Braunston & Return from Springwood Haven

4 Nights

Maps & Guides for this route: N3, P6, L14 | Click here buy maps

A relaxing cruise through mostly open countryside, this is a journey of junctions and battles between two rival canals, the Oxford and the Grand Union. With tales of trade and heritage, sport and poetry, and the charisma of one of Britain's canals’ most loved hubs.

Leaving the marina to head south along the Coventry Canal, the canal 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. Skirting pretty well-kept gardens round the edge of Nuneaton, birthplace of the writer George Eliot, Marston Junction is where the Ashby Canal heads off eastwards.

Just beyond Bedworth, hidden from the canal via a sheltered cutting, Hawkesbury Junction is a busy place filled with boats and a photogenic former engine house, which used to pump water up from a well to the canal. The original Newcomen steam engine, called rather appropriately ‘Lady Godiva’ and dating back to 1725, is now on display in Dartmouth Museum in Devon, birthplace of its engineer Thomas Newcomen. The Junction is also known as Sutton’s Stop, after Richard and Henry Sutton who were lock-keepers here between 1807 and 1876. The Junction is a designated Conservation Area, and most of the buildings and bridges are Grade II-listed. Overlooking the junction and built in 1825, the Greyhound Inn was first run by a local farmer, and used to provide food for the boatmen and stabling for their horses. A detour along the remaining 5 or so miles of the Coventry Canal into Coventry may tempt you here. 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. A bond between these two buildings that lean side by side is a powerful and emotional paradox.

After going through the lock at the junction, the Oxford Canal heads southeast to Brinklow, a short walk south of Stretton Stop, with a 13th-century church and the remains of a medieval castle built to defend the Fosse Way which crosses the canal here. The short Newbold Tunnel (250yds/229m long) leads into Rugby, where rugby fans won’t be able to resist exploring the town itself and its world-famous connection with the sport. The Webb Ellis Rugby Football Museum tells the story of how one schoolboy changed the course of sporting history, and a ‘Pathway of Fame’ around the town celebrates famous rugby players. You can even visit the very ground within Rugby School where the game was born.

South of the town, the distinctive Hillmorton Locks present the crew with a challenge. The 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 treat travellers to special lines of canal poetry that were carved into them as part of the celebrations when British Waterways became the Canal & River Trust in 2012.

Winding through open landscape, the Oxford Canal soon reaches Braunston Turn, where the Grand Union Canal leads into Braunston, an idyllic canal settlement steeped in history dating back to the Doomsday Book. This sleepy junction between the Grand Union and Oxford Canals was once one of the busiest commercial trading points linking with London. The 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 Napton and Braunston. Today its importance has not diminished as it has become a much-loved hotspot for canal leisure seekers and the marina, with its Horseley iron bridges and historic canalside workshops, hosts the famous Braunston Historic Boat Rally every year too. All Saints’ Church is known as the ‘Cathedral of the canals’, having overseen the christenings, marriages and burials of generations of boaters.

When you have finished exploring all that Braunston has to offer, turn your boat to retrace your journey back to Springwood Haven Marina.

Featured Boats

Featured Boats from Springwood Haven, Warwickshire

Two to Five berth Boats

Alvechurch Swift

Max: 4 People

Length: 49ft

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Alvechurch Grebe

Max: 4 People

Length: 47ft

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Alvechurch Wren

Max: 4 People

Length: 49ft

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Six to eight berth Boats

Alvechurch Duck

Max: 6 People

Length: 60ft

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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 Warbler

Max: 8 People

Length: 69ft

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Up to twelve berth Boats

Alvechurch Wagtail

Max: 10 People

Length: 70ft

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