25th Oct, 2020

Enjoying a slower pace of life on Warwickshire's canals

THE PACE of life is always getting faster.

Work is now underway on HS2 – the high speed rail line linking London and Birmingham – just over 50 kilometres (30 plus miles) of which will cut through the heart of Warwickshire. Passengers will be sped at some 330kmh (205mph) through the countryside which, although arguably not the most dramatic in Britain, provided plenty of inspiration for one William Shakespeare. This most unapologetically English of landscapes will be nothing more than a blur to those HS2 passengers who even bother to look up from the screen of their laptop or phone.

And one really has to wonder if making said journey some 15 minutes faster is really worth all the expense and upheaval. There are many who do not.

Supporters of the controversial line on the other hand argue HS2 is an economic necessity, as has been the argument with transport developments down the centuries, from the canals in the 18th century, which lost out to competition from the railways in the late 19th century, which in turn suffered from the takeover by the internal combustion engine in the 20th century.

Such ‘advances’ which drive business are down to economics and increased speed in getting whatever from A to B. It was no surprise the canals with their leisurely most human of pace of around three or four mph were supplanted by ever speedier forms of transport.

But the legacy of Britain’s canal age is a rich one and today the network which criss-crosses the country offers the chance to step away from the 24/7 speed of 21st century life and take a breather.

In recent decades the canals of England have been reinvented for leisure and in these uncertain times they also offer a break as Covid-safe as it is possible to get.

And while so many of us are now understandably opting for staycations in Britain, few may not have thought about what is right on their doorstep. A trip on Warwickshire’s canals can offer a totally different perspective on Shakespeare’s county, one that many long-time residents have not even encountered.

Anglo Welsh has been offering canal holidays from bases up and down the country for more than 50 years. They have a range of boats to suit all purposes complete with modern comforts. They may look similar to the workhorses of old which were so essential to the industrial revolution, but today’s narrowboats include hot showers, wi-fi, fridge freezers, tvs, comfy beds and all other mod cons.

The Anglo Welsh base at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal provides an ideal starting point for an easy glide right into the heart of Shakespeare’s Stratford, a route to the vast network of Birmingham’s canal system, or a trip through Hatton’s famous stairway to heaven flight of 21 locks, leading to Warwick and Leamington and beyond.

Drifting gently along through what remains of the Forest of Arden is the perfect anecdote to the hustle and bustle of everyday life. The likes of Kingfishers and Peregrine Falcons going about their business is not something that can be experienced from a train or car window.

Or even the greedy Muscovy Duck at Dick’s Lane Lock whose has learnt to wait for passing boats safe in the knowledge there could be a tit bit to be had.

On the water, steering is soon mastered and locks are nothing to fear and soon become second nature.

And help is always available. Anyone who has walked along a canal towpath will no doubt have been met by a friendly greeting from a passing boater. More experienced boaters are always on hand with advice at locks or anywhere else en route for that matter.

There is something about canal travel which really does bring out the best in people. After all, who has ever heard of ‘canal rage’.

From a weekend break to a week long break, or even longer, those looking to unwind will be hard pressed to beat taking to the water of Warwickshire’s canals.

Visit www.anglowelsh.co.uk for full details.

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