Imagine gliding peacefully through beautiful countryside, avoiding all the rush hour traffic and slowing down the pace of your life to a gentle amble, then a canal cruising holiday will be very much your speed.
Canals are not straight roads you rush down. Typically they turn around following the bends of the countryside, although, occasionally, you may find yourself going through a town – even through the centre of a major city. To liven the proceedings you will frequently come across locks which, in almost every case, you will have to work yourself. You soon get used to it. It is a small but pleasant skill that provides an enjoyable break in the day. It is also a good place to meet people from other boats who will be full of information and advice – some of it correct and valuable.
If you are going to be operating the boat yourself – and there is no other way to totally enjoy the experience – then you need to be agile enough to get on and off the boat fairly quickly and you need to have somebody to steer. There are no high levels of skill involved in handling a canal boat. It is not like a yacht. Steering
is either from a small hand wheel or a tiller at the back of the boat, and you have a throttle lever to control the speed.
You carry your water and will have to re-fill the tanks every second day or so. You will not have that trouble with fuel as typically you will be supplied with enough to more than last for the duration of your holiday.
You can cook on the boats – all utensils are supplied – but you will probably find yourself having dinner at one of the many waterside hostelries. You will have to take with you proper boat shoes so that you do not slip on wet decks. Boats have all of the conveniences of home including showers, kitchens and television.
The Kennet & Avon is an impressive feat of engineering, made up of two river navigations and a linking stretch of canal. It runs from the Severn Estuary near Bristol, through Newbury and to the River Thames at Reading, over 100 miles long with more than 100 locks, some magnificent engineering and crossing some very beautiful scenery. It was only reopened in 1990 after decades of dereliction.
Norfolk Broads consists of canals and rivers connected to lakes which are called Broads. There are no locks in this area, but there are tides and you need to acquire the skill of using the tides to move you along. The Broads are very quiet and peaceful with a variety of water birds.
Starting as a small trickle in the Cotswolds the River Thames travels over 210 miles through the heart of some of England’s most picturesque towns, right into the centre of London and eventually, out into the North Sea. The locks right up to Oxford are worked by lock keepers, who know the area and are normally great characters in their own right.
1. The River Thames may take its name from the Sanskrit Tamas meaning “dark” as its waters are
often dark and cloudy; another school of thought is that it is named after the Roman Tam meaning “wide” and Isis meaning water.
2. Henley-on-Thames is famous for its regatta which started in 1839 and gained royal patronage in 1851. The first Oxford and Cambridge boat races were held here and finished at Henley bridge.
3. There are 45 locks on the non-tidal River Thames.
4. The Thames Path follows the river for 184 miles from its source, making it the longest riverside walk