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Duration: 10 - 14 Nights
TOTAL LOCKS: 120
CRUISING TIME PER DAY: 4.5 - 8.5 HOURS (60 TOTAL)
Maps & Guides for this route: N3, P6, L13 | Click here buy maps
This route takes in parts of the Oxford Canal, the Coventry Canal, the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal, Stratford Canal, Worcester & Birmingham Canal and the Grand Union Main Line. A great mix of rural and urban cruising.
With aqueducts, lock flights and tunnels to navigate, the Warwickshire Ring is a great challenge to test a helmsman's skills. This energetic route meanders through secret countryside, industrial heritage and into the canal capital of Birmingham. The Ring is a journey of junctions - the chameleon that ambles through the heart of the canals.
Setting off from Springwood Haven Marina, cruise southwards along the Coventry Canal. The canal is set in an open landscape, and passes a series of nature reserves and landscape formed from the spoil heaps of former quarries, the most dramatic of which is known as Mount Judd. Winding through the suburbs of Nuneaton, the canal soon reaches Marston Junction, where the Ashby Canal heads off to the east, well worth a detour if you have time in your itinerary.
The canal skirts the edge of Bedworth before Hawkesbury Junction, where another detour into Coventry may vie for your time too. The ruins of the original cathedral are a stark voice on the skyline of Coventry's own 'ground zero' left from the horror of World War II. In the 1960s a light of hope was built in the new cathedral. The bond between these two buildings that lean side by side is a powerful and emotional paradox.
Hawkesbury Junction is a busy place filled with boats, a pub and a photogenic former engine house. Once through the lock here, you are on the Oxford Canal and it’s now a gentle (if intruded upon for a while by the M69 and M6 motorways) lock-free journey as the canal skirts round most villages. Brinklow is a short walk south of Stretton Stop and has the remains of a medieval castle built to defend the Fosse Way which crosses the canal here, then the short Newbold Tunnel (250yds/229m long) marks the canal’s entrance into Rugby, which fans of a particular sport will be compelled to explore. The town is world famous for its connection with rugby and the Webb Ellis Rugby Football Museum tells the story of how one schoolboy changed the course of sporting history.
The distinctive Hillmorton Locks are in pairs, originally doubled up to allow more traffic through this busy stretch of canal, and the gates of locks 4 and 5 had special canal poetry carved into them as part of the celebrations when British Waterways became the Canal & River Trust in 2012. It’s then an easy few miles south to the idyllic canal village of Braunston, at the junction between the Oxford and Grand Union Canals, once one of the busiest commercial trading points linking with London. Canal engineer James Brindley built the Oxford Canal in his typical winding fashion, flowing around contours rather than bulldozing a straight course. When the much straighter Grand Union Canal was built, it stole much of the Oxford Canal’s commercial traffic - but the Oxford Canal fought back by charging extortionate tolls to use its water in the London to Birmingham link between Braunston and Napton. Today its importance has not diminished as it has become a much-loved hotspot for canal leisure seekers and the marina hosts the annual Braunston Historic Boat Rally. There is much to explore in this settlement which dates back to the Doomsday Book, including the marina with its Horseley iron bridges and historic canalside workshops. All Saints’ Church is known as the ‘Cathedral of the canals’, having overseen the christenings, marriages and burials of generations of boaters.
The canal meanders westwards through quiet open country towards Napton Junction where the Grand Union Canal now heads north towards Birmingham. The appropriately named pretty village of Napton on the Hill is well-known for its windmill, which dominates the landscape and would have been a useful landmark for traditional boatmen in the commercial carrying days of the canal. Your crew’s work now begins in earnest as the three Calcutt Locks are quickly followed by 10 Stockton Locks and the staircase locks at Bascote as the canal descends into the Avon Valley. The canal skirts Leamington Spa, an elegant town with broad streets of Regency houses, where the Royal Pump Rooms offer the opportunity for a refined afternoon tea after a shopping spree. Almost immediately, Warwick calls for exploration to the south of the canal - its most famous attraction being of course Warwick Castle, dramatically overlooking the River Avon.
Just outside Warwick, the rather daunting 21 Hatton Locks have the nickname 'Stairway to Heaven', but there’s a welcome teashop and pub at the top! And a breather for a couple of miles as the canal cuts through Shrewley Tunnel (433yds/322m long) before reaching Kingswood Junction. It is possible to continue north along the Grand Union skirting Birmingham, but your route takes the short link across to the Stratford Canal to climb the remainder of the Lapworth Flight and through Brandwood Tunnel (352yds/396m long).
At King’s Norton Junction, you head north on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal past the excitement of Cadbury World at Bournville and onward through the short Edgbaston Tunnel (105yds/96m long), to Birmingham city centre. The bronze bull of the Bullring, the markets, Antony Gormley's sculpture, designer shopping, multi-cultural panache and a spectacular controversial library - that's Birmingham. Yet first impressions don't give away the city's biggest secret. It is at the heart of Britain's canal network and spaghettis more miles of water than Venice (over 100 navigable miles of it!).The historic waterside hub is alive with bars and restaurants. Symphony Hall, ICC, Barclaycard Arena and Brindleyplace spoil visitors with choice and beg you to stay as long as you can. Birmingham’s famous markets are only a short walk from the canal, and there are also art galleries, museums, theatres and dizzy opportunities for shopping too.
Leaving the city via a quick succession of locks, the 13 Farmer’s Bridge Locks are quickly followed by the 11 Aston Locks, taking you to Salford (or Spaghetti) Junction and a right turn past the city’s trailing outskirts. Back in the countryside and through the diminutive Curdworth Tunnel (57yds/52m long), the 11 Curdworth Locks take the canal down to Fazeley Junction near which any children aboard may want a quick detour to Drayton Manor theme park.
Turning eastward and crossing over the beautiful Grade II-listed Tame Aqueduct, you are back on the Coventry Canal, a rather less energetic affair as it winds past Tamworth and into open countryside. Passing under the M42 just outside the small town of Polesworth, another burst of energy is needed for the attractive 11 Atherstone Locks before you arrive back at the marina, having completed the full circle.
Max: 4 People
Max: 4 People
Max: 4 People
Max: 6 People
Max: 6 People
Max: 6 People
Length: 66ft (63ft from Falkirk)
Max: 8 People
Max: 10 People