canal boat lock oxfordshire

Couples who narrowboat together, stay together! Am I right? OK, so maybe I’m biased, but I think canal boating is the perfect way to spend quality time with your Valentine. Over the years many celebrity couples have been spotted out cruising together on the English canals. Who have you seen on the waterways?

1, 2, 3

In no particular order the first three couples on our list are Harrison Ford and Calista Flockhart, Kiera Knightly and Rupert Friend, and David Suchet (Poirot) and his wife Sheila. The media reported that they have all enjoyed boating on the British waterways. David and Sheila actually spent six years living on a 53-foot narrowboat, ‘Prima Donna’ which they found in Stratford-upon-Avon. Pirates of the Caribbean actress Keira Knightley rented a canal boat in London in 2010 and was seen walking the towpath with her actor partner.

So I asked on Facebook, what other celebrity couples have been seen boating together?

4

Bernard Booth commented that he saw Tim and Pru, and Harrison Ford and Calistoga Flockhart on the Llangollen canal. Of course, many others have spotted famous narrowboaters Tim and Pru around and about. Fawlty Towers actress Prunella Scales, and her husband actor Timothy West have been boating for decades, and starred in their own charming TV travel series, Great Canal Journeys.

5

Harry Potter actor Timothy Spall and his wife Shane were keen canal boaters for several years, and have been seen on the Grand Union canal. Spall later swapped his narrowboat for a seaworthy barge.

6

James Spencer was moored at Fox Narrowboats until last June when he moved his boat back onto the canals. He said he often used to see Timothy Spall, Roberta Taylor and her husband Peter Guinness when they had narrowboats moored near to his at Whilton Marina. He also met Tim and Pru at Braunston historic boat rally and has photos of them relaxing. “We did make it on to a TV programme about holidays when TV crew were filming at Braunston bottom lock and filmed us locking. Roberta and Peter Guinness boat was called ‘A Waste of Time.’ I did ask why, and apparently it was a play they had appeared in.”

7

It’s not a canal boat, but Russell Brand and his wife Laura shipped their wedding guests down the River Thames on a paddle steamer. Their wedding was at Remenham Church near their home in Henley-on-Thames, and wedding guests included Noel Gallagher, Jonathan Ross and David Baddiel.

8

In 2021 Sir Rod Stewart bought a narrowboat for his wife Penny’s 50th birthday. Speaking on Loose Women, Penny said it had always been her dream to have a canal boat and renovate it. She likes the idea of a slower lifestyle.

9

For couples with kids a narrowboat holiday is a great idea. Coleen and Wayne Rooney think so anyway. They took their four boys for a trip along the Shropshire Union Canal last year.

10

But Peter Green won the most famous celebrity couple afloat when he commented on Facebook, “I had the Queen and Prince Philip on my boat! Slight cheat as it was on the Thames. Diamond jubilee taking them to a garden party near Henley. Also had the Queen solo in 2009 and the Princess Royal in 2018. My boat is ‘Alaska’, built in 1883.”

Could you and your partner be the next glamourous couple to cruise the waterways? Check out availability for this year’s narrowboat holiday now!

Fox Boats director, Paula Syred told me, “Strictly come Dancing’s Neil Jones and Rick Wakeman and his wife, have been day hire customers of ours.”

So if you want to holiday like a celebrity, Fox Narrowboats is a great choice! Read: How to Holiday Like a Celebrity Without it Costing a Fortune

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Image credit: Deposit Photos

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houghton mill wiki cc cmglee

What are you like at sticking to New Year’s resolutions? Does goal setting make you feel disheartened? Does the thought of optimistic pledges and promises just make you groan?

#houghtonmill #wickenfen #strethamengine #fenswildlife #nenevalleyrailway

A more cheerful way to start the year is by creating a ‘bucket list’ of fun things to do.

A bucket list is traditionally a list of things to do before you kick the proverbial bucket, but after enduring two years of coronavirus restrictions, we thought that now is a good time to plan a few things to look forward to. Here are our best suggestions for fun things you can do while narrowboating in the Fens.

Learn to work a lock and steer a boat. Locks are easy to operate and at Fox Narrowboats we have qualified instructors that will give you full training during the boat handover. If you’re wondering if it’s difficult to learn the ropes read: What’s it Like to Actually Steer a Narrowboat?

Visit ‘Mother’, a thatched structure at Wicken Fen by Studio Morison. The nature reserve here is a favourite with our customers. This art installation is inspired by the restorative qualities of the beautiful fen landscape as described in Richard Mabey’s book ‘Nature Cure’. It is a sculptural structure, and also a pavilion, that you can sit inside, and contemplate nature. Read: How to Get Top Author’s ‘Nature Cure’ on a Narrowboat Holiday

Visit Houghton Mill, a National Trust property on the River Great Ouse. Centred on an island on the Great Ouse at Houghton, stands Houghton Mill a large timber-built watermill with operational machinery. The Mill is open to the public at weekends, and flour is still milled and sold to visitors.

Visit Stretham Engine, five miles south of Ely on the Old West River. It is the sole surviving operational steam engine in the Black Fen. It was installed in 1831, replacing four wind pumps. The engine has limited opening times in the summer months. This steam-powered pumping station was used to drain the Fens in the 19th and early 20th centuries. https://strethamoldengine.org.uk

Spot wildlife, like the great crested grebe and the occasional kingfisher. On a riverside walk, or in our local nature reserves, you may see dragonflies, damselflies, otters or water voles. Read: 3 Ways to See More Fenland Wildlife

Try punting on ‘The Backs’ in Cambridge. The River Cam navigation for powered craft ends at Jesus Green Lock, but above the lock Scudamore’s offer a wide range of tour and self-hire punting options. Punting is a traditional Cambridge pastime; see famous landmarks like the Bridge of Sighs, while floating down the river. Read: Three Amazing Things to Do in Cambridge

The Nene Valley Railway can be visited from the Environment Agency moorings at Wansford Station. From here you can take a trip aboard a heritage steam or diesel train. This can be planned as part of a narrowboat cruise towards Peterborough. Read: The Canal Boat Holiday That Train Enthusiasts Will Love.

Treat yourself to a meal at a riverside pub. The Swan on the River at Littleport may be recognised as the finishing point for the 2021 Oxford Cambridge boat race. Read: Three Waterside Pubs to Visit.

Cruise over an aqueduct. Mullicourt aqueduct carries Well Creek over the Middle Level main drain.

Take a photo of St Ives Bridge; a 15th century bridge crossing the River Great Ouse in St Ives. It is one of only four bridges in England to incorporate a chapel. Other photo opportunities on the waterways include wide skies at sunsets and sunrise with silhouettes of wind farms against the horizon.

And finally, moor up in the middle of nowhere, such as a quiet mooring at Benwick on the Middle Level navigation, (this village is a hidden gem). Read: Six Stunning Moorings on the Middle Level.

Plan Ahead

The New Year can often put us in the mood for planning ahead, so why not give yourself something to look forward to and organise this year’s narrowboat holiday? Booking in advance can mean better availability, and with Fox Narrowboats you’re more likely to get the boat of your choice. It’s also easier to get time off work on your intended dates if you plan well ahead.

What’s on your narrowboating New Year’s Bucket List? Let us know on Facebook.

You may also like: How to Cruise Your Way into Fitness this New Year

No time to plan your holiday right now? We get that. Instead, subscribe to our blog in the right sidebar; look for ‘Follow Blog’. We’ll send you two articles a month full of narrowboat holiday ideas in the Fens. (We don’t send spam or salesy type stuff – just interesting articles about boats and waterways!)

Image credit: Houghton Mill by Cmglee, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

 

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Peterborough cathedral night

Traditionally Christmas is a time for carols and choirs, candle-lit services, holly and ivy, decorated trees, and children’s nativity plays. So it’s a popular time to visit your local church, or even a cathedral if you live near to one. We are lucky enough to be based between two stunning and historically significant cathedrals.

