th July 2019
100 miles and 83 locks
Saltisford Arm, Stockton Flight, Braunston, Hill Morton Locks, Newbold Tunnel, Atherstone Locks, Knowle, Hatton locks
Lots of interest and variation, with wide, narrow and paired locks; industrial Birmingham contrasted with beautiful Warwickshire countryside.
We leave Warwick and make our way towards Leamington Spa. This canal is wide and a good depth and we make good speed, as we rise up through the Foss Locks, crossing under the Roman road. Stockton and Calcutt Locks bring us up to the level, which takes us all the way through Braunston, travelling through peaceful countryside to Hill Morton on the North Oxford Canal. We descend swiftly down Hill Morton’s paired locks, before travelling along a straightened section of canal, which takes us through Rugby. Winding our way towards Newbold Tunnel on the outskirts of Rugby, we can see the occasional old iron bridge marking the original route of the canal. We then reach Hawkesbury Junction, otherwise known as Sutton Stop, where there might be a chance for a quick pint in the Greyhound pub, before we turn under the fine black and white iron bridge and travel up the Coventry Canal towards Atherstone. The canal travels past old quarries here, some used as far back as Roman times, which have now been transformed into nature reserves. At Harts Hill we have magnificent views across the Anker valley.
The flight of locks at Atherstone eases our passage with their original hooks, which allow us to use a block to get the butty moving out of the locks, and at least one working side pound. At Fazeley Junction we turn and head through quiet and attractive open farmland. Here we have a chance to spot the varied wildlife which is attracted to the flooded gravel pits, before we finally reach the outskirts of Birmingham. We travel through Salford and Bordesley Junctions and then head back out of Birmingham on the Grand Union Canal, which takes us down towards Knowle. Our final obstacle before we reach Warwick is the flight of twenty-one locks at Hatton, but we are rewarded with views over the castle and city of Warwick from the top, and a swift descent through its wide locks.
Please be aware this cruise may be done in the reverse direction.
Cruise 13 Warwick to Tring - 8 nights starting on Friday 9th August 2019
77 miles and 70 locks
Bascote staircase, Stockton flight, Napton Junction, Braunston Tunnel, Blisworth tunnel, National Waterways Museum, Ouzel Valley, the Chilterns, Marsworth junction, summit at Tring.
Walking and lock wheeling on the M40 of the canal system.
We leave Warwick and make our way towards Leamington Spa. This canal is wide and a good depth and we make good speed as we rise up through the Foss Locks crossing under the Roman road. The flights at Bascote, Stockton and Calcutt bring us to Napton Junction, where we can see the windmill on Napton Hill. We take a left turn at the junction on to a lock free section of the Oxford Canal towards the busy hub at Braunston. At the turn, we pass under a beautiful iron sided bridge and leave the Oxford Canal to make its way northward, whilst we head towards Braunston village. We tackle the locks and make our way to the 2042 yard Braunston tunnel. At Norton Junction we ignore the temptation of the Leicester Canal and head towards the Long Buckby flight, sharing the route with both the M1 motorway and the old Roman road, Watling Street, for a few miles, before turning south to the town of Weedon with its Napoleonic armoury.
We now enter a long lock free section of the canal, making its way through the beautiful Northamptonshire countryside, towards Gaydon Junction and the half mile long Blisworth Tunnel. Exiting the tunnel, it’s a short cruise to Stoke Bruerne, a village split in two by the canal, with its waterside pubs and canal museum. We cross the River Ouzel on the Iron Trunk aqueduct and pass through Old Wolverton with its derelict brick warehouses. We skirt Milton Keynes and Bletchley before heading into the countryside once more. At Stoke Hammond Lock, we pass under an excellent example of a double arched bridge, a reminder of the time when this section of the Grand Union had paired locks to speed the flow of traffic. After the short Soulbury flight we follow the railway into Leighton Buzzard. Leaving the town, but not the railway line, we head towards Marsworth Junction and the Chiltern Hills. The increasing number of locks here show that we are heading upwards once more. At the popular Marsworth flight we pass a number of reservoirs built to provide water for the Grand Union. Having reached the Tring Summit, we head for our final mooring!
Cruise 14: Tring to Little Venice - 9 nights starting on Monday 19th August 2019
62 miles and 62 locks
Tring Cutting, Grand Union, Limehouse Basin, Islington & Maida Hill Tunnels, Regents Park, Little Venice, London.
Explore England’s capital city from the water and appreciate its architecture and heritage from a whole new, peaceful, angle.
We say goodbye to Tring, and pass along a wooded cutting, before leaving the summit down the Cowroast Lock. We start our descent into London, passing through Berkhampstead and Hemel Hempstead to the beautiful wooded Cassiobury Park, with its ornate bridges and elusive kingfishers. At Rickmansworth we reach a small, volunteer run, canal centre at Batchworth Lock, before we pass near to Denham Village, which is well worth the ¾ mile walk to visit. Passing through Uxbridge Lock, with its fine turnover bridge, we leave the countryside behind and enter the outskirts of the city.
We start our descent from the Chiltern Hills down the Colne Valley until we reach Cowley Lock. This marks the start of a twenty-seven mile lock free pound, which will take us through the suburbs into the centre of London. We cruise through varied surroundings of countryside, suburbia and industry, in a relatively relaxed manner, considering we are in the very heart of England’s largest and busiest city. We have views of Wembley Stadium and of the many boats who call this waterway their home. As we cross the busy North Circular Road by aqueduct, we are given a vivid reminder of just how peaceful the canal is in comparison. We cruise along the Regents Canal, through a short tunnel at Maida Vale and through the middle of London Zoo beyond. From our route on the water we can see some of the animals as well as the famous aviary, designed by Queen Elizabeth II’s brother-in-law, Lord Snowdon. Grand mansions line Regents Park along here and the atmosphere is very regal. Next comes Primrose Hill, the bustling market of Camden Town, and Kentish Town. The Islington Tunnel here is nearly 1000 yards long. The canal along here is backed by houses and factories which give the impression of being in a world all of our own. The landscape turns more industrial as we approach Limehouse where we will tie in the seclusion of the basin overnight. We then explore the Olympic Park on the Bow Loop before turning back and heading towards Little Venice and beyond along the Paddington Arm.
Cruise 15: Weybridge to Reading, via the River Wey - 7 nights starting on Monday 2nd September 2019
72 miles and 41 locks
The River Wey, one of the earliest navigations in Britain, Dapdune Wharf, Guilford, Windsor, Henley, Reading.
Travel the National Trust’s River Wey, then join the Thames for a trip through the Berkshire countryside.
Leaving our Thames mooring, we join the truly lovely River Wey, which is in the ownership of the National Trust and provides a priceless rural lung and refuge from the busy surrounds of Surrey. Heading upstream, we enter into much more rural surroundings passing the imposing Coxes Mill, past Pyrford which is a short walk from the RHS Wisley Gardens. The deserted Priory at Newark can be seen in glimpses from our ascent through one of the pretty locks on this river. At Papercourt Lock, there is an idyllic cottage and weir, a perfect picturesque spot. Soon we reach Guildford, a town that makes the most of its river, where the cathedral stands on a hill overlooking the town. We may wind here, or we might cruise the final section to Godalming before heading back downstream to rejoin the Thames.
Heading upstream towards Windsor, we pass some interesting Thames islands: Holm Island where Edward and Mrs Simpson maintained a romantic hide-away and Magna Carta Island where Edward III entertained Louis VIII of France. We make our way past Datchet and Old Windsor until, around Ham Island, we have our first glimpse of the imposing bulk of Windsor Castle. We make our way through town, dodging trip boats and rowers to a quieter stretch of the river. Heading north we finally reach Georgian Marlow and the quintessentially English town of Henley on Thames.
Attractive houseboats, islands and expensive waterside houses are on every side as we continue upstream, passing the towns and villages of Berkshire. Eventually we pass under the 18th century bridge at Sonning, with its willow shrouded mill and find our final mooring in the heart of Reading
Cruise 16: Reading to Bath - 9 nights starting on Tuesday 10th September 2019
78 miles and 99 locks.
The River Kennet, Newbury, Hungerford, Crofton Flight, Devizes, Caen Hill Flight, Bradford-on-Avon, Avoncliffe and Dundas Aqueducts, Avon Valley, Bath.
All the way from the Kennet to the Avon!
We leave our Thames mooring and immediately turn on to the Kennet, battling the fast current. We make our way through The Oracle, a shiny modern shopping complex, as we endeavour to leave Reading behind. This canalised route has the river winding in and out, and changes from river to man made scenery seamlessly below each of the locks. The locks are infrequent and vary in dimensions and appearance making each one of unique interest and the towpath on this stretch provide many opportunities for a gentle stroll, whilst the crew are kept busy with infrequent swing bridges, some rural, others electric, where roads cross the waterway.
