Foxhangers is a family run business that has been providing the best holidays on and around the Kennet & Avon Canal since 1974
Our narrowboat holidays have proved extremely popular since we began operating with a single boat in 1997. Foxhangers continues to be owned and directed by the family who originally founded and grew the business. We employ all of our own staff, we own all of our boats and property. Our sole focus is to provide you with the best narrowboat holidays.
Foxhangers narrowboats are built in our own facilities by our own dedicated professional boat builders: they are specifically designed to be the best possible holiday hire boats.
The Foxhangers way
We are an independently owned and run business that prides itself on both the quality of our boats and our customer service.
All our staff are carefully hand picked and extensively trained. We consider ourselves to offer the very best narrowboating experience on the Kennet and Avon Canal, and many customers agree.
“Foxhangers are right up there for service, quality of boat and attitude. Well done we all had a fab holiday..” Mr Underhill
Before you book, our dedicated bookings team are on hand to discuss your requirements, answer any questions you may have and advise you on the best boat to suit the needs of your party. Office hours are 8 am to 6 pm Monday to Friday and 9 am to 5 pm on Saturdays (closed on Saturday during December, January and February). All our boats are built to our very high specifications by our own skilled craftsmen and are regularly tourist board inspected. Many visitors have commented that the interiors of our silver fleet are more akin to a privately owned boat than to a hire fleet.
If you would like groceries delivered before you arrive this can be arranged through either our local village community shop or through any of the major supermarkets.
Our hard working housekeeping team, who would by now have already cleaned your boat to the very highest standard, will store your perishables in the fridge for you ahead of your arrival.
Our experienced handover staff are trained to British Marine Federation approved standards. On your arrival, they will take you over to your chosen boat and explain how all the equipment on board works, explain the simple but necessary safety checks you will need to do and then take you on a “driving lesson”. This will include a lock demonstration and an explanation of how the swing bridges work. There will be plenty of time for questions and answers so that even a complete beginner will have some degree of confidence when they leave our wharf. Once you set off, the same team that helped you book your holiday will be on the end of a telephone should you have further questions or any problems. When out of office hours you will have an emergency number that you can call.
“It is from this hillside, wooded during Saxon times, that Foxhangers is named. ‘Hangra’ was a Saxon word for a wooded hillside, and is a component of a number of place names in southern England.”
Providing holidays on or around the Kennet and Avon Canal since 1974. Foxhangers recent history over the last 20 years, has seen around 10,000 different groups of boating holiday makers start a canal holiday from Foxhangers. The area of Foxhangers lies 2 miles west of and 237 feet below the small market town of Devizes in central Wiltshire, England. Foxhangers has had a varied past, diversifying through many trends in an area that has predominantly been reliant on agriculture. Earliest records of ‘Voxhangre’ date back to 798 AD. It is fair to say that Foxhangers has never reached great heights in terms of notoriety or indeed wealth. It has though witnessed several significant events and has evolved considerably in the last 200 years since the industrial revolution and advent of transportation when both the Kennet & Avon Canal was built in 1790 and the Great Western Railway was constructed in 1854.
“Its more than just opening and closing locks this job! There are real problems with water running short when it gets busy, and I have to keep the Inspector informed of any problems.” Wages aren’t great and some of my colleagues have been known to make a small charge to passing boats! The company doesn’t look too kindly on that sort of thing though. I got a memo from the company the other day saying how we are to stop rowing boats and other pleasure craft from using the canal on a Sunday!” Mr Crouch Foxhangers lock keeper 1890’s
Foxhangers evolution to become a major canal location once again, culminated in 2012 with a four million pound construction project and the opening of 250 berth Caen Hill Marina. Built in a former 13 acre field that had previously been farmed by three generations of the Fletcher family and all other occupants of Foxhangers over the last 1000 years.
Nowadays Foxhangers is largely reliant on leisure with campsite, self-catering accommodation, canal boat moorings and of course canal boat holiday hire. Some industry does still remain, the former farm buildings over the last 25 years have been converted and re-used for facilitating our traditional canal boat building. Since 1954, three generations of the Fletcher family have lived and operated Lower Foxhangers Farm whilst also diversifying into self-catering, camping and farmhouse B&B holidays since 1974 and then canal boat hire since 1997.
Today Foxhangers Wharf still shows remnants of the way life used to be, having been along the route of the old Wilts Somerset and Weymouth Railway Branch Line between Holt and Patney and Chirton. The broad gauge railway was closed as part of the 1963 Beeching Axe. Today, the Kennet and Avon Canal plays an important role in tourism and leisure as well as being a valuable asset to wildlife and conservation. More can be learned of the history of the canal by visiting the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust who have a Museum at the Wharf in Devizes.
Lower Foxhangers Farm during the period when the Kennet & Avon canal was closed – farming was the only option.