Peterborough Cathedral

This Christmas Peterborough Cathedral is offering concerts, with choirs and brass, carol services, a candlelight tour, a Christingle Service, and a theatre production of Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ as well as the usual Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services.

Peterborough Cathedral was rebuilt in the 12th century, and like Durham and Ely Cathedrals it has remained largely intact. It is the burial place of Henry VIII’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon.

To get to Peterborough by narrowboat from our Fox Narrowboats hire base is a 12 hour return trip, which is ideal for a short break. On the approach to Peterborough the cathedral can be clearly seen across the flat fields that lead to Stanground Lock. There are visitor moorings on the River Nene along the length of a park which are convenient for the city centre. (Read more about this cruise: March to Ferry Meadows Country Park.)

If you visit Peterborough on your narrowboat holiday next year you can check out what events are on at the cathedral while you are in the area by looking at the website: Peterborough Cathedral

Alternatively, turning left from our marina you will shortly come to the Fenland market town of March where you will find free visitor boating moorings on either side of the town bridge. March to Ely is about 18 cruising hours return trip. (Read more about this cruise: March to Ely narrowboat holiday.)

Ely Cathedral

This cathedral is known as the ‘ship of the Fens’ because it is visible from miles away as you approach it. This Advent and Christmas Ely Cathedral is offering Christmas services and concerts with the Cathedral Choir, and various family-themed activities. There is also seasonal shopping in the cathedral shops, homemade festive food in the Almonry, guided tower tours up the Octagon Tower or West Tower, and a spectacular 30ft Christmas tree.

But you don’t have to visit at Christmas to enjoy a cathedral tour, including access to the unique Octagon Tower and the Monastic Buildings around the cathedral grounds. While you are there you can also visit the Stained Glass Museum. Also in Ely you can see Oliver Cromwell’s House, which is now a museum, the Ely Museum at the Old Gaol, and the antiques centre close to the river. There’s so much to see here it’s worth stopping overnight. If you’re visiting Ely by narrowboat the city centre is just a short walk away from the moorings, up a steep hill.

If you visit Ely on your narrowboat holiday next year check out what events are on at the cathedral while you are in the area by looking at the website:  Ely Cathedral

Cambridge

Although Cambridge is famous for being a university city, it does not actually have its own cathedral. However, there are plenty of historic churches to appreciate when you visit. Cambridge falls within the Diocese of Ely (Church of England) and is associated with Ely Cathedral. Many of the churches in the city are affiliated with university colleges, having strong historical connections. All Saints’ Church is a beautiful Victorian Grade-II listed structure. Our Lady and the English Martyrs has late 19th century, neo-Gothic architecture, a tall spire, wonderful stained-glass windows and many historic elements. Great St Mary’s Church is near the Visitor Information Centre on Peas Hill, and dates from the late-15th century. Discover the 18th-century galleries and a tall bell tower, which can be climbed to see panoramic views of the city centre. There are many more noteworthy churches and colleges to wander around during your visit to Cambridge, and the journey there by narrowboat is beautiful.

From Ely to Cambridge is about five hours cruise each way. Read more about this narrowboat cruise: Ely to Cambridge.

Christmas in England is a chance to appreciate Gothic churches, choirs, and bustling markets in ancient towns. However, you could also include all of these joys on your narrowboat holiday next year. Check here to see what holiday dates are available.

You may also like: Four Churches to Visit When it’s not Even Christmas

PS: A festive gift for you! Click ‘Blog’ (top right) and look for ‘Follow Blog’ in the right sidebar to get the latest helpful holiday tips for next year. (We never share or sell email addresses, we’ll only be sending you our local, insider knowledge, every two weeks.)

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ely cathedral visited by great canal journeys

Gyles and Sheila are back on our screens, and in case you missed it you can catch up with their Great Canal Journey to Cambridge and the Fens by watching episode one of series 13 on All 4.

Actor Sheila Hancock and author and presenter Gyles Brandreth took over presenting the show in November 2020. (Read TVs Great Canal Journeys Has Two New Skippers). They were narrowboat novices at that point, but have since taken to cruising and steering canal boats with heart-warming humour and enthusiasm.

At the beginning of series 13 they started their journey in the town of March, where Fox narrowboats are based, and travelled along the old course of the River Nene to visit Emneth, then south down the Great Ouse to Ely Cathedral, and finished their trip in Cambridge, learning about the poet, Rupert Brook.

Early on in the journey Sheila was seriously impressed by the Fenland scenery; she loved the spaciousness of the panorama, “It’s all sky!” They learned that the sea level is still rising in the Fens, so it is inevitable that large areas, previously reclaimed from the sea, will eventually be underwater once more.

There were some pretty views of the village of Upwell before they arrived at Emneth to visit the vicarage. This was once home to Reverend Wilburt Audrey, author of the much-loved Thomas the Tank Engine books. The Reverend died in 1997 but Gyles and Sheila were invited in to chat to his daughter about the inspiration for the popular books.

Back on the River Ouse Gyles and Sheila were stunned by the view of Ely Cathedral across the Fens as they approached Ely. Ely was once an island, before the draining of the Fens, and the cathedral dates back to the 11th century. The inside of the cathedral is huge, and gloriously impressive. The programme showed the unique octagon lantern tower before a segment where Ely Cathedral Boy Choristers practiced their medieval Plain Song. The cathedral was built on the site of a monastery, founded by Etheldreda, a local Anglo Saxon princess. This episode explains that it may have taken one hundred years to build the current version of the cathedral.

Back on their canal boat, inspired by their visit to the cathedral, Gyles and Sheila had a thoughtful conversation about faith, god and their own mortality. It was fun to watch their affectionate friendship as Sheila teased Gyles about his fashion sense, and his habit of name-dropping celebrities’ names.

South of Ely the two friends met an artist and tried landscape painting. Although they both lacked confidence in their abilities they had a go anyway. In Cambridge Kings College “oozes history” said Gyles. It’s alumni include Rupert Brook, who in 1914 wrote the patriotic poem ‘The Soldier’. Gyles and Sheila checked out previous hand written drafts of the famous poem. Then they had cucumber sandwiches and tea at the vicarage, discussing the poet, who had tragically died aged only 27.

Finally Gyles and Sheila ended their trip by drinking Pimms in the sunshine, in an ancient meadow moored on the River Cam.

A cruise from March to Ely takes nine hours, and then Ely to Cambridge is about five hours cruise. Of course you can travel at your own leisurely pace and stop somewhere overnight along the way.

If you want to take your own great canal journey next year check availability now. We have some great holiday deals to enjoy. And you can order sandwiches and other treats to be waiting on board for you from Glam Grazing.

You may also like: How to Experience Some Great Canal Journeys from Your Own Home

If you enjoy reading about the Fenland waterways sign up for updates from this blog. (We never share or sell email addresses – your details are safe with us.) Just look for ‘Follow Blog’ in the sidebar on the right and we’ll send you stories, tips and advice about narrowboating around the Fens.

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Are you a fan of TV’s Great Canal Journeys?

Have you enjoyed watching Kevin Shelley’s Travels by Narrowboat?

Are you an arm-chair narrowboater?

Then you’ll love BBC Four’s Canal Boat Diaries.

This series follows Robbie Cumming as he embarks on a 300-mile journey across the Midlands and northern England in his narrowboat. It’s a soothing video diary of one man and his boat, soaking up the scenery and visiting canal side towns and villages along the way. If you don’t have a boat yourself it’s the perfect way to sit back, relax and enjoy the narrowboat lifestyle, from home.

Robbie has previously done bar work, graphic design and illustration while travelling on his boat ‘Naughty Lass’. He says, “It’s my home, work space and transport, rolled into one.”

