This is the season of year when many people are scanning the holiday brochures so I thought it would be a good time to look at booking hire boats on-line. I have found an amazing 54 hire boat firms with web sites, so you could find it easier to choose a boat on the web than by sending off for a pile of brochures. Of course the big four all have sites -www.alvechurch.com, www.anglowelsh-group.plc.uk, www.black-prince.com and www.viking-afloat.com - and show pictures, layouts and prices of their boats. Viking Afloat even has a brochure that can be downloaded to disc for you to browse off-line. All the sites offer extra information to a varying degree, the best giving really good route planning information and boating advice. Not that the multi-base companies have a monopoly of good sites at
www.claymoorenavigationltd.co.uk Claymoore Navigation have a site that is easy to navigate and packed with details of boats, prices and routes. The Wyvern Shipping Co. Ltd. have all the usual hire pages plus the history of the company on www.canalholidays.co.uk and Shire Cruisers of Sowerby Bridge have an attractive site on www.shirecruisers.co.uk. Oxfordshire Narrowboats have another very professional site at www.oxfordshire-narrowboats.co.uk even though they are a comparatively small company. No firm is too small to have good web pages as is proved by Berry Brook Boats on www.berrybrookboats.co.uk, with just four boats, and the even smaller Cherry Craft - www.canalboats.co.uk/cherrycraft - on the Kennet & Avon. I'm not suggesting that any of these companies or sites I have mentioned are the cream of those available, they are just a few examples from the long list. If you want the addresses of the other web sites I know of they are all listed under Boat Hire on my Links page at www.jim.shead.btinternet.co.uk. There are another 18 sites listed under Hotel Boats for those wanting a boating holiday where someone else does the steering and cooking. You will find that some hire companies offer on line booking forms, while others have booking forms for you to printout and others will send you their brochure. I have not found any hire firm that actually provides on-line payment for your booking although many will take credit card details from the booking form.
With this ring
Last month I mentioned the UK Waterways Network web ring, now I have found another - The UK Canals web ring - which can be accessed from the "UKCANALS.NET" at
www.geocities.com/queenfans/uk1.html where the opening page is accompanied by the sound of gently lapping water. This new ring includes types of waterway related web sites, unlike the UK Waterways Network which does not allow commercial sites. I am a great enthusiast for web rings as in many circumstances they offer a much easier means of accessing relevant sites than through search engines.
There are so many new web sites appearing that it would be impossible to mention them all so I will just pick out a few for you to try, the first being The Leeds & Liverpool Canal Society - http://townsleyb.members.beeb.net/llcs who have a number of well presented pages covering the society and the canal. If you are interested in the Manchester Ship Canal try www.milambar.co.uk where an individual, known to us only by his nickname "Milambar", has pages of articles and pictures on the canal and its origins. Another Waterways society that has recently joined the web is the Sleaford Navigation Trust who have a site at www.sleafordnavigation.co.uk. Readers of Josephine Jeremiah's books and articles in Waterways World may like to see her web site at www.argonet.co.uk/users/ianandjo/main.htm which includes a section on the Glamorganshire Canal containing photographs of the canal both historic and modern.
Site of the month
If you have cruised down the Kennet & Avon and stopped at the Barge Inn at Honey Street you may like to relive the experience by visiting their web site - http://cropcircleconnector.com/anasazi/barge99.html. This has a lot more interesting content than the average pub site and includes a section on the strange Wiltshire phenomena of crop circles, which may have a stronger connection with visiting pubs than is sometimes credited. The history of the Inn, built in 1810, and its role in the history of the canal is explained and right at the bottom of the home page is the link to The Virtual Barge Inn which takes us, it a series of pictures, from the front of the pub through the corridor, games room and into the bar where clicking on the beer pump will take you to the real ale database (accompanied by Scott Joplin's Maple leaf Rag) which must surely list every brewery and beer in the country. An amusing site that is well constructed.
If you would like to suggest a favourite web site which you think WW readers should know about please mail me at Jim.Shead@btinternet.com.