We pass through a quiet corner of Newbury to the Vale of Pewsey where frequent locks raise us slowly to the summit of the K and A. The River Kennet is never far away and some of southern England’s most picturesque villages can be explored from the tow path. Crofton Locks take us the rest of the way to the short summit section and the only tunnel on this navigation. Wooten Locks mark the gentle start to our descent, with a long, lock free, section through Honeystreet allowing us to rest up before the twenty-nine locks of the Caen Hill flight.
Now in the Avon watershed, we pass many attractive Wiltshire towns and villages, Bathampton, Avoncliff, Bradford, Semmington and Seend. Swing bridges and impressive stone aqueducts mark our journey into Bath. We make our final mooring on Bathwick Hill alongside beautiful limestone houses, with views across the valley of the stunning Georgian architecture which has given this city UNESCO World Heritage status.
Cruise 17: Bath to Bristol, via Devises - 7 nights starting on Friday 20th September 2019
60 miles and 36 locks
Bath, Avon Valley, Avoncliffe and Dundas Aqueducts, Bradford-on-Avon, Caen Hill Flight, Devizes, The River Avon and Bristol.
Two beautiful cities to explore and the best of the Kennet and Avon Canal.
We leave our mooring by the stunning houses of Bathwick Hill. Winding our way along, we have views across the valley to the Georgian housing which lines the valley sides of this city, as well as many interesting and unusual boats which tie along this stretch. At Dundas Wharf we meet the junction with the Somersetshire Coal Canal, before turning and crossing the valley on the fully restored Dundas Aqueduct, built from local Bath stone. We cruise through wooded slopes before crossing the valley again at Avoncliff aqueduct where the architecturally rich but compact town of Bradford on Avon first comes in to view. Occasional locks and swing bridges break our journey towards Devizes where, within view of the Caen flight, we turn and set off back to the River Avon.
Leaving the canal through the cavernous Bath Deep Lock, we make a brief trip through the centre of Bath to view the beautiful Palladian Falls. Leaving the city, our river cruise begins in earnest. The countryside is gentle and beautiful with many wooded sections – kingfishers are common, so keep a keen lookout! The river locks are highly scenic, with distinctive stone sides – the lock at Swineford is particularly spectacular.
We leave the river at Netham and make our way into Bristol, passing underneath Temple Meads Station’s many tracks. We cruise through the docks area, past tall ships, dutch barges and fishing boats, many of which have been converted for living on and which offer a contrast to our own narrow craft. Our final mooring is opposite the gloriously restored SS Great Britain, right in the centre of the city.
Cruise 18: Bristol to Newbury - 9 nights starting on Saturday 28th September 2019
73 miles and 85 locks
Bristol, the River Avon, Avoncliffe and Dundas Aqueducts, Bath, Bradford-on-Avon, Caen Hill Flight, Devizes, Crofton Flight, Hungerford, Newbury, The River Kennet.
All the way from the Avon to the Kennet!
We start this cruise from our mooring opposite the imposing figure of SS Great Britain in all her restored glory and begin cruising up through the docks area, past tall ships, dutch barges, fishing boats, many of which have been converted for living on and which offer some contrast to the small narrow boats which navigate the canal network. We travel underneath Temple Meads Station with its many tracks and as we leave the harbour through the flood gates which protect the it from spring tides, we find ourselves on the river and quickly at our first river lock.
This stretch is a peaceful one, as we cruise up the meandering river to Keynsham through wooded sections. Kingfishers are often sighted here, so keep your eyes peeled! The locks on this river have distinctive stone sides making them highly characterful and scenic, with Swineford being a particular highlight. They fit in perfectly with the beautiful surroundings and the distances between them make them good for stretching your legs should you wish to. Finally the gentle countryside gives way to the view of Bath ahead and we cruise up the last stretch of river into the city, where we will explore up to the start of navigation at the beautiful Palladian Falls. We enter the waiting mouth of the cavernous Bath Deep Lock, which takes us up onto the Kennet and Avon Canal.