In the first episode Robbie says, “This program is all about showing you the real side of boating.” For example he has been living aboard without a fridge, and so he meets up with a marine electrician who helps him to install a 12 volt fridge on board. Later he is shown pumping out his sewage tank. But these moments of showing the gritty “real side” of boating are far outnumbered by the stunning, sunshiney scenery viewed as sweeping, stunning aerial shots.

At the beginning of the episode he tackles a tunnel in Staffordshire which is so low that he has to remove everything from the canal boat roof, and crouch down while steering it through! As he travels, filming the local scenery, locks and waterways, he shares canal facts and history. For example, he explains that snake bridges are ingeniously designed so that a horse can cross the canal without the line snagging. (Before engines came along all canal boats were horse drawn.) In Staffordshire he travelled some narrow canals with single locks, and really narrow tunnels, but his goal is to eventually explore all of the canals and navigable rivers in the UK.

He visits a still-working Victorian Pottery that looks like the set of Peaky Blinders, and travels the Harecastle Tunnel, which takes 40 minutes and is dubbed the ‘Scarecastle Tunnel’. The throbbing engine echoes loudly in the darkness, but originally there was a towpath for the horses passing through this tunnel. This programme shows what little random adventures one can have while exploring England by narrowboat. Robbie discovers ancient canal-side mile markers that look like gravestones, he pays his respects at Ian Curtis’s grave, (lead singer of Joy Division), meets the locals in village pubs, explores Macclesfield, and rises to the challenge of cooking on board with whatever he can find, having not seen a shop for a while.

It’s a pleasure to watch the spectacular scenery and sunshine, drifting past aqueducts, coloured narrowboats and green fields, all accompanied by relaxing music, and a likeable, easy-going presenter. Robbie thinks the Peak Forest Canal in Derbyshire has to be one of the most scenic waterways.

So could he ever go back to living on land?

“I don’t think so… This is my lifestyle now. I’ve had to adapt to it. I think I’d miss it if I gave it up.”

Is this the most relaxing programme on TV right now? Ease into your sofa, lose yourself in the landscape and see for yourself.

Watch Canal Boat Diaries on BBC iPlayer. Or catch up with Robbie on his YouTube channel.

You can also help to fund Robbie’s travels around the canal system and increase the quality of his narrowboat ‘voyagelogs’ by supporting him on Patreon. He now makes around two videos a month, each one taking over 20 hours to make filming, researching, editing, voice overs and writing and recording his own music. The Canal Boat Diaries are not only his passion but thanks to the viewers, are now his source of income.

Ready for your own canal adventure? Try booking a daytrip or a narrowboat holiday now. Check availability here.

Hey! Are you new here? Click ‘Blog’ (top right) and look for ‘Follow Blog’ in the right sidebar to receive more insider knowledge about canals and narrowboating. (We never share or sell email addresses, we’ll only be sending you our local, insider knowledge, every two weeks.)

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Does modern life stress you out?

Ever wanted to sell your possessions and live on a boat?

Would you enjoy the narrowboat lifestyle?

grand union canal narrowboats

In 2017 Kevin Shelly quit his ‘bricks and mortar’ lifestyle, bought a canal boat, and set out to explore 2,500 miles of the UK’s inland waterways. He began to document his lifestyle change with videos that became increasingly popular. There are now six seasons to watch (40 episodes) with a seventh series on the way.

So began an amazing journey, not just around the canal network but also within Kevin. Episode by episode narrowboat life transformed him from an exhausted man, to someone well-rested and contented. There’s something very soothing about watching Kevin narrate his gentle travels; letting the viewer absorb the feeling of travelling slowly through nature. Viewers relax as Kevin enjoys the simple pleasures in life, such as a canal-side pub, or the odd bacon and egg sandwich. The series portrays the laid-back spirit of discovering new places by boat, while Kevin learns about narrowboat life. If you’re new to narrowboating it’s a chance to get the feel of what it’s like. If you’ve been boating before it’s an enjoyable way to imagine yourself back on the water.

On Kevin’s Maiden Voyage in episode one he travels along the Leicester Branch of the Grand Union Canal, and more recently in season six he re-visited Northamptonshire’s waterways by ascending the Foxton flight, of 10 locks again. This reminded him of the very beginning of his adventure when he first bought his narrowboat, ‘Aslan’. Our narrowboat hire base is ‘next door’ to Northamptonshire in nearby Cambridgeshire.

The Grand Union Canal stretches 137 miles from London to Birmingham, and the Northampton Arm branches off to the east at Gayton Junction. Here there are 17 narrow locks as the canal descends to join the navigable River Nene. Cruising in this direction a narrowboat would eventually pass through Wadenhoe, Oundle, Fotheringhay, and Peterborough; all of which can be easily visited by hiring a boat from Fox Narrowboats. (See Fox route 4 Peterborough to Fotheringhay.) The River Nene is one of the quieter UK rivers, and a great place for a relaxing boating or fishing trip.

What’s different about Travels by Narrowboat is Kevin’s dry sense of humour. He is unpretentious and sometimes quirky, when musing about whatever and whoever he encounters along the way. This programme shows us, at a gentle pace, the parts of England that only canal users get to see; the old bridges and canal locks, ancient villages, and natural wildlife. Kevin Shelley is the antidote to our shiny celebrity culture. If you want to watch an ordinary man follow his dream, work a lock, make a curry or repair an engine this is the down to earth TV show you are looking for.

If you’d like to float down a canal with Kevin and enjoy the sights and sounds of England by narrowboat you can watch Travels by Narrowboat on Amazon Video or on Vimeo on Demand.

Travels by Narrowboat blog

If you want to take your own travels by narrowboat this year check availability now. We have some great holiday deals to enjoy this summer.

To be notified with new holiday information as it changes, sign up for updates from this blog. (We never share or sell email addresses – your details are safe with us.) Just look for ‘Follow Blog’ in the sidebar on the right and we’ll send you stories, tips and advice about narrowboating around the Fens in 2021.

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Alarmy MTDCKJ licence 10 Nov 2020
Alarmy MTDCKJ licence 10 nov 2020

Alarmy MTDCKJ licence 10 Nov 2020

Do you dream of going on great canal journeys?

Are you stuck at home when you’d rather be boating?

Fancy living vicariously through the travels of others?

You may like to check out Channel 4’s new series of Great Canal Journeys.

After ten series of navigating the canals, lakes and river of the world, Prunella Scales and Timothy West’s televised canal journeys have sadly come to an end. Best known for playing Sybil Fawlty in Fawlty Towers, Pru’s struggle with Alzheimer’s became a poignant aspect of the programme, and has now forced the couple to stop filming. The beloved actors have a lifetime of canal boating experience behind them, and their passion for it made them the ideal presenters of this show.

However, Channel 4 has opted to continue the series with two new presenters, actor Sheila Hancock and author and presenter Gyles Brandreth. They’re not a couple, but they are friends who have previously appeared alongside each other on Celebrity Gogglebox. The charm of the original travel programme really lay in watching Tim and Pru’s wonderful marriage on screen, so I thought that changing the remit to two travelling friends might change the mood somewhat. To ease the transition Timothy West joined Gyles and Sheila in the first episode, which aired on 8th November 2020.

“I don’t even know stern from aft!” says Gyles. The friends confess they know nothing about canal boating, but that Tim and Pru have told them anyone can do it. “We are throwing ourselves in at the deep end, and hoping we float!” says Gyles.

The episode begins with Tim welcoming them onto a day-boat at Broxbourne on the River Lee, for a bit of basic training in steering, operating a lock and mooring up. Then their first real journey beings at Pangbourne on the Thames, where they board a 70 foot wide beam. They investigate the bathroom and there is a comedy moment as Gyles accidentally pulls a handle off the toilet, showing viewers that anyone new to boating can make mistakes! During the episode they cruise towards London through Henley, Cliveden and Royal Windsor, and invite a historian on board to chat about the history of the Thames.

