England by Boat
A tour on the inland waterways is a fun way to see the Britain that most people miss. The countrys more than 2,000 miles of navigable canals and rivers pass through some of its loveliest scenery and even into the heart of
cities like Birmingham (which has more canal miles than Venice) and Manchester. From the arrival of the Romans in Britain right up until the invention of the steam train, the extensive network of canals and navigable rivers were vital to trade and
industry. Now they are predominantly used for enjoyment. You can tour the canals with any sort of boat, right down to a canoe, but visitors generally opt for either a self-drive narrow boat, fitted with all the amenities of home, or a luxurious
hotel boat, with separate cabins, bar, and restaurant.
In your own boat, you may moor almost anywhere you wish along the towpaths. If you want to stop outside a canal-side pub for lunch, youll find that many of them have reserved parking places for boats. Stately homes, gardens,
and other interesting sights are never far away.
Self-drive narrow boats are either diesel or gasoline powered and have between four and 12 berths (linen provided), a kitchen (dishes and utensils also provided), and a toilet. Other amenities usually include a shower, fridge,
gas cooker, dining area, TV, and central heating. There are free water taps along the way for refilling your large, on-board water tank.
The firm that rents the boat will send a representative to explain the details of starting the engine, steering, mooring, and working the locks. In the unlikely event you run into trouble, youll have the assistance of other
boaters. This is a good way to meet the British at their friendliest.
Operating the locks is not complicated but it can be strenuous, so have a couple of fit hands aboard. The so-called 21 near Warwick has 21 locks in two miles as the Grand Canal ascends 150 feet.
Those who dont want the exercise have two alternatives. One is to travel along the lock-free canals of the beautiful Norfolk broads. Six rivers compose mile upon mile of gentle waterways through a wildlife haven. Theres
plenty to see and do in Norfolkthe historic city of Norwich and surrounding villages and manors and the resort of Great Yarmouth.
Hotel Boats: Another alternative is to leave the work to others and take a hotel boat holiday. You dine right on board and the atmosphere is relaxing and friendly. Tours by boat can last as long as a week, but shorter ones are
possiblesome just long enough for a leisurely meal.
Boating in Britain is popular throughout the spring, summer, and autumn. July and August are the main vacation months, so if you want to take a trip then you must be prepared to pay a premium and reserve well in advance. Since
the boats are heated, out-of-season trips are practical. May and June are pleasant for canal cruising, especially during the long evenings. It stays light until 10 p.m. in mid-June. September is one of Britains driest months and in October there
are autumn colors.
Boats are normally rented by the week with Saturday afternoon pick-up and Saturday morning return, but other arrangements are possible.
The traditional sights to which non-boat tourists are also drawnsuch as Stratford- upon-Avon, Windsor Castle, Bath, Oxford, and even Londonare all reachable by inland waterway. History comes alive as you cruise the
River Thames from Oxford to London with a stop at Hampton Court palace. But there are many other options: stunning scenery in Wales or northern England, a tranquil countryside in central and southern England or spectacular lochs in Scotland.
Boat Rental Companies
Alvechurch Boat Centres,Scarfield Wharf, Alvechurch, Birmingham B48 7SQ, England; 011-44-121-445-2909, fax 011-44-121- 447-7120; firstname.lastname@example.org, www.alvechurch.com.
Anglo Welsh Waterway Holidays, 5 Pritchard St., Bristol BS2 8RH, England; 011- 44-117-924-1200, fax 011-44-117-924-02.
APCO,Parkland House, Audley Ave., Newport, Shropshire TF10 7BX, England; 011- 44-1952-813572, fax 011-44-1952-82036.
Blakes International Travel Ltd.,Wrexham, Norwich NR12 8DH, England; email@example.com, www.blakes.co.uk.
Hoseasons Holidays (Boating),Sunway House, Raglan Rd., Lowestoft, NR32 2LW, England; 011-44-1502-501010, fax 011-1502-586781; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Prices vary according to the size of the vessel and the time of year, but a week on a four-berth boat ranges from £550 March to October to £850 in July and August.
For more information get the free brochure, Waterway Britain and Ireland, available from the British Tourist Authority, 551 5th Ave., New York, NY 10176-0799; 800-GO-2-BRITAIN; email@example.com or
call the Drifters boat operators consortium in Britain at 011-44- 1905-721300.
A useful website is www.waterwayholidaysuk.com.