Stratford upon Avon
The Birmingham Loop
Heading north from Valley Wharf,the canal climbs through 12 locks to Wilmcote where, just past the road bridge,there are good moorings for the village (frequently the first night’s stopover) – the village is a short walk away from the canal, with a shop, two pubs and the birthplace of Shakespeare’s mother, Mary Arden. Continuing north across the cast iron aqueduct at Edstone (the longest in England!) you sail under the many split bridges, unique to the Stratford Canal, onwards through Wootton Wawen; here, there is a shop, pubs, a slightly quirky crafts centre and a very pretty Saxon church. The first of the unique Barrel Vault lockkeepers cottages is besides the first lock at Preston Bagot, from where the locks come at regular intervals to Kingswood Junction, where there is a basin with an arm leading off to the right, connecting to the Grand Union canal and the village of Lapworth, with amenities only a short walk from the canal . Continuing straight on here takes you up the Lapworth flight of 18 locks, onto the meandering summit section of the North Stratford canal, as it heads towards Kings Norton and the junction with the Worcester and Birmingham canal.
At Norton Junction, a right turn takes you towards the centre of Birmingham and about a mile past the junction is Bournville, the home of Cadburys Chocolate. Allow plenty time to visit Cadburys World and the rest of Bournville. The company once made extensive use of the canal and had its own fleet of working narrowboats. From here the canal becomes urban, traversing a “new” aqueduct opened in 2011 at Selly Oak, through leafy Edgbaston, passing the botanical gardens and through Edgbaston tunnel, which unusually has a towpath running through it. Beyond the tunnel the canal approaches its terminus, overlooked by a towering modern building called “The Cube”, past The Mailbox and Gas Street basin to Worcester Barand Brinley Place – now a vibrant and popular area of restaurants and bars.
Continue to the junction and bear right past the CRT offices and information point at Cambrian Wharf and down the Farmers Bridge flight of locks, which has not seen any farming activity for many years as it passes through the busy city centre!! The next six or seven miles are really the least picturesque part of this route, as the canal becomes temporarily dreary through Bordesley Junction onto the Grand Union canal,through the narrow gauge Garrison Locks and on through the built up industrial landscape of Tyseley; however, it becomes progressively greener as it approaches Catherine-de-Barnes. Back into peaceful Warwickshire countryside there are a couple of good pubs and the five (now double-width) broad gauge locks at Knowle, before Kingswood Junction appears on the right; this leads back onto the Southern Stratford canal, turning south and allowing two days from Kingswood Junction to get back.
Why not spend the last night aboard at Valley Wharf, where Stratford town centre, the restaurants, pubs and theatres are just a 10 minute walk from our hire base. Alternatively, if you don’t mind an early start on your last morning, go past our hire base, down the 4 locks into Bancroft Basin in the centre of Stratford and spend the night (remembering to return to our wharf by 8.30am please….!!)