“The waterways teaches history that can’t be found in books. They show us how to go with the flow,” says Sheila. (If you like history you can visit Cambridge Universities, Ely Cathedral and Oliver Cromwell’s House on a Fox Boats holiday.)

Then Sheila, 87, joins a women’s rowing team, proving that it’s never too late to try something new. Gyles also is a likeable character. He jokes about doing a Titanic Leonardo DiCaprio impression, while standing on the bow as they enter London by boat.

I had my reservations about this show going forward without the loveable Tim and Pru, but actually it has the same life-affirming vibe, showing us that getting out on the water can make you feel alive! Although Tim and Pru had 40 years of boating experience to share with the viewers, these two are demonstrating that anyone can give boating a go, and learn new skills. Is it still heart-warming and funny? Absolutely. Are there stunning aerial views of waterways, and intriguing glimpses into life afloat? Of course.

If it’s some time since you’ve been boating, this new version of Great Canal Journeys will inspire you to get back out on the water. At Fox Narrowboats you can ease yourself in gently with day boat hire, or take a week’s long break on a comfortable holiday boat. We are now taking bookings for next year.

If you missed the first episode of Great Canal Journeys you can watch it on demand on All 4, Channel 4’s streaming service. (To watch Channel 4 on demand you simply have to sign up with an email address and view on your TV, tablet or computer.)

You may also like:

How to Experience Some Great Canal Journeys from Your Own Home

Cruise Like Tim and Pru from Great Canal Journeys: How to Reconnect With the Ones You Love

How to Holiday Like a Celebrity Without it Costing a Fortune

Keep in Touch: Subscribe on the right to receive more stories of British canal journeys, by email. (We never share or sell email addresses, we’ll only be sending you our local, insider knowledge, every two weeks.)

Photo: Licenced stock photo Alarmy MTDCKJ 10 Nov 2020 OY48986454

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Image: St Wendreda’s Church short walk from our Marina
(credit below)

The idyllic ancient architecture, candlelight, holly and ivy, and special services such as carols, advent, christingles and nativities make this a wonderful time of year to visit a church.

However, official statistics from the Church of England* suggest that Christmas is now the only time that British families go to church. While festive services remain ever popular, Sunday congregations are seeing a steady decline in attendance. If you’re planning a canal boat holiday on the East Anglian waterways we would hate for you to miss out on the stunning churches that we have on our doorstep.

Here are four churches you won’t want to miss on your canal boat holiday next year.

St Wendreda’s Church

Before you set off from Foxboats marina in March, check out St Wendreda’s Church which is just a short walk away. This beautiful church is the oldest in our town and is known for its magnificent double-hammer beam roof with 120 carved angels; it is regarded as one of the best of its kind. John Betjeman described the church as “worth cycling 40 miles in a head wind to see.” (If you want to try this you are welcome to bring your bicycles on a narrowboat holiday!)

St Peter’s Church

As you cruise through the Middle Levels you will come to the village of Upwell on the Well Creek; one of the most picturesque villages on the Fenland waterways. St Peter’s Church originating in the 13th century, is well worth a visit because of the unusual tower. Inside there are 25 carved oak angels in the roof looking down into two Victorian galleries.

Ely Cathedral

If your holiday plans are taking you along the River Ouse then you must visit Ely’s skyline-dominating cathedral. Its origins have been traced back to AD 673 and it has a historical connection to William the Conqueror. The cathedral is known as the ‘ship of the Fens’ because of its dominant position in the landscape, visible from miles away. Its most notable feature is the central octagonal tower, with a lantern above.

The gothic architectural design is stunning and you can also take a tour, around the Stained Glass Museum, which has a fascinating collection of rescued stained glass windows stretching back 1,300 years.

Ely has good moorings, and there is plenty more to see in this charming, ancient town so it’s worth stopping overnight.

Kings College Chapel

If you have time on your holiday, do continue from Ely along the River Cam to Cambridge where there are many churches and chapels to visit, as well as the impressive university colleges. Don’t miss St Peter’s Chapel, the smallest church in Cambridge dating back to the 12th century. St Mary the Great is known as the university church and all distances in Cambridge are measured from its location. And finally, King’s College Chapel is a true masterpiece of English craftsmanship.

Not Just for Christmas

So, while it may be that more people will watch the Queen’s speech this year, than go to a Christmas church service, remember that churches aren’t just for Christmas. They are a wonderfully preserved part of our heritage, with stories to tell and incredible craftsmanship to behold. Make sure to include some churches into your holiday plans with Fox Narrowboats next year.

For more surprising stories of things you didn’t know about the Fens and Cambridgeshire subscribe to our blog in the right sidebar; look for ‘Follow Blog’. (We don’t send spam or salesy type stuff – just surprisingly interesting articles about our local waterways!)

*The Telegraph 28th October 2016.

Image Wiki Commons
By David Iliff (User:Diliff) – Commons file St Wendreda’s Church Ceiling, March, Cambridgeshire, UK – Diliff.jpg, CC BY 3.0,

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Spoiler Alert – There are so many clues in this little quiz, that I confidently predict that most readers will correctly guess the answer before reaching the end.

i. who was named after a fictional ‘ lost boy who never grew up’ created by his godfather?
ii. Was the only child of a famous polar explorer?
iii. Was a huntsman turned ‘Father of Conservation’?
iv. Won a bronze medal for England in sailing at the 1936 Berlin Olympics?
v. Became a British gliding champion?
vi. Ice skated at the British National Championships?
vii. Presented the BBC’s first ever natural history programme in 1953 live from his home
viii. Started the World Wide Fund for Nature, designing the logo of himself?
ix. Was described by Sir David Attenborough as ‘The patron saint of conservation’?

The answer is of course Sir Peter Markham Scott (September 1909 – August 1989)
Peter was named after Peter Pan, the character created by his godfather J M Barrie. He was the only child of one of the world’s most famous explorers, Robert Falcon Scott (Scott of the Antarctic). In his last letter home before he died on his ill-fated mission to the South Pole, Robert Falcon Scott urged his wife to: “Make the boy interested in natural history if you can, it’s better than games”.

Young Peter Scott on a boat

Young Peter Scott

He was educated in our region, attending Oundle School (on the river Nene) and Trinity College, Cambridge. He shot birds as an undergraduate, but also painted them professionally. As his interest in ornithology grew, he abandoned hunting and became interested in the conservation of his former prey.

river painting

Peter Scott’s painting

Birds flying

Another one of Peter Scott’s paintings

He was an accomplished sportsman, winning a bronze medal at the 1936 Olympic Games for sailing, becoming the British gliding champion in 1963 and a national championship standard iceskater.

He presented the BBC’s first ever natural history programme live from his Slimbridge home in 1953. Sir David Attenborough sites Sir Peter’s pioneering TV career as his inspiration and calls him his ‘hero’ and the ‘patron saint of conservation’.

Birds on water

Slimbridge now

As you leave the estuary of the river Nene, twin lighthouses stand sentinel either side of the river at Sutton Bridge. These were built in 1831 to designs by John Rennie (architect of Westminster Bridge and Denver Sluice). The eastern of these, was bought in 1933 by Peter Scott.

At this remote spot, he established his first bird sanctuary (before going on to set up the World Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust based at Slimbridge). InH 1941 his friend, the American novelist Paul Gallico, published The Snow Goose. This was based on their observations of Pink-footed geese at Sutton Bridge (the setting of the book was changed from Sutton Bridge to Essex, and the Snow Goose is actually native to North America and rarely found in the British Isles).

Snow Goose Cover

The Snow Goose

Scott married the novelist Elizabeth Jane Howard in 1942 and they had a daughter, Nicola, born a year later. Howard left Scott in 1946 and they were divorced in 1951. At this time she was employed as part-time secretary to the pioneering canals conservation organisation the Inland Waterways Association. There she met and collaborated with Robert Aickman, who along with Tom Rolt is accepted as one of the ‘founding fathers of canal restoration’. Elizabeth went on to become a successful novelist, going on to marry Kingsley Amis. Her remarkable life is recorded in her autobiography ‘Slipstream’ and several biographies. Sir Peter’s equally remarkable life and work is similarly recorded in several books.

