Foxhangers is a family run business that has been providing the best holidays on and around the Kennet & Avon Canal since 1974.

best narrowboat holidays on the Kennet and Avon Canal

Foxhangers Managing Director

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.

operations manager“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 8 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.

lock demonstration by Foxhangers Handover StaffOur experienced handover staff are trained to British Marine Federation approved standards. On your arrival, they will take you over 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 and, out of office hours you will have an emergency number that you can call.

 

Our History

“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.”

Foxhangers Wharf Circa 1954

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 have 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 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.

mr Crouch Foxhangers 1890

“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.

The Foxhangers Wharf Today

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.

Foxhangers Farm

Lower Foxhangers Farm during the period when the Kennet & Avon canal was closed – farming was the only option.

The Fletchers early 90's

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 early days

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!!!

marina

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 a 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.

 

 

Foxhangers Timeline

2018
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Foxhangers Canal Holidays launch their 18th Narrowboat ‘Darwin’s Fox’ the first of the Platnimum Fox Class of luxury narrowboats.

2016
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Foxhangers Canal Holidays launch their 17th narrowboat ‘Wily Fox’ into their hire fleet.
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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.
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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.
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1996
Because a large volume of water is needed for the Caen Hill Locks to operate, 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.
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1993
Colin Fletcher opened a small purpose built offline moorings basin which to this day provides 22 berths
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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
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1989
The first ‘Mallard’ canal boats were built at Foxhangers out of converted farm sheds.
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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.
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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.
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1982
The first Self Catering holiday home was opened.  Foxhangers was well on its way to diversification from farming to tourism and leisure services.
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1979
The campsite at Foxhangers was first opened by Colin and Cynthia Fletcher.
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1976
Russell Fletcher son of Colin & Cynthia was born, Russell would later found Foxhangers Canal Holidays along with his sister and parents in 1997.
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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
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1971
Colin & Cynthia Fletcher the second generation of Fletchers at Foxhangers, moved into Foxhangers after a 5 years stint living in Australia.
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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.
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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.
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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
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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.
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1912
William Walter Buckland a London Businessman who supplied fine furniture to Harrods, bought Foxhangers having sold up his business interests in London
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1876-1912
Jacob and Louisa Grist, great grandparents of Nigel Grist founder of Wiltshire Waste operated a dairy farm at Lower Foxhangers
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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.
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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.
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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
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1600
Lower Foxhangers Farmhouse built and operated as a cheese making dairy.
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1535
Jone Foxhangre became the last person to live at Foxhangers with the Foxhangre surname when she married John Flower
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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.
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1141
Land at Foxhangers passed to Priory of Monkton Farley.
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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.
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795
Earliest surviving record of ‘Voxhangres’.

Meet the team

meettheteamRF1

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!


meettheteamDJH

David Harle Business Manager

Having always enjoyed messing about in boats, David has been involved in Yacht Charter and Brokerage and Boat Building and Repair. Having fitted out his own narrowboat over twenty years ago, he has cruised nearly all of our 2000 mile network.  Joining Foxhangers now enables devotion of his time to encouraging others in the art of ‘ditch crawling’


meettheteamNC

Nigel Card Operations Manager

After taking a canal boat holiday himself, Nigel Card decided he had enjoyed the experience so much that he ceased to run his own business in South London in favour of Wiltshire Life in 2011. With a broad and varied career specialising in engineering and project management, Nigel is now an integral part of the Foxhangers team, being in charge of boat building and operations. Nigel’s expertise has allowed Foxhangers to further develop its bespoke boat building venture with the result to date being “Urban Fox” “Lazy Fox” “Wily Fox” “Darwin’s Fox” and private boats “Senior Moments” and “Hamba Kahle”


meettheteamNN

Nicky Business Assistant

Nicky has worked at Foxhangers since 2013, initially joining us as a cleaner. Her work ethic and people skills meant that she quickly worked her way up to Housekeeping Supervisor. Nowadays she is office based and supports the management team in many areas of accounts and administration.


meettheteamSHB

Sharon Bookings Office 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.


meettheteamBB

Billy Wharf Operations Supervisor

Former Police specialist Billy ensures the Wharf operations are run meticulously.  He love’s all his boats to be looking ship shape, so much that once he’s got the fleet in order he can’t wait to get home to polish the brass on his own big beautiful boat!

Billy has a passion for boating and people, and will make sure that everyone heading off on a Foxhangers Boat has a big smile on their face.


meettheteamAE

Amelia Bookings Office Assistant

Amelia joined us in early 2017 already having a strong Customer Service background as well as a great deal of canal boating experience.  As our first and foremost “millennial” she has brought so many new skills and terminology to Foxhangers that we all now think we’re young, cool and in touch!

Whether she’s on the front desk meeting and greeting, taking enquiries over the phone or hiding away in a dark room doing something techy she has proved to be a valuable part of our team.


meettheteamRC

Richard Customer Handover Demonstrator

Richard has been employed by Foxhangers since 2009 and has become an invaluable member of our fleet team. Richard maintains our hire fleet and keeps our boats in tip-top shape for smooth flowing turn-around and ensures that our handover team excel in training our boaters before they leave the Foxhangers Wharf! Not only does working with narrowboats suit Richard and his knowledge of mechanics, but it suits his lifestyle too as for the last 12 years Richard and his wife have lived on-board their own boat which he fitted out himself


meettheteamDS

David Boat Build Project Manager

David’s first memories of Foxhangers stem being a small boy coming along with his mum (a well-respected upholsterer) to Foxhangers to measure/fit upholstery and furnishing to an early Foxhangers hire boat. In 2017 almost 20 years later David returned to Foxhangers with bespoke joinery skills he had developed with local high-end kitchen manufacturing companies.
In his first year David has helped modernise many aspects of our boat building procedures and style, his first two builds Humba Khale and Darwin’s Fox have been hugely successful and testament to David and his teams’ skill and determination.


meettheteamPW

Paul Boat Builder

Before joining Foxhangers in 2005, Paul owned his own bespoke interior furniture making company in the New Forest. After joining the Foxhangers team as our Cabinet Maker and Boat Fitter, Paul has found the most rewarding aspect of his job is being able to realise the ideas of customers when re-fitting or designing the interior of their boats. Paul carries out a variety of work in many areas of the business.  He’s a vital part of the team who can be depended upon to always bring a smile to your face!