Duration: 7 Nights
TOTAL LOCKS: 44
CRUISING TIME PER DAY: 6 HOURS (39 HOURS IN TOTAL)
Maps & Guides for this route: P2, N2, L15, E1 | Click here buy maps
This route takes the water traveller through wide open landscapes that expand with nature's free will yet steer along waterways that have been managed by the tenacity of man too. You’ll travel on a journey bursting at its banks with heritage and wildlife, ending in the literary home of England’s most famous son.
The busy city centre of Worcester is only a short walk from the marina. The city is world-renowned for its porcelain factory, Royal Worcester, and for its glorious cathedral overlooking the River Severn below. 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!
Setting off along the Worcester & Birmingham Canal, you descend Blockhouse Lock then Sidbury Lock peacefully past the Commandery (war rooms of King Charles II, 1651). In its industrial heyday, the canal carried cargoes of porcelain from the world-famous factory, and the Museum of Royal Worcester offers a fascinating insight. Diglis Basin, full of moored boats, is ringed by restored warehouses (many were originally part of the Royal Worcester porcelain factory) and new apartment blocks. The canal meets the River Severn via its two wide locks.
Downstream, Diglis Locks are 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 – most notably 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.
The river approaches and flows under the M50, so peace is shattered for a while but calm is soon 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. While the River Severn skirts the town, you will turn left onto the River Avon and go through Avon 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.
As the River Avon is in the care of the Avon Navigation Trust, an additional licence is needed. The low-banked river is easy to navigate with idyllic moorings at designated places. It is important to follow any instructions from the lock keeper at Avon Lock. Setting off upstream under the Grade II*-listed 13th-century King John’s Bridge, once beyond the M5, the river winds through lush meadows past the village of Bredon (Bredon Hill offers expansive views on a clear day) and its riverside 14th-century Tithe Barn, now cared for by the National Trust. After Strensham Lock, the river curves in a wide arc round Eckington, then curves again at the aptly named Swan’s Neck before Nafford Lock. From Comberton Quay, it’s a short walk to the quintessentially Worcestershire black and white villages of Great Comberton and Little Comberton.
Another massive curve in the river brings you into the market town of Pershore, famous for its plums – the Pershore or Yellow Egg Plum was discovered in nearby Tiddlesey Wood around 1833 – and for its magnificent Abbey on a site founded in 689AD by King Oswald. Pershore Great Bridge (the old bridge) dates from the 14th century and survived an attempt to demolish it by retreating Cavaliers after the Battle of Worcester in 1651. Pershore Lock is quickly followed by Wyre Lock, near the village of Wyre Piddle and its locally brewed ‘Piddle’ real ale!
The river swirls through remote countryside to Fladbury Lock with a stunning former mill overlooking the weir. Fladbury was home to William Sandys, who in 1636 obtained permissions from King Charles I to begin the process to make the River Avon navigable. Sandys used his personal fortune, estimated to be £20,000-£40,000, to purchase the necessary land and property and to construct sluices, weirs, channels and locks to make the river navigable from Tewkesbury to Stratford. Another restored former mill overlooks Chadbury Lock and, shortly further on, an obelisk in the grounds of Abbey Manor House marks the site of the Battle of Evesham in 1265. Simon de Montfort and his rebel barons were defeated by Prince Edward’s Royalists, with over 4,000 killed.
A broad loop brings the river into Evesham – make sure you honk your horn at Hampton Ferry, where the ferry’s wire will be lowered into the river for you to pass. The town owes much of its prosperity to the produce grown nearby, and the river is central to it, its riverside gardens usually busy with people enjoying views across to the many-arched Workman Bridge. The town throngs with visitors and boats during the annual Evesham River Festival, held in July. Evesham Lock has a distinctive A-framed lock house over a former sluice chamber. Above the lock, the river meanders through the Vale of Evesham, one of the most renowned areas in the country for fruit and vegetable growing. In spring, it is filled with blossom and in autumn pickers are kept busy with the resulting produce.
The link between the Lower and Upper Avon is at Offenham, with George Billington Lock the first of the Upper Avon. Built in 1969 during the restoration of the river, it was completed in a remarkably speedy six weeks so that the terminally ill benefactor could see it. All locks on the Upper Avon are named after benefactors of the restoration, and the nearby Robert Aickman New Lock commemorates this former chairman of the Upper Avon Navigation Trust –also famously co-founder and vice-president of the Inland Waterways Association (IWA).
Skirting the steep wooded slopes of Cleeve Hill, the river ascends Inland Waterways Association Lock before reaching Warwickshire and the village of Bidford-on-Avon. Labelled ‘drunken Bidford’ by Shakespeare, it is still busy with visitors though hopefully not quite fitting his description today! Four more locks as the river loops round Welford-on-Avon, then Weir Brake Lock and Colin P. Witter Lock mark your arrival into Stratford-upon-Avon.
Lined with willow trees, the River Avon meets the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal in Bancroft Basin, where there are also visitor moorings. There’s so much to explore in the beautiful timber-clad streets of the world-famous Stratford-upon-Avon, second most visited tourist destination in Britain after London. The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust looks after the heritage of William Shakespeare in Stratford-upon-Avon and promotes his legacy across the world. Visit Shakespeare’s birthplace, or his tomb in Holy Trinity Church, and perhaps take in a play at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Or just soak in the atmosphere around the river and its many boats, before enjoying this journey again 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