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There are four rivers in England which are all called ‘Ouse’.

The Sussex Ouse is a 42 mile long river which joins the sea at Newhaven.

Sussex Ouse

Sussex Ouse looking down stream from Mount Caburn

The Little Ouse flows from the Norfolk/Suffolk border for 37 miles to join the Great Ouse near Littleport in Cambridgeshire.

The Yorkshire Ouse flows for 52 miles until it meets the River Trent at Trentfalls, where they both join the Humber estuary. The tidal section of the Yorkshire Ouse is a truly mighty river, as anyone who has seen the photos of Naburn Lock (below York) completely submerged below floods, or who has tried to steer from the Ouse on a falling tide into the lock at Selby, will testify.

Lendel Bridge

Lendel Bridge Yorkshire Ouse

The Great Ouse rises in Northamptonshire. Originally it found the sea below Wisbech, via the River Nene. It now joins the sea near King’s Lynn after a comparatively sedate 162 mile journey from its source.

So what makes this Ouse ‘Great’ – in comparison to its mighty ‘big brother’ in Yorkshire ? It was probably first called the ‘Great Ouse’ to differentiate it from the ‘Little Ouse’ which joins it below Ely. But round here, we believe that it is called ‘Great’ because it is simply the only one where you can hire a fox narrow boat!

derelict watermans arms

Derelict Watermans arms

 

The bewildered raindrop 

raindrop

raindrop

The southern and western upland areas of Northamptonshire are the source of a number of southern England’s major rivers. The Great Ouse rises in Wappenham and flows east to the Wash. The Upper Avon rises in Naseby and flows west into Warwickshire. The River Cherwell rises in Hellingdon and flows south to join the Thames in Oxford, and the River Nene rises on Arbury Hill and flows northeast, also to the Wash.

Any drop of rain, falling within this comparatively small area of land, could be forgiven for not having the faintest idea whether it was going to end up in the Bristol Channel, the Thames Estuary, or the Wash.

If our confused rain drop has come down the Great Ouse, just as it reaches Denver, only 14 miles from the sea, it might be diverted into the Great Ouse Cut-Off Channel via the Diversion Sluice and pumped off in the opposite direction To Essex

If you are interested in exploring the Fenland Waterways Foxs have day hire narrowboats and holiday boats available.

image credits Watermans Arms Chris Howes all others Shutterstock.

Hey! Are you new here? Subscribe on the right to receive more secrets of the undiscovered Fenland waterways, by email. (We never share or sell email addresses, we’ll only be sending you our local, insider knowledge, every two weeks.

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canal tow path cycling with family

So, the nights are drawing in, the clocks are about to change, and the summer boating season is sadly over! Here at Fox Boats we will be winterising our narrowboats, which involves a series of maintenance jobs that keep the boats at their best while they’re out of use.

Read: How Winter Threatens to Damage Your Narrowboat – 3 Ways to Protect Yourself

So here are our top three tips for enjoying the winter months

1) Exercise

We all know that exercise can help to boost our mental health, so if you live near to a canal, running, walking or cycling on the towpath can offer a workout in the sunlight. Being close to nature can also lift your mood; not just the water and plants, but the busy ducks, swans, moorhens and geese can cheer you up. When you’re on a narrowboat holiday interesting exercise options are included, such as, operating the locks, walking between the locks, and pulling ropes and hammering pegs when mooring the boat up.

canal tow path cycling

canal tow path cycling with family

2) Festivities

There are some happy occasions to look forward to in the winter. Halloween offers themed events, or paranormal investigations. This year Oliver Cromwell’s House offers some walking tours themed around ghosts and witches.

Oliver Cromwell House

Oliver Cromwell House. Photo by Gwendraith at English Wikipedia

This offers special events and house tours throughout the year, and you can visit by boat when travelling on the River Great Ouse. Ely is claimed to be one of England’s spookiest cities. (Read more in The Spooky Truth About Cruising to Ely.) The strange and compelling landscape of the Fens, with their huge skyscapes, reclaimed marshlands and scattered and isolated villages can be very eerie at this time of year. Peterborough Museum, claims to have eight resident ghosts. They include a First World War soldier and a ghostly kitchen maid. This museum can also be visited by boat if you are taking the March to Peterborough cruise. This 12 hour return trip is ideal for a short break.

Fens Wetland

Fens Wetland. Photo by Sam Forson

It wouldn’t be winter in England without Christmas, including festive markets and a trip to church. The ancient architecture, candlelight, holly and ivy, and special services such as carols, advent, christingles and nativities can brighten up a dark day. If you’re planning a narrowboat holiday for next year check out Four Churches to Visit When it’s Not Even Christmas. Even Christmas shopping can be fun if your friends and family are into boating: Read Thoughtful Christmas Gifts for the Narrowboater in Your Life. Our local attractions usually host special Christmas events: Father Christmas will be at Wicken Fen Nature Reserve, and the Winter Lights at Anglesey Abbey offer a beautiful, sensory after-dark journey.

3) Plan Ahead

Nothing beats the winter blues like planning your next holiday though. A narrowboat holiday can be particularly good for boosting a low mood, as you can travel slowly through stunning scenery, under our spectacular Fenland skies, away from the noise of modern life. On a waterways holiday you may find that you are outside more than you would be on some other types of British holiday, getting that all important dose of daylight and vitamin D.

outwell fox narrow boat moored by the shops

Outwell Fox narrow boat moored by the shops

You may also like: Feeling Stressed? 5 Ways This Unknown Village Can Soothe Your Soul

We are in no doubt that our narrowboat holidays can chase away the blues because of the great feedback we get from our customers. Check out the kind words we’ve received in our customer reviews.

So, if you want to go narrowboating next year, choose your favourite narrowboat and plan your ideal cruise. Fox Boats are ideally situated on the uncrowded east Anglian waterways, near Cambridge, Ely and Peterborough.

For more articles to boost your mood this winter, sign up for digital updates from this blog. (We never share or sell email addresses – your details are safe with us.) Just look for ‘Follow Blog’ in the sidebar on the right and sign up today!

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fox narrowboat hire on the fens waterways
fox narrow boat hire fens

fox narrowboat hire on the fens waterways

Question – What’s green and yellow with a flash of red, floats below sea level, but isn’t a submarine ?

Answer – the Fox narrowboat that could be part of your next holiday!

The Fox narrowboat hire fleet is based on the Middle Level in March, in Cambridgeshire. The Middle Level is a largely man made group of rivers lying between the River Nene and the River Great Ouse. They were formed in the 17th century by the draining of marshy fens. As the land dried out it shrank resulting in (not a lot of people know this) most of the Middle Level being below mean sea level.

Fox boats give you unique luxury access to this beautiful and historic world, rife with wildlife, big sunsets and nearly forgotten history. Those of us who live or regularly boat here have kept this a well guarded secret, but I’m going to ‘spill the beans’ and let you in on it.

march waterways by local artist Adrian Veater

march waterways by local artist Adrian Veater Peterborough

Three out of four of the Fenland Market Towns offer visitor moorings. Although the big Tesco near the Fox hire base in March provides a good opportunity to stock up before your departure, the town centre moorings in March offer shopping opportunities, pubs and takeaways.

Ramsey

ramsey 40ft mooring

ramsey 40ft mooring

The extensive new visitor moorings in Ramsey finally offer the opportunity to explore this fascinating and rewarding town (also with a close by Tesco superstore).

ramsey dock 2017

ramsey dock 2017

An interesting feature is the Great Whyte, the main shopping street which had previously been the port until the river was built over in the 1850s. The river still flows below and is visible from the morning’s (https://ramseytunnels.co.uk)

Ramsey Basin

ramsey basin

Whittlesey

Whittlesey offers limited moorings at the back of a leisure centre and only a short walk from the historic market place. The highlight of Whittlesey’s year is the annual Straw Bear Festival in January when residents disguise themselves as bears by wrapping up in straw. (https://strawbear.org.uk)

Fenland History

Fenland has had many nicknames over the years and each one sheds a different light on the various aspects of its history.

