“ Narrow boat hire and canal trips on the River Thames, Kennet and Avon plus canal boat trips to Oxford. „
~ Canal Experience ~
We booked the Canal experience through a friend, how-ever you can visit the canal and tipi experience website for further information about the Canal experience. For the Canal Experience you can choose from 2 different routes which include the River Thames or the Kennet & Avon Canal. Your boat will be located at an accessible base near Reading, where you will start your journey. There are a total of 5 narrow boats to choose from which hold up to 12 passengers for day hire and 6 passengers for shorts breaks and weekly hire. The staff are flexible, friendly and ensures you choose the best boat for your needs and travels. Depending on when you book your boat hire will depend on the cost, obviously it's better to go during the summer rather than the winter so you can really enjoy the experience and the beautiful scenery as you go along in the boat. For 5-7 days hire the boat will cost approximately £885, how-ever if you choose to go peak season this can cost anything up to £1, 249. This is the price for a 6 berth narrow boat. The smaller 4 berth boars are slightly cheaper starting from just £660 for 5-7 days. For more information you can visit their website which is the following: http://www.canalandtipiexperience.com/
~ My experience ~
I went on the boat with my boyfriend, his mum and her friend so there were 4 of us in total. We got to our boat early on the Saturday morning and set off for about 10 minutes with the Guide talking my boyfriend through how to steer the boat, etc. My boyfriend was the nominated person to steer the boat, so he's the one who listened to the guide to all the instructions. As we set off it was a very chilly day and I'm glad that I packed my winter coat. It wasn't long before we came to our first lock in which we had to open and then close again. After going through about 5-6 locks I had the idea of how it worked and what we had to do in order to open the lock, fill it, empty it and close the lock again. Me and my boyfriend stayed in the boat in the lock whilst his mum and her friend opened and closed the locks. My job was then to tie up the boat for mooring so the others had time to get back onto the boat. As we went along in the boat we saw some beautiful scenery and buildings and passer-by's on the tow path waved and greeted to us. We stayed on the boat for a total number of 6 days.
The beds were surprisingly quite comfortable, how-ever it did get rather chilly in the night and me and my boyfriend got some extra blankets out from the cupboard to keep us both warmer during the night. The boat does tend to get a lot of condensation inside it, and you may wake up to find the bed covers a little damp or water droplets from the ceiling. The toilet and shower facilities were great and worked very well. I wasn't expecting the shower to be very powerful; how-ever it was great and heated up nicely. You do need to switch a pump on when using the shower to get rid of all the water that collects form the shower. This goes out the side of the bath into the canal water. We all enjoyed stopping off at different locations to try out some of the local pub food and to have a look around in the local towns.
We travelled up the canal for about 3 days, and then we had to turn round to come back again to ensure we had the boat back on time. We reached Great Bedwyn; how-ever we did get up rather early each morning to set off in the boat. I was actually glad when it was time to turn round and come back as I was feeling rather tired from jumping in and out of the boat all day every day. The places where we moored were quite close to the main train tracks so when we stopped at places overnight we often heard freight trains go past and we heard the alarms from the train crossings go down which was rather irritating when we were trying to sleep. We cooked on board a few nights, and we also ate out to see what the local pubs were like. A few of the nights we had a barbeque on the tow path next to our boat which was really nice as the weather was rather pleasant these days. I was expecting the boat to move around a lot during the night, how-ever it didn't and the water was very calm so it didn't actually feel as though I was really sleeping on a boat at all. Of course there are times on the boat when it may rock slightly and this is likely to happen when you are in a lock. You do get 2 keys which are used to open and the close the locks, this is fairly simple and you will get shown this before heading off on your own for the first time. The overall experience was very interesting but I also found it very tiring and by the end of the holiday I just felt like catching up on sleep for about a week! I don't think I would do it again as it was too tiring for me and I prefer a more relaxing holiday.
