“ Canal trips along the Avon and Kennet canals based at Newbury, Berkshire. „
Canal Trip on the Kennet and Avon Canal from Newbury
We spent a week end down near Newbury recently with some friends and most unlike us, we had not done a lot of research prior to the trip. We went straight to the tourist Information office when we went into Newbury and they suggested this trip as something we could do in the afternoon.
The Avon and Kennet Canal Trust is a charity and this 'Jubilee' canal boat is run by volunteers entirely. The 'Jubilee' is a traditional narrowboat which seats 30 people. There was a small shop and licensed bar on board as well as a proper toilet! It was open to the outside but had covers that could be rolled down if the weather turned inclement or in colder weather when they also have heating inside.
The trust was founded with the aim of maintaining and enhancing the waterway through positive involvement and fund raising. They encourage volunteers who share a love of the canals and the boats on them. They hope by promoting the waterway through trips and museums, pumping stations, shops and boats to raise awareness of the waterways and their history.
2012 is the Trust's 50th Anniversary and they now have a gold badge on their leaflet to celebrate this.
The trust operates four boats on the canal crewed by qualified and experienced volunteers. The trips in these boats are led by qualified UK boatmasters. They run daily trips but you can also charter these for parties as well. The boats all depart from different towns along this waterway.
'The Jubilee' leaves from Newbury wharf on the River Kennet, 'The Rose of Hungerford' departs from Hungerford, 'The Kenavon Venture' leaves from outside the Trust's headquarters in Devises and lastly 'The MV Barbara, McLellan ' is based near Bradford-on-Avon. So you can take a trip from a number of different towns along this waterway.
This boat has been beautifully decorated and relaunched in 2012 to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and of course the Trust's Golden jubilee. This is an especially appropriate way to celebrate Her Majesty's Jubilee as the restoration of the canal began 50 years ago when the Queen accepted a petition calling for its restoration. Then Thirty years after this Her Majesty came to reopen the canal aboard one of Trust's boats, the 'Rose of Hungerford'.
PRICES AND TIMES
We paid about £5 each for the trip we took which was an OAP discount! Someone else bought the tickets so I wasn't going to complain! Tickets are £6 for adults, £3.50 for children, £5 for concessions and £17 for a family (2 + 2). You can buy the tickets from the Tourist Information Centre or the Teashop by the Canal, both in The Wharf area of Newbury.
The 'Jubilee' operates on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays in July and August and the trip leaves at 2 in the afternoon on Wednesday and Sunday and Saturday and it also leaves at 11 am on Saturday.. In April - June and September to October the trips operate on Saturday and Sunday at 2pm and 11 am on Saturdays as well.
If you are interested in taking a trip then do check the website as these times are subject to change.
We were welcomed aboard by one gentleman who was our guide, there was also a driver and a lady volunteer who was at the back near the shop in case anyone wanted to buy anything. We boarded by a gangway which was not a problem to anyone able bodied but could have been a bit tricky for someone wheel chair bound or even anyone with problems walking. I am sure assistance would be given but if you need this help then I would phone to check first to avoid disappointment.
We sat on two benches, rather hard on the bum after a while, along either side of the boat so that in order to see out of the side you had to sit sort of sideways which was also quite hard on your back to keep twisting around.
The guide explained the history of the narrowboat and showed us a broad bottomed boat along the trip to compare. He wore a life jacket which he justified by saying if any of us fell in then it was his job to dive in and rescue us! His commentary was nicely paced and most interesting, to both adults and children.
We didn't go very far up the river at all but we went through a lock and under a bridge which had to open for us. There were volunteers who had the necessary equipment to open the lock and bridge and they came along the tow path to open these for us. The trip took just under an hour and a half but we didn't have to wait for the lock at all on the way out but we had a short wait as two other narrow boats were coming through the lock on the way back.
The lock was really interesting as I had not been through a small canal lock before and they are very cosy sideways. We were tied to one side when the lock was taking us up but on the way down they didn't tether the boat as it doesn't tend to move as much. Two canal boats can fit in the lock and they encourage you to share when possible. We didn't share on either of our trips through the lock but we watched two boats share while we waited to go back into Newbury on our return trip.
On the way our guide told us a bit about canal boats and moorings, we passed a boat which had been vandalised which was rather sad. The scenery was initially through Newbury town and then we went into the countryside and finally turned around in a winding which is a sort of wider part of the canal and you do a sort of three point turn with the boat which is fairly tricky it appears.
This was a very relaxing trip, some of our little group started to look a bit droopy and eyes began closing as we travelled at a leisurely pace along the quiet river and canal in the summer sunshine. We are all of that certain age when a nice lunch, a sit down and being gently rocked in a warm ( not very comfortable) place is enough to make you feel very drowsy and the eyes begin to close of their own accord. This is not a trip for those looking for excitement and action. As really it is very slow and peaceful. It is something very English about gently chugging along a canal watching people walking, running or cycling along the towpath, a few cows grazing in the fields close by and other boats passing with people waving to us as they came alongside.
I enjoyed the trip but I am not sure that I would want a week's holiday in a canal boat. An hour and a half was good, relaxing and the commentary was both educational and interesting but a week would be far too long as there is only so much relaxing and watching passing scenery that I want to do I think. I could see hiring one of their boats for a day with a group of friends as you could sit and chat in between locks and bridges but any longer and the novelty would wear off for me.
Thanks for reading. This review may be posted on other sites under my same user name.