Medieval

In Medieval times the area had a number of major ecclesiastical establishments, including Crowland, Ramsey, Chatteris and Thorney Abbeys, as well as Ely and Peterborough Cathedrals. Reflecting this ample provision for the spiritual, the name The Holy Land of the English was applied.

17th Century

Prior to the draining of the Fens in the 17th Century by a Dutchman, Cornelius Vermuyden, the area was often referred to as The Great Eastern Swamp, or The Old Drowned Lands.

The first drainage scheme was intended to provide relief from flooding during summer months and gave rise to the description The Summer Lands.

World War II

During WWII the productive rich black soil of the Fens was put to use feeding the country, which was in danger of going hungry as the German blockade of shipping tightened. The area then acquired the deserved nickname The Breadbasket of Britain.

The flat countryside, devoid of hills to disturb its great panoramic landscapes, has given rise to the name The Land of the Three-quarter Sky.

But we prefer to think of it as Fox Narrow Boat country!

In the Middle Ages Fenland enjoyed so many religious institutions that it attracted the description the ‘Holy Land of the English’. Not all have survived, but the March church of St Wendreda boasts a double hammer beam roof featuring 118 carved angels.

roof church st wendreda

roof church st wendreda

The founder of the Victorian Society, and former Poet Laureate, Sir John Betjeman wrote that the angel roof of St Wendreda’s church was ‘worth cycling forty miles into a head wind’ to see.

Those who have braved a fierce Fenland wind blowing from the Urals, uninterrupted by hills or trees, will appreciate quite how much effort is required to cycle so far in these conditions. And those who have visited St Wendreda’s will also appreciate quite how well that effort is rewarded – though the roof remains just as spectacular, even if less strenuous means of transport are used when visiting!

In the 19th century the only way agricultural workers in remote Fenland villages went anywhere was by walking. In 1896 the Vicar of Stretham resolved that if people couldn’t easily get to church, he would take the church to the people.

floating church fenland uk

floating church fenland uk

In 1896 a floating church was commissioned to serve the Fenland parish of Holme. At the time Holme had 42 houses spread over a distance of between two and four miles from the parish church by road, whereas they were all within one mile of the river, and 26 of them practically bankside.

Unable to ring bells from a conventional spire (which wouldn’t have fitted under the low fenland bridges), the Floating Church (or ‘Ark’ as it came to be known) flew two flags, those of St Andrew & St George, to announce that services were about to start. Between its launch and October 1904, a choir was formed, needlework and bible classes held, and 74 baptisms are recorded as having taken place on board.

In 1907 the barge was abandoned near Ramsey St Mary before being sold off to a group of young men who renamed it ‘Saint’s Rest’, converted it into a houseboat.

I’m the author of the Imray boating guide “Fenland Waters” – available from Foxs. If you’d like to know more of the history of our ‘secret’ world I invite you to buy a copy. Chris Howes.

See our interactive fenland waterways map for historic sights, moorings, pubs, restaurants & things to see and do on the middle level.

If you are interested in exploring the Fenland Waterways Foxs have day hire narrowboats and holiday boats available.

Hey! Are you new here? Subscribe on the right to receive more secrets of the undiscovered Fenland waterways, by email. (We never share or sell email addresses, we’ll only be sending you our local, insider knowledge, every two weeks.)

Image Credit: Chris Howes (except: Fox Narrowboats; top image & church roof St. Wendreda)

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river wissey hilgay - wiki martin pearman
river wissey hilgay wiki Martin Pearman

river wissey hilgay

Is there anymore a relaxing and restorative holiday than on a narrowboat?

Is there any better way to immerse yourself in the natural world?

I’m that person with the lifestyle many of you envy. I’m semi-retired and live on a Fox narrowboat! So what does the person whose life can appear ‘one long holiday’ do for a holiday? I often stock up on provisions and cruise the tributaries of the River Great Ouse, the rivers Lark, Little Ouse and Wissey.

quiet east anglian waterways

quiet waterways

The days of traffic jams, congestion charging, ‘held up by roadworks’ and road rage are but a distant memory to me ! I never go anywhere fast in my boat, and occasionally marvel at the small minority of hirers who appear to feel the need to go as fast as possible, seemingly in an attempt to achieve the maximum possible mileage. My mantra is “if I was in a hurry I shouldn’t have bought a boat”. My formula for stress free living – relax and drink in the narrowboat experience.

prickwillow engine museum pumping station wheel

prickwillow engine museum

On the river Lark visit the brilliant Prickwillow Drainage Museum Open mainly Saturdays, Sundays & Mondays, April through September.

And explore upstream as far as Judes Ferry and reward yourself with good pub grub in the hostelry! It is a long standing boating tradition that you can’t turn around outside a pub without first sampling its wares. (Perhaps a less well known tradition, but one I strive to try and keep alive!)

The entrance to the Little Ouse is marked by The Ship at Brandon Creek PH. With both pub and EA visitor moorings the Ship also has a long tradition of feeding and watering the hungry boater.

Little Ouse narrowboat approach lock sluice gate

little ouse narrowboat approach lock sluice gate

The river Little Ouse features the breathtaking lovely Hockwold Fen part of an RSPB nature reserve. One evening my wife and I moored there on the GOBA mooring and were entertained all evening by nightingale song. Priceless!

Little Ouse GOBA Mooring

Little Ouse GOBA Mooring

Another star of the Little Ouse is the eye catching remains of the long abandoned Waterman’s Arms. How the ruins of this former pub defy gravity and remain standing defies belief!

derelict watermans arms

derelict watermans arms

The last of these three tributaries is the River Wissey. The lower reaches feel so remote as you squeeze through its tight reeds that it often reminds me of the film classic, the ‘African Queen’. My wife plays Katherine Hepburn to my Humphrey Bogart !

Marvel at the alien landscape as you briefly pass next to the country’s largest beet factory at Wissington. Both the Wissey and the Little Ouse feature strange water management feature.

The Head of Navigation on the Wissey is a charming flint built Suffolk town called Brandon. 5 miles north east of Brandon is Grime’s Graves, the only Neolithic flint mine open to visitors in Britain. Both worth visiting !

grimes graves

grimes graves map

In this blog I’ve only scratched the surface of the many interesting features and quirks of these rivers. In my printed 260 page guide “The Great Ouse and its Tributaries’ published by Imray. I describe, for example, both how the river Lark demonstrates all the different historical stages in pumping the Fens dry, and how the same river was used for mass, total immersion baptism, right up until the 1970s, only stopping after complaints that the recently ‘dunked’ were too smelly! And many, many other strange and little known facts. The guide is available from Fox’s. Chris Howes.

View this Fox Route 1 & points of interest on the Fox Narrowboats Interactive Google Map

If you are interested in exploring the Fenland Waterways, Fox have day hire narrowboats and holiday boats available.

Hey! Are you new here? Subscribe on the right to receive more secrets of the undiscovered Fenland waterways, by email. (We never share or sell email addresses, we’ll only be sending you our local, insider knowledge, every two weeks)

Image credit: river wissey hilgay (top) – wiki martin pearman, grimes graves map – public domain (bottom), all inline photos – chris howes

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glass wine cambridge narrowboat holiday

wine and cheese onboard a fox narrowboat

When it comes to canal boating, is there anything more relaxing than sipping your favourite drink as you cruise the waterways? Whether you’re a fan of tea, coffee, real ale, or a glass of fine wine, here are seven tips for the best drinking experience aboard a narrowboat.

