THE trees are changing colour, the nights are drawing in – what better time of year to take a relaxing break away from the crowds and explore Britain’s beautiful waterways?
That’s the message from the Canal and River Trust this autumn, especially for those struggling to recharge their batteries amid the stresses of coronavirus lockdowns.
For a self-catering staycation with a difference away from busy tourist areas, canal boat holidays offer a great opportunity to get back to what matters: spending time with family or friends, enjoying the natural world and being as lazy or as active as you like, walking, cycling, fishing or even canoeing if the fancy takes you.
The canals and rivers are beautiful at this time of year and offer plenty of scope to explore, with hire boat companies dotted around the country who have been working hard to make boats safe in line with the latest government guidance.
Research shows that people can feel happier and healthier by the water, which makes a canal boat the ideal option for a relaxing short-break escape.
You can plan your journey based around how you and your family or friends want to spend your days. If you love visiting attractions and eating out, go for a route that passes through a major city like Birmingham or Manchester. But if you prefer peaceful surroundings and spotting wildlife, there’s a huge choice of rural waterways.
Your skill level and confidence in driving the boat may also play a part in your route decision. If you’re new to boating, you may want to avoid areas with lots of locks. However, if you have energetic children, then locks will help to keep them entertained.
The trust looks after 2,000 miles of waterways and its website contains a host of ideas and resources for anyone new to boating – including free guides to fun local days out and comprehensive advice for beginners and where to find boat hire companies.
As well as offering the prospect of a more tranquil pace of life – and a greener holiday than jetting off to sunnier climes – boating holidays offer a chance for families to spend time together and discover some intriguing insights into Britains architectural history.
For those with a head for heights, the scary-looking Pontcysyllte Aqueduct in North Wales has been recognised with World Heritage Site status and is one of the most impressive engineering feats on the canal network (and one of seven wonders singled out by the trust for special mention). You can walk across or save your legs and go by boat.
To choose a location, you might look for a place that you’ve previously fallen in love with or an area that you have always wanted to explore.
The trust has plenty of advice for first-timers and advice about circular routes or “cruising rings” which vary in length and could take anything from two days to three weeks without the need to retrace your steps or worry about the return journey.
You can also check out social media posts and capture the excitement of your own boating adventure when you get home by tagging #CanalMemories on Twitter and mentioning @CanalRiverTrust.