Stratford upon Avon
The shorter variation of this route is suitable for 3 or 4 night hires or, for a week, it is feasible to explore Warwick with its spectacular castle, antique shops and restaurants.
Leaving Valley Wharf behind, you escape Stratford at the first lock at Bishopton, then continue onwards to the 11 locks of the Wilmcote flight. Just past the road bridge, there are good moorings for the village of Wilmcote, (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’s Farm”. Continuing north across the cast iron aqueduct at Edstone (the longest in England!), a six mile stretch follows, with only the single lock known as “the Odd Lock”, into Wootton Wawen; there is a canalside pub and a slightly quirky crafts centre across the other side of the canal. Here, there is another shorter cast iron aqueduct across the main road. A short walk into the village takes you to the oldest Saxon church in Warwickshire, a shop and another pub. A mile past Wootton Wawen, the locks start again at Preston Bagot and there are 18 locks up to the junction with the Grand Union canal at Kingswood. There is a winding hole just before the first of these locks, and 3 night hirers are advised to turn here and make their way back to Stratford – this is the last chance to turn before Kingswood Junction. The first of the unique Barrel Vault lock keeper’s 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.
Guests on a four night hire are advised to turn here, in the basin, and retrace their route back to our base at Valley Wharf.
Turning right onto the Grand Union, the canal is broader but still completely rural as it passes “Tom o’ the Wood” and on through Shrewley tunnel towards the top of the 21 Hatton Locks leading down into Warwick. You will pass the Hatton Railway Station on the right, after which there is a winding hole on the left (after ¼ mile or so). We suggest that you turn here to save the 4 hour descent into Warwick on the Hatton Locks (and back again), mooring close to the station where you can catch a train into Warwick to spend some hours visiting the historic town, castle, pubs and shops. Alternatively, you can walk into Warwick on the towpath so that you can claim to have“done the Hatton Locks” (albeit by foot!!). This should be about half way through the week and you would then retrace your route back to Valley Wharf, possibly allowing time for a last night at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre…