Coventry Canal Basin
Taking in the rivers Avon and Severn, the Worcester and Birmingham Canal and the whole of the Stratford Canal 109 miles with 131 locks, we recommend that you allow two weeks to complete the Avon Ring to fully explore the area.The route takes you through tunnels and over aqueducts, all amongst the beautiful Warwickshire and Worcestershire countryside, through historic towns, whilst cruising on both river and canal waterways.
From Valley Wharf you will pass through 4 locks to enter Bancroft Basin in beautiful landscaped gardens, in the centre of Stratford in the shadow of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, surrounded by statues from the Bard’s plays.There is an Avon Navigation Trust license fee required, available from the ANT boat located in the basin near the river lock. Join the River Avon, with double width locks (if possible, share locks with another boater - it helps) and go downstream to Bidford with its medieval arched bridge and local amenities; there is good overnight mooring on the bank opposite the town, on the recreation ground. In the summer you will see lily pads, dragon flies and, if you are lucky, Kingfishers.
Continue on towards Evesham, where there is the Almonry Museum and site of the Battle of Evesham. From here you can catch a bus to Broadway, for a taste of the Cotswolds. Sail on through the Vale of Evesham to Pershore - a pretty riverside town with a very fine Abbey. Stop at Great Comberton and walk up Bredon Hill, with wonderful views of seven counties on a clear day.
Tewkesbury is a beautiful town at the junction of the Avon and the Severn. It is the site of the bloodiest battle in the Wars of the Roses and has a stunning ancient Abbey, as well as the Black Bear pub, which is the oldest inn in Gloucestershire. You can visit the 12th Century Abbey and Wednesday market, or discover Tewkesbury’s famous network of alleyways and explore the Medieval Old Town.
From Tewkesbury, you join the River Severn at “Avon Lock”; be sure to greet the friendly and helpful lock keeper, who can offer advice about where to moor and the state of the river. The River Severn from Tewkesbury to Worcester is 19.5 miles; you will pass through water meadows, heron cliffs and the villages of Upton on Severn, Severn Stoke and Kempsey, before arriving at Diglis Lock in Worcester. As the lock doors open a wonderful view of the city and its famous Cathedral becomes apparent, before mooring on South Quay just below the Cathedral. Be sure to allow enough time to visit the Cathedral, Royal Worcester Porcelain Museum or explore the many shops and restaurants. After Diglis basin you return to narrow gauge single locks, travelling northwards through suburban Worcester towards the first tunnel on the Worcester and Birmingham canal at Dunhampstead where there is a canal side pub; then onwards to Hanbury Junction, also with a pub and restaurant. Hanbury Hall, a National Trust property, can be reached by a footpath from the bottom lock of the Astwood flight of 6 locks. Just above the next flight of 6 locks, the Stoke flight, is another canal side pub, which is followed by the legendary Tardebigge locks – an iconic and picturesque flight of 30 locks, offering superb views and unique photo opportunities. Tardebigge tunnel then Shortbridge tunnel precede Wasthill tunnel, at 2,726 yards one of the longest in the country. At the northern end of this tunnel, King Norton Junction marks the northern end of the Stratford Canal.
The Stratford Canal quickly leaves the Birmingham suburbs behind and takes on a rural ambiance, meandering through rural Warwickshire via a couple of lift bridges, towards the top of the locks at Lapworth. From here the canal descends 18 locks down to Kingswood Junction and you start to see the split bridges and barrel roof lock keeper’s cottages, unique to the Stratford Canal. There are pubs and shops in Lapworth, from where the canal descends through a further 18 locks never more than ½ mile apart, under the M40 motorway towards Wootton Wawen, where there are 2 pubs and an interesting craft centre adjacent to the canal. There then follows a short lock free stretch before the spectacular Edstone aqueduct – the longest in England. The last village, Wilmcote, is a short walk away from the canal, with a shop and pubs, as well as the Tudor “Mary Arden’s Farm” – the birthplace of Shakespeare’s mother, which is well worth a visit. From here it is a short distance (and 12 locks – about 3 hours) back to Valley Wharf in Stratford, with Shakespeare’s Birthplace, the Theatre, shops and restaurants all within walking distance. Catch a bus or train to the beautiful town of Warwick, where you can visit the famous Warwick Castle, the museum and an abundance of antique shops.