Top 10 places to picnic on the canals

Whether you are enjoying a canal boat holiday, or just planning a day out by the water, when the weather is good, it’s lovely to picnic by the water.

Here are some of our favourite canalside picnic spots, all perfect for watching the boats go by:

1. Tring Reservoirs, alongside the Grand Union Canal in Hertfordshire, are designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and are fantastic for bird watching, walking and angling. They consist of four reservoirs, including Wilstone Reservoir, famous for the first nesting in this country of black-necked grebes in 1918 and little ringed plovers in 1938. Drifters’ nearest canal boat hire base is on the Grand Union Canal at Gayton, 19 hours away.

2. Foxton Locks, on the Leicester Line of the Grand Union Canal in Leicestershire, are surrounded by stunning views of the Leicestershire countryside and are recognised as one of the most important industrial heritage sites in Europe. The locks themselves consist of two staircases of five locks, which take an average of 45 minutes for a boat to negotiate. The water is controlled by paddles painted red or white. Reds fill the locks, white empties them. Foxton lock keepers advise narrowboat holiday-makers to open “Red afore white and you’ll be alright, white afore red and you’ll wish you were dead!“ Our nearest base is just five hours away at North Kilworth on the Leicester Line of the Grand Union Canal.

3. Stoke Bruerne, on the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire, is a picturesque village, home to the Canal Museum and east portal of Blisworth Tunnel. There are also waterside pubs to visit and a lovely woodland walk populated with sculptured wildlife to enjoy. Drifters’ nearest base is less than a mile away at Gayton on the Grand Union Canal.

4. Caen Hill Flight, on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Devizes in Wiltshire, is one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways. With 16 of the 29 locks stacked in a straight line up the hillside, it really is an impressive sight. It takes between five and six hours for a boat to travel the flight, giving plenty of “gongoozling” opportunities for picnickers. The flight is designated as a Scheduled Ancient Monument and the sideponds and grassland alongside it are a haven for a rich variety of wildlife. Our nearest base is just five hours away at Hilperton on the Kennet & Avon Canal.

5. Hatton Locks, on the Grand Union Canal near Wariwck in Warwickshire, consists of 21 locks which raise the canal by 45 metres over two miles. Opened in 1799, they were widened in the 1930’s and reopened by an earlier Prince George, The Duke of Kent. Back then, the flight was known as the “stairway to heaven” because it led to Camp Hill where the workmen would receive their wages. Our nearest base is nine hours away at Stockton on the Grand Union Canal.

6. Froghall Wharf, at the end of the Caldon Canal near Cheadle in Staffordshire, is set within the beautiful Churnet Valley. At Froghall, there are a series of way-marked circular walks, leading visitors through woods, fields and charming villages with country pubs. Our nearest base is Peak District, 10 hours away at the junction of the Trent & Mersey and Caldon canals.

7. The Bingley Five Rise Locks, on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal near Bradford, is the steepest flight in the UK and holds the tallest lock gates in the country. The staircase of five locks raises the canal 18 metres and the locks open directly from one to another, with the top gate of one forming the bottom gate of the next. There are places to picnic and a cafe with a cabinet of curiosities telling why the locks were built. Our nearest base is at Foulridge on the Leeds & Liverpool, some 30 miles away.

8. Salterhebble Locks, on the Calder & Hebble Canal near Halifax, includes the electrically powered Salterhebble guillotine lock, one of only three functional guillotine locks on the network. The junction with the Halifax Arm is after Salterhebble Top Locks. The branch once climbed via 14 locks right into the centre of Halifax, but is now just 600 yards long. A footpath follows the line of the original canal into Halifax. Our nearest base is just one hour away at Sowerby Bridge, at the junction of the Calder & Hebble Navigation and the Rochdale Canal.

9. Stratford on Avon Canal Basin, at the junction of the River Avon and the Stratford Canal, is a buzzing focus for visitors to the town’s beautiful Bancroft Gardens. The Gardens occupy the site of former canal wharves, warehouses and a second canal basin which in 1902 was filled in. They are populated by a number of statues, including figures of the Shakespearean characters Hamlet, Lady Macbeth, Falstaff and Prince Hal. Our nearest base is six hours away at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal.

10. Vines Park, on the newly restored Droitwich Canals in Worcestershire, offers three hectares of parkland to explore and an exciting wooden play area for children. Fifty years ago campaigning began to restore the Droitwich Canals and they finally reopened in 2011, reconnecting the River Severn and the Worcester & Birmingham Canal through Droitwich. Our nearest base is just an hour away at Stoke Prior on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal.

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