We are often asked what makes a Black Prince narrowboat so special. So we thought we would interview our chief boat builder, Neil Southall, in order to provide the insider information about how our narrowboats are designed and built.
We are commemorating 400 years since the death of William Shakespeare this year.
This means that Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire is the place to visit in 2016, as this special anniversary year see the home town of the Bard hosting new and unique events suitable for all the family.
Black Prince narrowboaters can head to the birthplace of this renowned playwrite via the Stratford upon Avon Canal. Starting from our Napton canal boat hire base or Clifton canal boat hire base in Warwickshire you can cruise along the Grand Union Canal through Warwick to reach the Stratford upon Avon Canal.
Perfect for couples boating holidays or family canal boat holidays, this route is challenging but hugely enjoyable, with a perfect mix of countryside cruising and historic town stops.
Allow yourself a relaxing seven-night break (or longer) to appreciate the cruise through this beautiful stretch of Warwickshire countryside
Events in Stratford-Upon-Avon
Shakespeare’s England (shakespeares-england.co.uk) will celebrate his legacy with a range of exciting new exhibitions and events including a new immersive theatrical experience at the Royal Shakespeare Company; a reimagining of Shakespeare’s final home, New Place, and Shakespeare’s Schoolroom will open for the first time to the general public.
The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust is transforming New Place, the site of Shakespeare’s family home in Stratford-upon-Avon for the last 19 years of his adult life, to create a new heritage landmark where visitors can discover Shakespeare at the height of his success. The re-imagination of this unique site will be the single most significant Shakespearian project anywhere in the world to commemorate his legacy.
Visitors will be able to walk in Shakespeare’s footsteps through a new threshold on the site of his gatehouse and trace the footprint of his family home in a contemporary landscape setting. Commissioned artworks and displays will evoke a sense of family life and the 26 major works written during Shakespeare’s ownership of New Place. A new exhibition will throw light on Shakespeare the family man, homeowner and successful entrepreneur, featuring rare and important artifacts relating to his life at New Place, many of them on display for the first time.
From the canal to the theatre
The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC)’s season includes productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet, Cymbeline, Doctor Faustus, Don Quixote and The Alchemist. A major new exhibition, The Play’s The Thing, will open in June in The Swan Theatre front of house areas. It will celebrate the magic of Shakespeare on stage and reveal the secrets and stories from 100 years of theatre-making in Stratford-upon-Avon.
Special celebrations – 23 & 24 April 2016
Stratford-upon-Avon will also host the very special Birthday Celebrations weekend and parade on the 23 and 24 April 2016.
Crowds will line the streets as actors, foreign diplomats, civic dignitaries and local children join a 1,000-strong grand Birthday Procession through the streets on the Saturday as Stratford pays tribute to the most famous playwright and poet who was born and died on the same day – 23 April.
Starting at the Town Hall the procession will wind its way through the town to Shakespeare’s Birthplace and return passing his School before arriving at the altar of Holy Trinity Church.
You can even meet Master Shakespeare in person, as his gives tours of his beloved hometown. William will guide visitors along the beautiful streets and past wonderful old buildings whilst relating tales of his life and works. From birth to grave, he will take visitors through his life history and the town in the 16th century. Tours take place every Saturday and holidays at 2pm from Tudor World in Sheep Street. The cost is £5 for adults, £4 concessions, £3 children, £13 family ticket (2 adults & 2 children), 5 and unders are free.
The Stratford-Upon-Avon Canal
The Stratford-upon-Avon canal connects the Worcester and Birmingham Canal at Kings Norton to the River Avon at Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire. It consists of two sections, divided by a junction that connects it to the Grand Union Canal.
Head south from the Grand Union at Kingswood Junction to go onto the South Stratford canal which heads directly to Stratford-Upon-Avon via Wooten Wawen. This route is memorable for its split bridges, built with a gap to allow the tow ropes of the boat horses to pass through, and its unique barrel-roofed lock cottages.
The charming conservation area of Wootton Wawen has many ancient timber-frames houses. Nearby is Edstone, or Bearley, Aqueduct, with its cast-iron trough.
Just before Stratford, the canal passes through the tiny village of Wilmcote, where you can stop and visit Mary Arden’s house. The historic half-timbered Tudor farmhouse was home to Shakespeare’s mother before she was married.
The South Stratford canal makes for fairly easy cruising, with occasional locks until you reach the Wilmcote flight of eleven locks just before Stratford-upon-Avon.
