Narrowboat holidays—Stratford-upon-Avon Canal

Published: Wednesday, 19 January 2011

THE Stratford-upon-Avon Canal runs from Kings Norton Junction at Birmingham to Stratford-upon-Avon, and is obviously most popular for holiday canal boat hire for those canal holiday makers interested in the works of William Shakespeare.

It is a narrow locks waterway but there are many of them, averaging over two to every mile, so can be somewhat daunting for the less hardy of hire boat crews.

Alas its start at Kings Norton Junction, then for the first three miles, is well known for its bandit activity, both at the actual junction itself and at Brandwood Tunnel where it is known for vandals to drop objects onto boats at the entrances, either going in or coming out., especially at the West portal, pictured. Passage early morning or in school hours however usually guarantees a save journey.

Lock free

Then there are a good ten miles of lock free cruising, but at Lapworth the locks (pictured) come fast—24 locks in quick succession. After which the locks come every half mile or so, with a long lock-free pound until the 11 of Wilmcote Flight, then just a few more into the basin at Stratford.

The waterway however has many attractions, not found on other waterways, that include the barrel roofed lock cottages and its many split bridges designed to take the ropes from the horses pulling the boats, without them having to be detached.

Being so rural after Birmingham, it meanders through attractive countryside, with plenty of places for mooring to take in the scenery, however, being so rural there is very little in the way of shopping of any description over the whole length of the canal after the city.

The waterway has the interest of a guillotine stop lock, at its start at Kings Norton, that is usually kept open, swing and lift bridges along the way, both manual and powered, a tunnel and a couple of aqueducts, the one at Edstone shown above, so the cruise along the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal, though hard work,  is far from boring.


It is the amount of locks that deters many raw beginners, to the waterway, particularly the heavy Lapworth Flight, which is why many boaters 'do' the Stratford from the Grand Union Canal that meets it near the bottom of the flight at Kingswood Junction, pictured.

The great attraction for many in a holiday boat, is of course Stratford itself, with very handy moorings just yards from the Theatre gardens, and the whole of the historic town just a step away. If you intend dropping down onto the river, from where you can cruise past the actual theatre, make sure your locking skills are up to the mark, as you will have a large audience.

The entire length is not recommended for those new to holiday boating, owing to its surfeit of locks, though from the Grand Union it is less of an effort. The waterway itself is most interesting with its many features, and especially its bridges and lock cottages.

The canal is 25 miles long, has 54 locks with swing and lift bridges, two aqueducts and a tunnel.

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The more black stars the better.