Boat Hire

Stratford-Upon-Avon and return from Alvechurch Marina - 7 Nights

Cruising Time Per Day 7hrs • Total Locks 110


Alvechurch to Stratford-upon-Avon – through Wast Hills Tunnel then on the Stratford-on-Avon Canal to Stratford-upon-Avon and back – 7 nights – total locks 54

This route travels from sleepy Alvechurch along tranquil canal-miles right into the heart of England's proudest Shakespearian territory.  With the bard snatching the eye of any tourist crowds, your cruise along the canal is a secret chance to also spot wildlife, linger in canalside beer gardens, and soak up the best of both worlds.

The pretty village of Alvechurch, just short walk down the hill from the boatyard, is a charismatic place to linger with the excitement of a boating holiday ahead. Setting off from the marina, turn left on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal and under the bridge to head northwards past the village’s back gardens. As you leave Alvechurch, the canal turns sharply under the noisy M42 then crosses the valley on a high embankment past Lower Bittell Reservoir. There are two reservoirs at Bittell, both of which were built by the canal company, the larger of the two being used to feed water down to the canal via the feeder next to the cottage at the far end of the embankment. They are now both idyllic spots for bird watching and angling, and the larger Upper Bittell Reservoir also has a sailing club. A footpath from bridge 66 leads the short distance to the shore of the upper reservoir.

After a short wooded cutting you arrive at Hopwood, with its well-placed pub, before leaving the lush Worcestershire countryside behind as you disappear into the immense Wast Hills Tunnel (2,726yds/2,493m long), one of the longest canal tunnels in the UK. The tunnel forms the boundary between Worcestershire and Warwickshire, so you emerge from the tunnel into a new county and the straggling outskirts of Birmingham at King’s Norton.

A short distance beyond the tunnel, you turn right at King’s Norton Junction to take the Stratford-on-Avon Canal as it heads off east towards Stratford-upon-Avon. Separate canal companies used stop locks at junctions in order to ensure that their water was safe from the other canal company, and the stop lock at King’s Norton was somewhat different to the traditional lock. The company built a guillotine lock and although this is no longer in use, boats now cruise beneath the mechanisms and two guillotine gates.

A swing bridge is swiftly followed by the short Brandwood Tunnel (352yds/322m long), and the canal now winds its way past the back gardens of Birmingham’s suburbs. There are a number of bridges and a short aqueduct before you reach Shirley Draw Bridge, next to a pub of the same name. The bridge is actually a lift bridge operated by using both a windlass and a key. The railway over the canal seems to mark the end of the built-up area as you wind gently through pretty countryside to Earlswood. Earlswood Motor Yacht Club is evident from the boats moored just beyond bridge 16, and a footpath from bridge 17 leads just half a mile to Earlswood Lakes. There are three separate lakes or reservoirs to supply water for the canal, built over nearly five years in the 1820s using labourers which included Napoleonic prisoners of war, now popular for walking, sailing and fishing.

The M42 encroaches on the peace and quiet for a while, and Hockley Heath is the first tiny village with a welcome pub, then the 26 locks of the Lapworth Flight spread over nearly two miles, with the first & last four straggling away from the main flight. Halfway down the flight, Kingswood Junction, with its moored boats, split bridges and white-washed cottages, connects the Stratford Canal to the Grand Union Canal via a short boat-filled branch line.

Stratford-on-Avon Canal is famous for its split bridges. They were built in two halves with a tiny gap to allow ropes to pass through so that, in the days of horse-towed narrowboats, the boatman would not have to untie his horse from the boat as he walked along the towpath. The canal is also renowned for its barrel-roofed lock keepers’ cottages – there is one at the junction. The truth behind the quirk is purely practical: engineers building the Stratford Canal knew more about building bridges than houses, so when they had to build lock cottages for the lengthsmen, they adapted their skills, resulting in cottages with these curious barrel-shaped roofs.

