The Avon Ring is one of a dozen or so popular circular routes for narrowboat holiday-makers.
It covers a distance of 108 miles, passes through 130 locks and takes around two weeks to complete. Sections of the Stratford Canal, Worcester & Birmingham Canal, River Severn and River Avon make up the route.
Drifters has canal boat hire bases on the ring route at Tardebigge, Alvechurch, Stoke Prior and Worcester on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal, as well as Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal.
Starting from Tardebigge and travelling anti-clockwise round the Avon Ring, from abbeys and canalside pubs, to theatres and Tudor mansions, here’s a guide to the highlights:
The Tardebigge Flight
With 30 locks in just 2¼ miles it’s the longest lock flight in the country. There are fantastic views of the Worcestershire countryside to enjoy as boaters descend, with popular Queen’s Head pub to enjoy between locks 29 and 28. Drifters’ Stoke Prior base is halfway down the flight.
The Eagle & Sun pub at Hanbury is a popular staging post for narrowboat holiday-makers. It’s on the junction where the Droitwich Junction Canal meets the Worcester & Birmingham Canal.
Opened in the 19th century to allow transhipment of cargoes between the River Severn and the Worcester & Birmingham Canal. Two broad locks take boaters down into the River, operated by lock keepers.
The River Severn
With the distant outline of the Malvern Hills in overlooking this magnificent river takes boaters through miles of peaceful countryside. Upton on Severn is a good place to moor, with plenty of shops and pubs.
This historic market town with its 12-century abbey, half-timbered buildings and historic pubs is a great place to visit, and it’s here that the River Severn meets the River Avon.
One of the finest market towns in Worcestershire, Pershore offers lots of places to eat and shop, and a magnificent abbey to explore.
Site of another famous abbey and plenty of pubs and cafes too.
The seven arched medieval bridge at Bidford dates from 1482. Look out for signage, as only one of the arches is suitable for boats to pass through.
Stratford upon Avon
Shakespeare’s home town has a great choice of shops, pubs, cafes, museums and theatres. Bancroft Basin right opposite the Royal Shakespeare Theatre is the perfect place to moor up and explore the town. The Basin connects the River Avon with the Stratford Canal.
The Stratford Canal is a narrow canal and the flight of 11 locks at Wilmcote take boaters up to the village of Wilmcote. This historic village is home to Mary Arden’s Farm, one of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s museums and where Shakespeare’s mother grew up.
The longest cast iron structure in England, the impressive Edstone Aqueduct offers great views of the surrounding Warwickshire countryside.
There’s another smaller aqueduct here, a Drifters canal boat hire base here and the Yew Tree Farm farm shop and Cowshed Cafe.
One of a series of quiet villages through which the Stratford Canal passes, Lowsonford is famous for its Fleur de Lys pub.
Fifteen locks at Lapworth take boaters up hill to Hockley Heath, passing close to the National Trust’s Tudor mansion, Packwood House. There’s a good choice of places to eat and drink at Hockley Heath, including a Chinese takeaway and the canalside Wharf pub.
King’s Norton Junction
After passing through Brandwood Tunnel and the stop lock with its guillotine-like gate hanging overhead, boaters reach the Worcester & Birmingham Canal at King’s Norton Junction.
Wast Hill Tunnel
Turning left at King’s Norton Junction, boaters soon encounter the 2,726 yard long Wast Hill Tunnel. The journey through the tunnel, which is wide enough for two boats to pass, takes around 30 minutes.
There’s a choice of canalside pubs here. The Crown and the Weighbridge at Alvechurch marina, one of Drifters’ narrowboat hire bases.
Just under an hour later, boaters will be back at Tardebigge.