In the early 1990’s Russell and Shelley the third generation of Fletchers started playing around on boats on the Kennet & Avon – the current Managing Director of Foxhangers is seen here on his first boat, an electric day boat he hired to guests staying on the campsite at Lower Foxhangers.
Foxhangers snack bar offering refreshments to the canal users from 1992-1994. Brother and sister Russell and Shelley’s first joint venture they ran together on weekends in the summer months whilst studying and with much support and help from many people in 1997 they founded Foxhangers Canal Holidays, note since the picture above Foxhangers have honed the art of launching canal boats considerably!!!
2022 | Foxhangers Canal Holidays launch their latest 5* luxury boat called ‘Einstein’s Fox’, which took 2 years to build over the pandemic affected years.
2020 | The Coronavirus pandemic temporily closes Foxhangers for 3 months, when re-opeing in July the new “UK staycation” trend ensures canal holidays are fully booked for the next few years.
2018 | Foxhangers Canal Holidays launch their 18th Narrowboat ‘Darwin’s Fox’ the first of the Platinum Fox Class of luxury narrowboats.
2016 | Foxhangers Canal Holidays launch their 17th narrowboat ‘Wily Fox’ into their hire fleet.
2012 | Construction of the 250 berth Caen Hill Marina was completed. The marina now stands in a former 13 acre field previously called ‘Wharf Ground’ at Lower Foxhangers Farm.
1997 | Foxhangers Canal Holidays build their first boat and start trading as a hire boat company. This boat was funded in part from the estate of the late Grace Malin, a regular Bed & Breakfast guest at Foxhangers over the previous 20 years.
1996 | A large volume of water is needed for the Caen Hill Locks to operate so, a back pump was installed at Lower Foxhangers on land donated by the Fletchers. The pump is capable of returning 32 million litres of water per day to the top of the flight, which is equivalent to one lockful every eleven minutes.
1993 | Colin Fletcher opened a small purpose built offline moorings basin which to this day provides 22 berths
1990 | A visit by Queen Elizabeth II in 1990 to officially re-open the Caen Hill locks, although the western end of the K&A had been navigable for a number of years before then. This was the culmination of a major clearing and rebuilding operation largely from volunteers since the 1960s
1989 | The first ‘Mallard’ canal boats were built at Foxhangers out of converted farm sheds.
1986 | Colin Fletcher opened his adjoining farmland to a few boaters and offered them private moorings to keep their boats. This process grew more popular over the next 25 years culminating in the opening of Caen Hill Marina’s 250 berth marina at Lower Foxhangers.
1985 | The Kennet and Avon western navigation was re-opened up to Foxhangers. This event was celebrated annually for several years by a large boat rally known as ‘The Foxhangers Boat Rally’ it attracted around 40-50 of hardy boaters who were able to negotiate the low water levels and difficult locks and swingbridges from Bath to Foxhangers.
1982 | The first Self Catering holiday home was opened. Foxhangers was well on its way to diversification from farming to tourism and leisure services.
1979 | The campsite at Foxhangers was first opened by Colin and Cynthia Fletcher.
1976 | Russell Fletcher son of Colin & Cynthia was born, Russell would later found Foxhangers Canal Holidays along with his sister and parents in 1997.
1974 | Colin & Cynthia Fletcher having had their first child Shelley started operating farmhouse Bed & Breakfast in the summer months, in order to support a struggling farm
1971 | Colin & Cynthia Fletcher the second generation of Fletchers at Foxhangers, moved into Foxhangers after a 5 years stint living in Australia.
1966 | The Devizes Railway Line which had split Foxhangers in half was closed in 1966 under the Beeching Axe. Closure was blamed on its low population, awkward geography and reduced traffic due to competition from the Chirton to Westbury line.
1965 | Paul Fletcher MP grandson of Thomas & Leslie Fletcher was born in Devizes. Paul who would later on become a high profile politician in Australia spent a short period of his early at life at Foxhangers before emigrating aged 2. In September 2015 Paul was appointed Minister for Territories, Local Government and Major Projects in the Australian Outer Ministry.
1954 | The first generation of the current occupants of Foxhangers Thomas Leslie Fletcher aged 47 and his wife Betty Fletcher and five children moved to Lower Foxhangers Farm from a farm near Shaftesbury
1948 | After the coming of the railways, the canal fell into disuse and was closed. The last cargo through the flight was a consignment of grain conveyed from Avonmouth to Newbury in October 1948.
1912 | William Walter Buckland a London Businessman who supplied fine furniture to Harrods, bought Foxhangers having sold up his business interests in London
1876-1912 | Jacob and Louisa Grist, great grandparents of Nigel Grist founder of Wiltshire Waste operated a dairy farm at Lower Foxhangers
1854-1857 | Construction of the Wiltshire, Somerset and Weymouth Railway Devizes Branch line which crossed over Foxhangers Wharf and bisected the farm. The railway did allow for Foxhangers milk to be taken to London.
1810 | Opening of Caen Hill Locks that start at Foxhangers – the 29 locks have a rise of 237 feet in 2 miles (72 m in 3.2 km). This flight of locks was engineer John Rennie’s solution to climbing the very steep hill, and was the last part of the 87 mile route of the canal to be completed. In the early 19th century, 1829-43, the flight was lit by gas lights.
1790 | The Kennet and Avon Canal was built. Although western navigation from Bristol finished at Foxhangers until the locks at Caen Hill were opened 1810. Foxhangers was an important dock for twenty years during this period as it was where goods had to be loaded/unloaded from Barges and transported by horse drawn tramway for 2 miles up between Foxhanger Wharf and Devizes Wharf
1600 | Lower Foxhangers Farmhouse built and operated as a cheese making dairy.
1535 | Jone Foxhangre became the last person to live at Foxhangers with the Foxhangre surname when she married John Flower
1275 | Walter de Foxhangre moves to Foxhangers. This is the first written record of anyone taking Foxhangers as their surname. The Foxhangre family lived at Foxhangers for 250 years.
1141 | Land at Foxhangers passed to Priory of Monkton Farley.
1135 | During 12th century civil war, Empress Maude gave a hide of land at Foxhangers to her supporters ‘The Bohun Family’ after the battle of Trowbridge Castle.
795 | Earliest surviving record of ‘Voxhangres’.
Meet the team
Russell Fletcher Managing Director
Foxhangers Limited is the brainchild of Russell Fletcher who originally founded the company alongside his sister at their canal side family home in 1997. When he was just a teenager, Russell began to develop his entrepreneurial skills by hiring out canoes and a small rowing boat to campers staying at his parent’s farm until by 2012 he jointly owned a fleet of 14 narrowboats! In 2012 Russell became the Managing Director of the company and now employs a team of up to 27 to help meet the demand for Foxhangers popular and top quality canal holiday experiences – family holidays from a family business!
Dale Operations Manager
Dale brings a wealth of experience to Foxhangers. He worked for British Waterways / Canal and River Trust for 37 years, working his way up to Operations Manager for the Kennet & Avon Canal. He joined us in 2020, just before lockdown, to replace David who was retiring. It could not have been better timing for Foxhangers as Dale’s knowledge of Health and Safety made him the driving force in making sure our premises and our boats were all COVID-19 secure in time for the reopening of the country and the welcoming of guests back to Foxhangers. Dale has very quickly earned the respect of the whole team who value his guidance.
Nick Commercial Manager
Nick has had a canal boating connection from childhood going on numerous canal holidays and regularly borrowing his parents’ boat ever since and over the years has seen most of the UK canal system. Nick recalls fondly his first experience of the famous 29 Locks nearby to Foxhangers at Caen Hill, so when the opportunity to take a management role at Foxhangers arose, the of idea working in a business that was also a favoured pastime was very appealing.
With a degree in accounting & finance and part qualified CIMA, Nick is very experienced in dealing with the commercial and operational aspects of our business whilst also firmly believing in a strong customer focus. Nick takes a very hands-on approach to his work, and is well suited to the medium sized business environment where a willingness to undertake any task is essential.
When not at Foxhangers, Nick can often be found on the side of a mountain, or at the netball courts, and quite likely to be munching a bowl of Quorn whilst clad in Lycra.
Nicky Office Manager
Nicky has worked at Foxhangers since 2013. Her work ethic and people skills meant that she quickly worked her way up from Housekeeping Supervisor to office based support to the management team in many areas of accounts and administration. She was promoted to Office Manager at the start of 2020 in recognition of her knowledge and valuable contribution to the smooth running of the business.
Ray Engineering Manager
Ray ran his own successful boat engineering business and worked at Foxhangers on a subcontracted basis before joining us full time in 2015. He was promoted to Engineering Manager in 2020 and now oversees the maintenance and repair team who look after our own fleet as well as private boats.
Sharon Customer Service & Bookings Supervisor
Sharon comes from an administrative background and joined the Foxhangers Team in March 2014 as a Bookings Office Assistant and progressed to Supervisor in 2015. She is responsible for the smooth running of the Bookings Office and ensures seamless Customer Service from the point of booking through to arrival and the duration of your holiday. Sharon also looks after our online marketing including our Social Media Accounts.
Patrick Wharf Operations Supervisor
Patrick brings a wealth of experience to Foxhangers, having had a career in the maritime industry, at sea as Ship Captain and subsequently as Marine Consultant/HSE Advisor mainly to the oil industry. He is an avid boating enthusiast who spent several months each summer cruising the inland waterways of Netherland, Belgium and France. He skippered several boats in the V and A Waterfront in Cape Town as well as the Robben Island Ferry. He has travelled extensively and has hired narrowboats many times before buying his own and enjoys cruising the UK canals.