From Bathwick Hill we can see the stunning Georgian architecture across the valley, which has given this city UNESCO World Heritage status. A relaxed journey brings us out of the city, past an array of interesting craft which call this canal their home. We journey through Bathampton and beyond, to the old stone feature of Dundas aqueduct, a wonderful feat of engineering, clinging high to the valley sides. This is the first of many on this canal, where the canal crosses the river and follows the Avon valley, . At Avoncliff, another large stone aqueduct takes us back to the other side of the valley and the lovely town of Bradford on Avon. We travel past many attractive villages overlooking the canal. At Semmington and Seend, we cruise under a number of swing bridges, which need to be opened by crew. The locks at Foxhangers marks the beginning of our rise up and brings us to the bottom of the Caen Hill flight, where we see the twenty-nine wide locks stretch up the hill ahead like a spine. The crew are kept busy for a few hours and then, from the top, we have wonderful views back over Wiltshire.
A well deserved rest can be had on the long lock free section above, which takes us through Honeystreet. Finally we reach seven locks at Wooten Rivers which take us the last leg up to the summit level, a short section of just a few miles with Bruce Tunnel in the middle. Crofton Locks bring us down the other side and past the historic beam pumping station, built to pump water up to the canals summit. Travelling through the Vale of Pewsey the River Kennet is never far away and several of southern England’s most picturesque villages can be explored. Frequent locks bring us steadily down to lower ground over the course of a day, making this a good day for walking. Finally we approach our last mooring in Westmills, a quiet corner of busy Newbury.
Cruise 19: Newbury to Oxford - 7 nights starting on Tuesday 8th October 2019
58 miles and 35 locks
Newbury, the River Kennet, Reading, The Thames, Wallingford, Abingdon, Oxfords’s Spires.
The best of the lower Thames!
We leave our mooring in a quiet corner of busy Newbury and head downstream towards the Thames. The locks are infrequent and vary in dimensions and appearance making each one of unique interest, and the towpath on this stretch to Reading provides many opportunities for a stroll. There are frequent swing bridges, some rural and others electric, where roads cross the waterway. Reaching Reading, we motor through the middle of the impressive Oracle shopping centre before joining the Thames, where we turn into the current.
Pangbourne, Shillingford Bridge, Wallingford and Abingdon all pass by as we fight the current. There are many wonderful lawns and gardens to admire which stretch down to the water’s edge, with boathouses and row boats making the views very different to anything you see on the canals. At every lock we are welcomed by lock keepers and there are quite a variety of different craft to be seen, from small punts to large passenger boats.
Christchurch Meadows come next, with its university boathouses and rowers, before the spires of Oxford appear through the mists. We make our way through the city and head upstream to Port Meadow before reaching our first lock. The low bridge of Osney Island in Oxford ensures only low, small boats can navigate this part of the river and it is extremely quiet and peaceful. This is very much ‘Wind in the Willows’ country, as the river winds its way through farmland and reed lined banks, skimming under medieval limestone bridges as we journey along. If you are keen eyed you may even be lucky enough to spot the otters which have recently been re-introduced to this area. How well we’ve done earlier will determine how far upstream we reach, before we turn back downstream for our final mooring in Oxford centre.
Cruise 20: Oxford to Banbury via the Upper Thames - 5 nights starting on Thursday 17th October 2019
33 miles and 19 locks
The spires of Oxford, The Upper Thames, Dukes Cut, South Oxford Canal, Thrupp, The Cherwell River, Somerton Deep Lock.
A lovely rural cruise with intermittent locks. An excellent introduction to canal boating!
We leave our riverside mooring on the west edge of Oxford and head upstream. Due to the low bridge at Osney Lock, only smaller vessels can make their way on to the upper Thames so it’s extremely quiet and peaceful. This is very much ‘Wind in the Willows’ country as the river winds its way through farmland and reed lined banks, skimming under medieval limestone bridges as we journey along. If you are keen eyed you may even be lucky enough to spot the otters which have recently been re-introduced to this area.
After spending the night on the river, we make our way back to Duke’s Cut and on to the canal. Having bypassed the rich suburbs of Oxford, along with the somewhat bohemian canal side moorings, we head north, skirting Kidlington, before heading to the traditional boatman’s stop of Thrupp.
The remainder of our journey follows the Cherwell Valley, where we share our route with the river and the railway. Leaving Thrupp we join the Cherwell for a while, allowing us to enjoy a few more miles of riverside scenery. From here on it’s rolling open farmland and pretty villages, with the occasional lock to break our journey.
The return of an urban landscape marks the end of our journey and we make our way to our final mooring in the centre of the market town of Banbury.