With over 600 inland waterways sites already available it is amazing to find several more appearing each month. On the Grand Union main line Willowbridge Enterprises www.canalaction.co.uk now has a web-site describing its boatyard services and facilities at Milton Keynes. On the Trent & Mersey Canal Orchard Marina www.orchardmarina.co.uk provides boat building, marina and brokerage services from a base that was once an orchard and pig farm. In the past few years the hire boat market has seemed rather flat so it is good to see that Challenger Syndicateships, the long established share boat operators, now offer hire boats under the banner of Challenger Stealth Canal Hire www.hire.challengershare.com. A rather smaller hire boat operation can be found on the Private Canal Boat Hire www.freespirit.f2s.com/canalboathire/ site. This offers a 64-foot narrow boat based around Foxton Locks on the Leicester Arm of the Grand Union Canal. A quite different type of hire boat is available from Boating for All http://boatingforall.org.uk on traditional working narrowboats under canvas.
John Widdall Photography www.btinternet.com/~j.widdall/jwindex.htm has a good selection of pictures depicting the Huddersfield Narrow Canal restoration. The first set are black & white photographs taken in 1981. The second set recording the progress of the work are in colour and date from 1999 to the opening of the restored canal. Another photographic site is Kevin Maslin's Images of the BCN www.kevinmaslin.co.uk/calendar/. This is an online 2003 calendar of the Birmingham Canals that can be printed from the web pages. David and Sue Green bought Mavis, a Simolda narrowboat built in 1980, in December 2001 when she was little more than a shell. Their site Narrowboat Willow http://mysite.freeserve.com/willow05 shows how they renamed and completely refitted her. The Stockport Branch of the Ashton Canal www.jemsabi.uklinux.net is an example to us all. Its authors, having searched in vain for a site that covered this arm of the canal that in 1962 was filled-in, decided to rectify the omission themselves.
Coventry and Ashby Canals
This month's virtual cruise starts at the city of Coventry and The Coventry Canal Society www.covcanalsoc.org.uk website, which has us in a spin from the start. The logo on the home page rotates at top speed and moving the cursor over it will alter the spin speed and change the direction of spin. This is the type of feature I am schizophrenic about, thinking it an amusing feature when at home on a broadband link and cursing it as a time consuming irrelevance when accessing it through a mobile phone on the boat. The site includes the art trail along the canal and a lot of other good stuff. Also at Coventry are Halcyon Boating Holidays www.halcyonboats.co.uk whose hire boats start from here and from their Oxford base. At Marston Junction we turn onto the Ashby Canal to have a look at two sites. The first is Trinity Marinas Ltd www.trinitymarinas.co.uk a fairly new marina at Hinckley and the second Ashby Boat Company www.ashbyboats.co.uk with hire boats based at Stoke Golding. Rejoining the Coventry Canal we next come to Trent Marine Industries www.trentmarineindustries.co.uk at Nuneaton offering narrowboat building, restoration, and general boatyard services. On the other side of Nuneaton we come to Valley Cruises www.valleycruises.co.uk a family operated business based on the Coventry Canal since 1986, first at Atherstone and in recent years at their new marina here. As we near Tamworth we pass Heart of England Marinas www.narrowboat.co.uk the operators of Alvecote Marina Village. This is also one of the many Canaltime www.canaltime.com timeshare narrowboat bases. At the bottom of Glascote Locks is the Tamworth Cruising Club www.tamworthcruisingclub.org.uk where there are moorings and a clubhouse. The clubs web pages give details of membership and club activities.
Site of the Month
With so many good canal society pages on the web it is not surprising that they have appeared in this spot several times. This is a mine that is far from exhausted even after supplying Trent and Mersey Canal Society www.trentandmersey.btinternet.co.uk as this months featured site. The home page is well designed with a limited number of options for exploring the site that conceals the considerable amount of information available. For example the Travel Guide links leads to pages on Boat Companies, Leisure & Attractions, Map of the Canal, Navigation Notes, Route and Tips and Rules. Each of these pages is packed with information and the interactive map of the canal is particularly good. Canal history is another subject well covered by the site and there is a good Beginner's Guide to Canal Cruising, which contains a Glossary, Introduction to Locks, Navigation Notes and a description of narrowboats and cruisers. There is something for everyone here, all on pages that strike a good balance of words and images.
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