The M40 crosses the canal just before Lapworth Bottom Lock though its noise can be heard for some time before and after. Peace soon returns though as the canal continues its way through a rural landscape of fields, trees and sheep. Next to Lock 31 is a traditional lengthsman’s cottage (now cared for by the Landmark Trust). A sculpture looking into the lock by Antony Gormley was placed here in May 2015 as part of LAND project. The Fleur de Lys opposite provides a welcome break, before reaching the first of the Stratford Canal’s three unusual aqueducts – Yarningale, Wootton Wawen and Edstone (also known as Bearley). The towpath is level with the base of the cast-iron canal trough so the walker’s eye is level with boats which appear perched in a bath tub. Yarningale is merely a few feet long, Wootton Wawen Aqueduct carries the canal over a main road, and Edstone Aqueduct, the longest, is suspended dramatically over road, railway and river below. All are Grade II*-listed, and Edstone holds a Transport Trust Heritage Plaque.

It is worth taking the time to moor up at Wootton Wawen and explore the timber-framed buildings of the village which is dominated by Wootton Hall and its parkland, before your surroundings become more isolated as you cross the magnificent Edstone Aqueduct.

The canal then passes through the outskirts of Wilmcote before descending towards Stratford via the 11 Wilmcote Locks. Mary Arden’s House is only a short diversion from bridge 59 if you need a Shakespearian fix before reaching the main event in Stratford. The canal meets the River
Avon in Bancroft Basin, where there are visitor moorings. Allow plenty of time to wander the beautiful timber-clad streets, visit Shakespeare’s birthplace and tomb, and perhaps take in a play at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. When you can drag yourself away, retrace your tranquil route back to Alvechurch Marina.

The following are examples of the boats that you can hire from ABC Boat Hire at Alvechurch Marina:


Alvechurch Weaver - For a maximum of 4 people, 2+2 Berth, Length 49ft, Semi-traditional Stern

Alvechurch Weaver - For a maximum of 4 people, 2+2 Berth, Length 49ft, Semi-traditional Stern

Alvechurch Grebe - For a maximum of 4 people, 2+2 Berth, Length 49ft, Cruiser Stern

Alvechurch Bunting - For a maximum of 5 people, 2+3 Berth, Length 47ft, Cruiser Stern

Alvechurch Heron - For a maximum of 5 people, 2+3 Berth, Length 58ft, Semi-traditional Stern

Alvechurch Plover - For a maximum of 5 people, 2+3 Berth, Length 58ft, Semi-traditional Stern

Viking Derwent Class - For a maximum of 6 people, 4+2 Berth, Length 60ft, Cruiser Stern

Viking Derwent Class - For a maximum of 6 people, 4+2 Berth, Length 60ft, Cruiser Stern

Alvechurch Thrush - For a maximum of 6 people, 4+2 Berth, Length 66ft, Semi-traditional Stern

Alvechurch Thrush - For a maximum of 6 people, 4+2 Berth, Length 66ft, Semi-traditional Stern

Alvechurch Gull - For a maximum of 6 people, 4+2 Berth, Length 66ft, Cruiser Stern

Alvechurch Gull - For a maximum of 6 people, 4+2 Berth, Length 66ft, Cruiser Stern

Alvechurch Eagle (6 berth) - For a maximum of 6 people, 4+3 Berth, Length 66ft, Cruiser Stern

Alvechurch Eagle (6 berth) - For a maximum of 6 people, 4+3 Berth, Length 66ft, Cruiser Stern

Alvechurch Eagle (7 berth) - For a maximum of 7 people, 4+3 Berth, Length 66ft, Cruiser Stern

Alvechurch Eagle (7 berth) - For a maximum of 7 people, 4+3 Berth, Length 66ft, Cruiser Stern

Alvechurch Goose - For a maximum of 8 people, 6+2 Berth, Length 69ft, Semi-traditional Stern

Alvechurch Goose - For a maximum of 8 people, 6+2 Berth, Length 69ft, Semi-traditional Stern

Alvechurch Warbler - For a maximum of 8 people, 6 + 2 Berth, Length 69ft, Semi-Traditional Stern

Alvechurch Warbler - For a maximum of 8 people, 6 + 2 Berth, Length 69ft, Semi-Traditional Stern

Alvechurch Owl - For a maximum of 10 people, 6+4 Berth, Length 70ft, Crusier Stern

Alvechurch Owl - For a maximum of 10 people, 6+4 Berth, Length 70ft, Crusier Stern

Alvechurch Swan - For a maximum of 12 people, 8+4 Berth, Length 70ft, Crusier Stern



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