Short
Breaks

Lapworth and return from Alvechurch Marina

3 Nights
TOTAL LOCKS: 0-36
CRUISING TIME PER DAY: 4.5 HOURS (14 HOURS IN TOTAL)

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Alvechurch to Lapworth – through Wast Hills Tunnel then on the Stratford-on-Avon Canal to Lapworth and back. 

Before you head off at the start of your journey it’s worth sparing some time to explore the pretty village of Alvechurch, a short walk down the hill from its boatyard and moored boats.

A seriously relaxing journey through sleepy villages, a host of idyllic reservoirs, an amazingly long tunnel and historic locks and bridges oozing with stories. Passing from Worcestershire with Birmingham hiding in the distance, your cruise drifts into Warwickshire, with wildlife and nature trampling every boundary.

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 with ‘stand and stare’ views over 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. There was once fierce rivalry between different canal companies and they used stop locks at junctions in order to ensure that their water was safe from the other canal company, and so 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 still cruise beneath its 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 flags the end of the built-up area as you cruise gently through pretty countryside to Earlswood. Earlswood Motor Yacht Club waves from white sailcloth sashes and eager boats moored just beyond bridge 16, with a footpath from bridge 17 leading 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. Just past the boat yard by bridge 27, turn at the winding hole before you reach the start of the Lapworth Lock Flight. 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.

It’s well worth taking the time to walk down the flight to explore the locks, bridges and the cottage at Kingswood Junction. Then retrace your tranquil route south back to Alvechurch Marina. 

Featured Boats

Featured Boats from Alvechurch Marina, Worcestershire

Two to Five berth Boats

Alvechurch Grebe

Max: 4 People

Length: 47ft

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Alvechurch Plover

Max: 5 People

Length: 58ft

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Alvechurch Bunting

Max: 5 People

Length: 47ft

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Alvechurch Weaver

Max: 4 People

Length: 47ft

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Six to eight berth Boats

Alvechurch Eagle

Max: 7 People

Length: 66ft

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Alvechurch Goose

Max: 8 People

Length: 69ft

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Alvechurch Gull

Max: 6 People

Length: 66ft

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Alvechurch Lark

Max: 6 People

Length: 66ft (63ft from Falkirk)

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Alvechurch Thrush

Max: 6 People

Length: 66ft

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Alvechurch Warbler

Max: 8 People

Length: 69ft

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Up to twelve berth Boats

Alvechurch Owl

Max: 10 People

Length: 70ft

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Alvechurch Swan

Max: 12 People

Length: 70ft

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