  1. Safety First: Choose a designated driver if you are planning a particularly boozy cruise. If you are the skipper make sure your alcohol free as well as your working crew whilst traveling; there are some great no alcohol versions available. Those helping with the locks should also keep their wits about them, as locks can be deeply dangerous!
  2. Local Flavours: One of the joys of travelling England by narrowboat is discovering local flavours along the way. So sample the local brews when visiting waterside pubs. Try these suggestions:

5 Places to Stop for a Drink When Cruising on the Cam

Our Top 3 Pubs for Your Fenland Narrowboat Holiday

Cambridgeshire Wine School’s Wine Tasting events are held in a beautiful Cambridge College and each day includes a demonstration of sabrage – opening a bottle of Champagne with a sabre! Alternatively, try visiting The Cambridge Gin Laboratory, with classroom, shop and tasting lounge, or The Ely Gin Company for local craft spirit gift sets.

  1. Picnic Perfect: Pack a picnic basket with your favourite snacks to complement your drink. Savour the moment by creating a perfect pairing with cheeses, crackers, and some fresh fruits while taking in the views. Stock up on groceries at a supermarket in March before you leave, or pre-book an afternoon tea or grazing box from Glam Grazing by Gem. If you want to plan a picnic without any traffic troubles or tantrums, follow these three simple steps to the perfect waterside picnic.How to Use Your Canal Boat Holiday to Plan the Perfect Picnic
  2. Sundown Delights: Sunsets on the water are breathtaking, and nowhere is that more true than in the Fenlands, with its wide open skies and flat landscapes. Get comfortable on deck, raise a glass, and toast to another beautiful day on the canals, as the sun dips below the horizon.
  3. Theme Nights: Spice up your evenings with themed drink nights. Whether it’s a cocktail party, wine tasting, or a local beer showcase, themed nights can add an extra layer of fun to your narrowboat adventure.
  4. Stay Hydrated: A holiday may not always be about the alcoholic drinks! During the day if the weather is warm, and the boating demands physical work, such as operating locks, then remember to stay hydrated with plenty of water throughout the day.
  5. Respect the Environment: Responsible boaters dispose of empty bottles and cans properly, keeping the waterways tidy for everyone to enjoy. Boater’s waste disposal points are marked in the guidebook supplied with the boat, or you can search for Boat Marina Services on our interactive map. See: Fascinating New Interactive Fens Waterways Map for Narrowboaters

Remember, the real pleasure of narrowboating lies in the slow-paced, peaceful journey. Enjoying a drink on your narrowboat can enhance the experience, but always do so responsibly, appreciating the beauty of the waterways and the serenity of your surroundings. Cheers to a relaxing and enjoyable narrowboat adventure!

Don’t miss more articles about what to see and do when narrowboating in the Fens: Sign up to follow this blog in the sidebar on the right.

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nene park children train ride

nene park peterborough

Are you yearning for a unique and unforgettable holiday experience that combines the charm of waterways with the tranquillity of nature? Look no further than Fox Narrowboats, a renowned narrowboat holiday provider in the Cambridgeshire Fens. Nestled in the picturesque town of March, Fox Narrowboats offers an extraordinary opportunity to explore the beautiful Nene Park Ferry Meadows and its heartwarming family-friendly facilities. Join us as we embark on a delightful long weekend journey, sailing the waters and exploring the wonders of Nene Park, Peterborough.

Setting Sail with Fox Narrowboats:

March welcomes you with its quaint atmosphere and the promise of an unforgettable adventure. Fox Narrowboats boasts a fleet of meticulously maintained narrowboats, ensuring comfort and convenience during your journey.

Exploring Nene Park:

nene park waterways

Our long weekend adventure takes us to Nene Park, a true gem in the heart of Peterborough. (journey time approx 13 hours return and 6 locks) The park is a haven of natural beauty, offering a diverse range of attractions for visitors of all ages. The crown jewel of the park is Ferry Meadows, a sprawling landscape boasting meadows, woodlands, and lakes.

Ferry Meadows: A Family-Friendly Oasis:

Ferry Meadows welcomes you with open arms, offering an array of activities that cater to families and individuals alike. The park’s well-maintained trails invite leisurely strolls, energizing bike rides, and pleasant picnics amidst the lush greenery. The idyllic lakes are perfect for fishing, birdwatching, and even kayaking, allowing you to connect with nature in unique ways.

For families, the park provides an abundance of options to create cherished memories. The adventure playgrounds will delight children as they climb, swing, and slide to their heart’s content. The miniature railway adds a touch of magic, offering rides that are sure to enchant the young and young at heart. And if you’re a wildlife enthusiast, the park’s numerous bird species and resident animals will surely capture your attention.

Comfort and Relaxation on Board:

meal prep is easy in the well equipped galley

After a day of exploring the park’s natural wonders, your Fox Boat becomes a sanctuary of comfort and relaxation. Equipped with modern amenities, your narrowboat offers all the conveniences of home while allowing you to unwind in the tranquil surroundings of the water. Prepare a delicious meal in the well-appointed galley, or simply sit back and enjoy the sunset from the cozy living area.

Creating Lasting Memories:

As your long weekend journey comes to an end, you’ll find that the memories created aboard your Fox Narrowboat and amidst the beauty of Nene Park are truly unforgettable. From the serenity of the waterways to the laughter-filled moments in the park, this holiday experience is a tapestry woven with joy, connection, and nature’s beauty.

In conclusion, a long weekend narrowboat holiday with Fox Narrowboats in March, exploring Nene Park and Ferry Meadows in Peterborough, promises an enchanting experience for families and individuals seeking both adventure and relaxation. The park’s family-friendly facilities, coupled with the comfort and charm of a narrowboat, create the perfect recipe for an idyllic getaway. Whether you’re sailing along the waterways, exploring the park’s treasures, or simply enjoying quality time with loved ones, this unique holiday will leave you with cherished memories that last a lifetime. So, why wait? Embark on this journey of a lifetime and let the magic of Fox Narrowboats and Nene Park captivate your heart and soul.

Start planning your narrowboat cruise today! Check availability now for your next family adventure.

For more ideas about boating holidays enter your email address in the box in the right side bar (‘Follow blog’) and we’ll send you articles direct to your inbox. (We never share or sell email addresses, this is just to send you our latest blog posts.)

Image credit: ferry meadows shutterstock (top) 

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fens waterways google map

If you have ever wondered…

Where’s the nearest pub?

Is there a shop near here?

And where can I moor?

Our new interactive waterways map has the answer. It shows where you are on the navigation and what useful things you might find nearby. So for example, if you are moored in March on the Old River Nene, by the park; the map will show you that you are near to a Sainsbury’s store, the museum, and the Oliver Cromwell restaurant. Icons make it really easy to see nearby shops, restaurants, pubs and places of interest. You can use the map on your smart phone, tablet or laptop, to find your next mooring and plan your route. (All of our boat have WiFi.) Or when you arrive you can just moor up and then check out what happens to be nearby.

waterways google map march

Business icons may have a link to more details. So for example, The Oliver Cromwell restaurant link takes you straight to the hotel website, where you can check the menu and book a table. Tapping the March Museum icon displays a photo of the museum, and a summary of what you can see there, plus a link to the website to find out the entry costs and more. (Spoiler alert: Admission is free!) March museum is in the heart of the town centre and offers a fascinating insight into our local social history through a number of displays and collections, with interactive elements.

iphone waterways map

iphone waterways map

Our hire boat marina is based in March, but you’ll soon want to head off exploring the waterways with your boat, and this is where the map comes into its own. You can easily zoom in and out of the map using your fingers on a hand-held device. The map is based on Google maps, so it has all the same functionality; such as viewing areas in map view, satellite view and street view. If you search for your intended destination, for example, “Outwell”, the map will display the general area, so you can look at your mooring options before you arrive. Food options in Outwell include Stotts Fish and Chip shop, or the Crown Lodge Hotel. A local place of interest on the map is St Clements Church. Clicking the icon brings up the address, a brief description and a photo of the church.