The canal joins the River Avon at the Bancroft Basin in Stratford-upon-Avon, where a pretty park and waterfront paths are overlooked by the famous Royal Shakespeare Theatre. You can moor along the Stratford upon Avon Canal or the Bancroft Basin which then gives you an easy 10 minute (approx.) walk into town.
Follow the online conversation using #Shakespeare2016
Find out more at www.shakespeares-england.co.uk
There are some great folklore stories and traditions associated with Leap Year.
According to an old Irish legend St Brigid struck a deal with St Patrick to allow women to propose to men every four years.
St Brigid was clearly ahead of her time in wanting to balance the traditional roles of men and women in a similar way to how leap day balances the calendar.
There are various penalties if a man refuses a marriage proposal. Our favourite is that he has to buy the lady 12 pairs of gloves, (the intention here being that the woman can wear the gloves to hide the embarrassment of not having an engagement ring). We think that is just a highly practical gift to have for a canal boat trip.
This lead us to thinking that we here at Black Prince Holidays should invent some narrow boating folklore to accompany the traditions of leap year.
What do you think of the following for Waterways Leap Year traditions?
- In Leap Year tradition the woman takes control of the narrow boat tiller for the entire day. It is her responsibility to choose the direction in which the couple is headed.
- The Leap Year folklore now dictates that the woman should be served tea / coffee / red wine on demand throughout the day, without having to wash up any of the cups.
- When a woman’s gloves fall in the canal due to any unfortunate incident of tree-sweeping** the man must give up his gloves for the lady to wear.
- The woman has the right to request help from any passer by on any aspect of map reading, directions or water tap points.
- The man cannot refuse the woman’s request carry her home after too long a session at a canal side pub.
What traditions would you create for a Waterways Leap Year?
**Tree sweeping is when the canal boat is steered too close to the side of the canal where low hanging tree branches sweep all loose objects off the roof and into the water. This is generally accompanied with much shouting from the canal boat occupants and much mirth from passers by on the towpath.
The New Year is a brilliant time to set new resolutions. But let’s face it, life is continually full of goals – things to do, places to be, constant demands from friends and family alike.
It’s no wonder those good intentions tend to frizzle out not long after the champagne cork has been popped.
That’s why we here at Black Prince Holidays our simple resolution for 2016 is to encourage everyone to allow time to recharge themselves.
Like the new gadgets you received from Santa, too much intense use will lead you to be become drained of energy. So what’s the best way to unplug yourself from stress and plug yourself into relaxation?
The power of the waterways is an obvious choice for a place to go to chill out. Experience the peacefulness of the surroundings, the rustlings of wildlife, the community spirit. Take time out to take the dog for a walk, sup a drink at a canal side pub or hire a canal boat for a relaxing break.
Don’t forget that resolving to do too much can lead to you missing out on what’s most important – ‘you time’.
So make your mission for 2016 to recharge yourself on the great British Waterways. We look forward to seeing you there
For some, a winter canal boat holiday conjures up images of ice breaking along the waterways whilst frantically blowing warm air into your mitts.
It’s not everyone’s cup of tea.
However our Facebook fans seem to disagree. When asked who would be brave enough to take a narrowboat out at Christmas we were surprised by their responses.
“What a fantastic idea for a Christmas break. It would be lovely snuggled up in front of the heater, looking out at the snow covered embankments.”
“First time I fell in love with the canals was on a snowy walk along the tow path and a canal boat came through breaking the ice as it went.”
“Hmm….Christmas on a narrow boat, sounds lovely!”
So we’ve been talking to our partners at our base near Rugby, Warwickshire, in the heart of historic England and they are keen to continue to offer winter breaks, including Christmas, New Year and February half term holidays.
We’ll be making the boats as cosy as possible. You’ll have a well-insulated narrowboat, with central heating and of course hot and cold running water for hot showers. Extra blankets and duvets are available on request just in case! There is also a television and DVD player, plus free WIFI to keep in touch with the outside word if you feel the need.
“Would love to try it…”
“I am ready. On or near water any time.”
“Got ours booked for February. It may be cold, but it’ll be cosy.”
“I’ve done the canals in spring/early summer and late fall….I SO need to be on the cut again.”
However, there was one concern from our hardy explorers and we’re not sure we can help with this one:
“Will Santa be able to find me?”
Would you spend Christmas on a canal boat? Let us know!