Duration: 7 Nights
TOTAL LOCKS: 14
CRUISING TIME PER DAY: 6 HOURS
Maps & Guides for this route: P2, N2 | Click here buy maps
This route meanders lazy miles of countryside, with far-reaching views whispering secrets of battles, boat wrecks and choirs, and cargoes of porcelain, coal and chocolate that travelled from factories to warehouses and made this region prosperous.
Your journey heads south from the marina along the Worcester & Birmingham Canal as it descends Blockhouse Lock then Sidbury Lock peacefully past the Commandery (the war rooms of King Charles II, 1651). There are convenient moorings above and below the lock to stop and visit the city centre which has much to explore. In its industrial heyday, the Worcester & Birmingham Canal carried cargoes of porcelain from the world-famous factory, and the Museum of Royal Worcester offers a fascinating insight.
Diglis Basin, which provides mooring for many boats, is ringed by restored warehouses (many of which were originally part of the Royal Worcester porcelain factory) and new apartment blocks. It is also where the Worcester & Birmingham Canal meets the River Severn via its two wide locks, under the watchful architecture of Worcester Cathedral just upstream. Worcester, Gloucester and Hereford Cathedrals make up the ‘Three Counties’ and take turns to host the annual ‘Three Choirs’ Festival at the end of July, the longest running non-competitive classical music festival in the world! Slightly further upstream is the riverside home of Worcestershire Country Cricket.
Heading downstream, almost immediately you reach Diglis Locks, a pair of manned river locks with an ‘island’ between them – just follow the instructions of the traffic lights. Passing the site of the 1651 Battle of Worcester on your right, and cruising under the busy A38, the river now starts to wind its way past woods and ‘cliffs’ of distinctive red soil. The leafy River Severn makes boating feel an undistracted affair, the chaos of the ‘real’ world blissfully out of sight apart from the odd village or campsite to disrupt until you reach Upton upon Severn. This historic small town is a popular stop-off, and busy moorings sit in front of the many pubs and cafés on its attractive waterfront. The town has become famous for the series of festivals during the summer which fill every space – most notable is the Upton Jazz Festival which attracts performers from across the world. There are also independent shops and a heritage centre in ‘The Pepperpot’ to explore.
Noise intrudes on your peace for a while as the river approaches and flows under the M50, but then calm is restored. The Grade II*-listed cast-iron single-arch Mythe Bridge, built by the great engineer Thomas Telford in 1826 (he liked it so much that he wrote “I reckon this the most handsomest bridge which has been built under my direction”), announces your arrival at Tewkesbury. As the River Severn skirts the town, you will need to either moor up against the high bank on your right, or turn left onto the River Avon and go through Avon Lock to moor above the lock. The market town of Tewkesbury is packed with half-timbered buildings dating from the Tudors, independent shops, inviting cafés and cosy pubs. Its crowning glory is the beautiful 12th century Abbey, with the highest Norman tower in England.
Below Upper Lode Lock, the river is semi-tidal, and the lock keeper will let you know any particular information you need for your journey. As you reach Lower Lode and its hotel, it’s worth taking a look back towards Tewkesbury to see the glorious view of the Abbey with Bredon Hill behind it. Further south, the 19th-century Haw Bridge had to be replaced in the 1960s after a tanker barge collided with it.
The river separates at Upper Parting – you continue straight on while the main part of the river heads right. The infamous Severn Bore is a phenomenon that is best seen down the river towards Minsterworth. The Severn Estuary narrows from 5 miles wide at Avonmouth, to 1 mile wide at Sharpness to just 100 yards at Minsterworth. A tidal surge heads upriver, trapped by the high banks and creates such a wave that you can even see surfers take to their boards on it!
It is important to follow the navigation instructions you’ve been given and phone ahead to Gloucester, as the channel now narrows and you will need to look out for boats heading upstream. A series of sharp, blind bends and three bridges mark your final approach to the manned Gloucester Lock, rising into Gloucester Docks and the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal.
Gloucester had been an important port since Roman times, but sea-faring vessels venturing inland too often met their end with the unpredictable sands and tides of the Severn. Under the guidance of the great engineer Thomas Telford, the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal was built as a bypass from the treacherous waters of the river Severn from Sharpness to Gloucester. When it opened in 1827, it was the world’s broadest, deepest canal. With the canal's help, Gloucester became Britain's most inland port and cargoes from around the globe arrived by sailing ship, barge, narrowboat, tanker and steamship. During the Industrial Revolution, the canal carried grains imported to feed the hungry towns of the Midlands. And it carried cocoa beans to Cadbury's factory at Frampton on Severn where milk was added to make chocolate crumb, which was sent onward to Bournville to make chocolate. The canal also played an important role in the economy of the Midlands carrying coal from Forest of Dean.
The newly built docks at Gloucester handled exports and imports from around the world, with grain and timber as the bulk. Huge warehouses were built to store cargo, some of which have survived and are protected in their full glory today. History clings in dockside ropes and rusty mooring rings, in preserved rail tracks and a steam crane, a former warehouse has become the National Waterways Museum Gloucester, and everywhere there are clues to the past. There are also plenty of opportunities for eating, drinking and of course shopping (at the Gloucester Quays shopping centre).
Gloucester’s city centre is dominated by its medieval cathedral, with the largest stained glass window in the UK. In 2016, Gloucester’s 1000-year-old cathedral became the oldest cathedral in the UK to have undergone a solar installation to cut its carbon emissions. Gloucester, Worcester and Hereford Cathedrals make up the ‘Three Counties’ and take turns to host the annual ‘Three Choirs’ Festival at the end of July, the longest running non-competitive classical music festival in the world! Once you have had your fill of exploring the city and its docks, it’s time to retrace your journey along the river back to Worcester.
Max: 4 People
Max: 6 People
Max: 6 People
Max: 7 People
Max: 6 People
Length: 66ft (63ft from Falkirk)
Max: 8 People
Max: 10 People