Navigation information such as turning points, locks and moorings are included; and boating services such as pump-out and water, rubbish, recycling, and elsan emptying. There are also navigation notes, such as warnings of underwater obstructions, staunches or fast flowing water.

search and filter map POI’s

You can filter the results displayed on the map, for example to show only historic sites, nature reserves, only railways stations or only locks. Select what you are looking for, and then zoom out to see all of our local waterways, and view how many options there are. Zooming out you can really see how much waterways there are to explore in the Fens. The River Nene will take you west to Wadenhoe, the Cam will take you south to Cambridge, and the Little Ouse River will take you east to Brandon, a pretty Suffolk market town. Explore the ‘Things to See’ filter to discover historically significant churches and unusual local attractions like Stretham Old Engine Museum.

You don’t have to wait until your narrowboat holiday to use this map though. Check it out now, and have a play around. You can plan your ideal route and think about the things you want to see and do on your next boat trip.

See the map now: Fox Narrowboats Fenland Waterways Map

For free walking and cycling maps check out: Exploring the Fens on Foot with Minimal Effort

Don’t miss more articles about what to see and do when narrowboating in the Fens: Sign up to follow this blog in the sidebar on the right.

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steering on a family narrowboat holiday

steering a fox narrowboat

What should you bring?

Can the kids steer a canal boat?

How can your family prepare for the trip?

A Fox Narrowboat trip is more than a holiday; it’s an opportunity to create lifelong memories with your family. Embrace every moment of this unique experience and make the most of your time together with these four holiday tips.

1) Bring Your Own Entertainment

On a narrowboat holiday there will be plenty of time for the children to relax. So to keep them entertained, bring along a selection of games and activities and suggest that they bring a few favourite books on holiday. You could also bring games that include the whole family, such as Trivial Pursuit, or Scrabble. If you bring tablets and other handheld devices they can be recharged on board. Just load them with the games and movies that you know the children would enjoy. Then balance that screen-time with exploring the natural world, off the boat with the rest of the family.

A narrowboat holiday offers the opportunity to see wildlife and birds, which can be a chance to learn about different species and plants: Bring binoculars if you have them. The children may like to take photos or bring their sketchpads. Your family can explore footpaths, towpaths, trails, woodlands and meadows as part of your holiday.

2) Learn About Navigation

Although training in boat handling will be given when you arrive at our hire base, you may also like to familiarise yourself with some basic boating terminology and skills by reading our blog: Is it Difficult to Drive a Narrowboat? Older children can learn boating skills with you, and get involved with steering, operating locks and mooring up. The Canal and River Trust have a series of animated films designed to help boaters navigate the UK’s inland waterways safely. Developed jointly by CRT and the Environment Agency, the animations are designed to complement the Boater’s Handbook. Teach your children about lock safety and involve them in the process, allowing them to participate under supervision.

The children can also help you to plan your trip, both by using a guidebook, and using our interactive waterways map. The map will help you plan your navigation, and what useful things you might find nearby.

Read: Fascinating New Interactive Waterways Map for Narrowboaters

You can plan the places you would like to visit and calculate how long your journey will take you. You can filter the results displayed on the map, to show shops, places to eat, historic sites, nature reserves, navigational information and much more.

3) Be Prepared

The UK weather can be a bit unpredictable, so be prepared for all conditions. Pack clothing suitable for both warm and cold weather, as well as waterproofs in case of rain. Keep an eye on weather forecasts and plan your activities and stopping points accordingly.

We also advise booking your holiday hire boat well in advance if you can. Consider the size and layout of the boat to ensure it meets the needs of your family. All bed linen, towels, and kitchen utensils are provided. Our ‘Rural Fox’ narrowboat sleeps up to four people, and our other boats sleep up to six people.

4) Savour the Moment

A narrowboat holiday allows you to disconnect from the distractions of everyday life and spend quality time with your family. Enjoy each other’s company and create lasting memories. Take lots of pictures to capture these moments together, and encourage your children to take their own photos. You will explore charming towns and villages along the Fenland waterways, each with its own character and history. Stop off at quaint pubs, visit local markets, and immerse yourself in the local culture. Some popular boating destinations include Peterborough, Ely and Cambridge.

Start Planning Your Narrowboat Adventure Today!

Begin your journey of discovery and relaxation by planning a narrowboat holiday in Cambridgeshire. With its stunning waterways, charming towns, and endless opportunities for family fun, a narrowboat holiday is the perfect escape from the ordinary. Immerse yourself in the beauty of the Fenland waterways, create lasting memories, and embark on an adventure that your family will cherish forever.

Start planning your narrowboat cruise today! Check availability now for your next family adventure.

You may also like: The Top 5 Tips for a Family Narrowboat Break

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cape fox narrowboat galley saloon
cape fox narrowboat interior kitchen living area

cape fox narrowboat galley saloon

Last summer the Met Office put an extreme heat warning in place, and so we published Five Cool Ideas for Narrowboating in a Heatwave. Some areas of the UK were even affected by drought, and so people were asked to limit what water they used. This wet July has been a different story, with the Met Office explaining that although a southern shift of the jet stream has caused high pressure and record high temperatures in Europe, low-pressure systems have caused this cooler weather here in Britain.

However, even in the pouring rain, most narrowboaters still know how to have a good time! The UK canal boating season is from spring until autumn, and British boaters know that they must expect the unexpected when it comes to the weather. So here are four ways to enjoy your narrowboat holiday, even if it rains.

On the Cut

If you’re planning a holiday in England you will need to pack clothes that suit both summer sunshine and rainy days – just in case. So be prepared to bring a light raincoat and a warm jumper. When the boat is underway, encourage a sense of team spirit and camaraderie among your crew by all pitching in with the locks, whatever the weather. If you have younger children, or vulnerable crew members on board, just make them aware that the deck and gunwales can get slippery in the rain. The steerer (dressed in waterproofs) can enjoy the rural views as you travel, and those below deck can supply the steerer with hot drinks and biscuits. If the steerer is you, be proud of your tenacity! Then, after you’ve moored up at your planned destination, enjoy a dry change of clothes and a sense of smug satisfaction.

On the Boat

However, you don’t have to be cruising for the whole holiday; travelling is only a part of it. If you get caught in the rain simply check your guidebook (supplied with the boat) for your nearest suitable mooring, and moor up for a while. Make snacks in the galley, and get comfortable using the TV and Wi-Fi. You could even turn on the central heating if necessary! Make yourself at home and perhaps persuade your group or family to play board games or card games until the rain eases off.

In a Book

Can you imagine curling up with a good book while the rain patters down on the narrowboat roof?

Steve Haywood has written several good travelogues about cruising the canals. ‘Narrowdog to Carcassonne’ by Terry Darlington is an autobiographical account of taking a narrowboat through France. For historical fiction about boating women, try ‘Water Gypsies’ by Annie Murray, or for real-life women’s experiences I recommend ‘Ramlin Rose’ by Sheila Stewart. Being far from digital distractions can be a welcome reprieve from modern life.

On the Bank

And finally, you will of course spend a good part of your holiday off the boat, exploring villages, towns, shops and tourist attractions. Take shelter in one of these Three Waterside Pubs to Visit on Holiday. Our blog is full of some great suggestions of places to go, from Ely Cathedral to the colleges of Cambridge University; museums, and art galleries can all be explored on a rainy day. Click ‘Blog’ (top right) and look for ‘Follow Blog’ in the right sidebar to receive more helpful holiday tips about the Fenland Waterways. (We never share or sell email addresses, we’ll only be sending you our local, insider knowledge, every two weeks.)

Whatever the weather, the scenery here on the Fenland waterways in Cambridgeshire is second to none. Just take a look at where you could go exploring, by seeing our suggested Fox Boats routes.

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