~ The Boat ~
The boat we hired was called Meander which was a 6 berth narrow boat. The boat was a total of 58ft and included a bathroom with shower, Additional toilet with basin, Cabin doors for privacy, fully equipped galley and 240v supply. Also included was a TV/DVD/Radio, Gas oven hob/grill/oven, Solid fuel stove and diesel powered central heating. The boat had a double berth bed which was located in the dining area. The table simple collapsed to form the base for the bed. You do need to be careful when using this as heavy people won't be suitable to use this. You simply use all the cushions from the seating in the dining area to make a mattress for the bed. The sheets for this area are provided. There was a fixed double berth bed in the middle of the boat and this probably looked the most comfortable bed. Towards the stern of the boat were 2 singles bed, how-ever these can be pushed together to form a double bed. You will need to inform the company how you want the bed so they can make them up for you. The kitchen was well equipped with everything we needed such as cups, plates, kettle, saucepans, cutlery and other utensils. There was a small fridge which had a small freezer section in the top. The fridge was very clean and we used the fridge to store a lot of our food. The oven was simple and easy to use when my boyfriend's mum got used to it. The sink area in the kitchen was rather small; how-ever we coped well with doing the washing up and things here. The toilet areas were very clean and tidy and they provided clean bath towels for us to use. We had how-ever taken our own anyway as we weren't sure if these were provided or not. There was plenty of cupboard space to put different things such as food and other things. There was a small bin for food waste, how-ever this got full quite quickly. There are special stations along the route in which you can place rubbish bags and refill the boat with water as well as pump the waste out of the boat as well. We didn't need to do this as we were only on the boat for 6 days, how-ever this would have needed doing once the boat had been returned.
~ The Route ~
We chose the Kennet & Avon route in where we reached Great Bedwyn which is a beautiful, little village. This meant we went through a total of approximately 46 locks on the way there and we had to do them all on the way back as well. On our journey we saw some beautiful countryside with lovely buildings and large houses. Some of the locks were very old, whilst others were new and had been replaced. We saw some other boats, some of which people live on. Some of the boats are painted beautifully with lovely names. When you stop off there are lots of things to look at in the local towns and villages such as small shops and museums. Unfortunately we didn't get chance to have a very long look around these different places as we wanted to get as far as possible on the trip.
~ What to expect ~
This isn't the most relaxing holiday ever; expect to be up and down every 10-15minutes to open a lock. Going through a look can take anything from 5-20minutes depending on the size of the lock itself. You may also need to wait for other boaters to come through before you enter the lock. You can expect to see some beautiful scenery and buildings as you slowly chug along the canal. Being on a boat isn't the warmest; it does get rather chilly depending on what time you set off in the mornings. The boat does come with central heating and a coal fire, how-ever these can take a while to heat up and get warm, but once they get going it does get lovely and toastie! The boat can become rather slippery when wet so you do need to be careful when jumping on and off the boat onto the bank. Before you set off on the boat you may want to decide a location/point where you would like to get to and this will determine how early you need to get up each morning. You are not allowed to use your boat on the canal after dark so you do need to find a mooring point before it gets dark. Along the route you will also see other boats and me and my boyfriend's mum loved looking at the boats to see the names of them. You can also see various different wildlife on the route including birds, deer, rabbits and baby swans.
~ Overall Opinion ~
The Canal Experience was definitely and experience, and one I'm not sure I would do again due to how tiring I found the holiday. The boat we hired was beautiful and the only thing it lacked was a handbook on how to use the heating and other things on the boat. I think older couples would love this holiday and would probably enjoy it more than I did. If the weather had been a bit warmer I may have enjoyed the experience a little more. After the holiday I felt very tired and drain and I ached from pulling the boat in with the rope and then having to jump on and off the boat throughout the day. I enjoyed looking at all the beautiful scenery and buildings as we went along the canal. I tried steering the boat for a few minutes, how-ever I found this a little difficult and decided to leave it to my boyfriend, otherwise I would probably end up crashing the boat or steering it into a tree or bush. I would recommend this to others if you think you are going to enjoy this type of experience and if you like an active holiday. I can't fault the staff when going to collect and returning the boat as they were very helpful and so pleasant. The whole experience deserves 5 out of 5 stars as it is a fantastic experience, but just too tiring for me.
(review also on ciao)