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Celebrate 80 years of The Hobbit with a trip through Tolkien country

Celebrate 80 years of The Hobbit with a trip through Tolkien country

Published 21 September 1937 to wide critical acclaim, the popularity of JRR Tolkien’s ‘The Hobbit’ endures, not least amongst the canal boat community where dozens of boats bear the names of Tolkien’s characters.

Tolkien spent much of his childhood exploring the village of Sarehole (now Hall Green), Moseley Bog, the Malvern Hills, and nearby Bromsgrove, Alcester and Alvechurch.

From our canal boat hire base on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal at Alvechurch, narrowboat holiday-makers can travel through some of the landscapes that inspired Tolkien’s masterpiece.

On a short break, travel along beautiful tree-lined waters to the village of Lapworth and back, with only one lock to pass through – perfect for canal boat holiday beginners.

On a week’s holiday from Alvechurch, more experienced boaters can tackle the Stourport Ring, travelling 74 miles through 118 locks in around 45 hours.

****To Lapworth & Back – suggested short break (three night) itinerary for beginners

Day 1: On a weekend break from Alvechurch, pick-up your boat on Friday afternoon and after an hour’s handover and tuition, head north along the Worcester & Birmingham Canal towards Birmingham. After three miles, pass through the 2493-metre long Wast Hills Tunnel, one of the longest in the country. Two miles later at King’s Norton Junction the Worcester & Birmingham meets the Stratford Canal. Turn here onto the Stratford Canal and pass through Brandwood Tunnel and the Stop Lock, the only lock on this journey. Soon after, moor-up for the first night at the visitor moorings at Yardley Wood Bridge number 5.

Day 2: Continue on a further six lock-free miles through the countryside before reaching the top of the Lapworth Flight. Moor-up here and take a short walk to the National Trust’s Packwood House, a stunning Grade I listed timber-framed Tudor manor house, with its famous Yew Garden containing over 100 trees planted in the mid-17th century. Alternatively, it’s also a short walk into the village of Lapworth to dine at the Boot Inn, a traditional country pub with a wide-ranging menu, and the Canal Shop is also close by for provisions.

Day 3: Turn and travel leisurely back towards Alvechurch, stopping to moor up for the last night at Hopwood, where The Hopwood House historic canalside pub serves traditional pub food and Rotisserie chicken, freshly roasted every day.

Day 4: Complete the last hour cruise back to the canal boat hire base at Alvechurch, in time to return the boat at 9.30am.

****The Stourport Ring – a summary of the route and ideas of where to stop to explore along the way

From Alvechurch, head north along the Worcester & Birmingham Canal past King’s Norton Junction and Cadbury’s Chocolate Factory at Bourneville, travelling lock-free all the way into the centre of Birmingham – a journey that takes around four hours.

Here boaters can moor up in Gas Street Basin, close to Brindleyplace and enjoy waterside restaurants, the National Sea Life Centre and access to Birmingham’s many city centre attractions, including the spectacular Symphony Hall.

Next the route travels onto the Birmingham Canal Main Line heading to Wolverhampton, which takes around six hours. Continuing to travel lock-free, the route passes through Cosely Tunnel, then Wolverhampton Tunnel, after which boaters can stop at visitor moorings to explore Wolverhampton, including its Grand Theatre and the fantastic Pop Art collection at its Art Gallery.

The Wolverhampton flight of 21 locks is next to negotiate, which takes about four hours, before reaching Aldersley Junction and the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal.

Six miles and another six locks later, boaters reach Bratch Top Lock and pumping station in the pretty village of Wombourne, with its popular Railway Café and choice of village pubs.

A mile later, the canalside Waggon & Horses pub with an extensive menu and large beer garden, is a welcome stopping place.

After another eight locks, boaters reach Stourton Junction, where the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal meets the Stourbridge Canal. From here, it’s an eight-hour journey on to Stourport, travelling through 13 locks, past Kinver with access to the National Trust’s intriguing Kinver Rock Houses, and the market town of Kidderminster, with canalside dining at The Watermill and The Lock Inn.

On arriving at Stourport, once a busy inland port, boaters can explore the basins by following circular walks, and enjoy dining at the Bird in Hand, Windlass Café or Rising Sun Inn.
Next there’s a 12-mile section of the River Severn to travel along to reach the beautiful Cathedral City of Worcester, and transfer back onto the Worcester & Birmingham Canal at Diglis Basin in the heart of the city. From here, boaters can take time out to see the City’s many splendid buildings, including its spectacular cathedral – with medieval cloisters, ancient crypt and magnificent stained glass.

Now on the last leg of the journey, the Worcester & Birmingham Canal takes boaters out of Worcester and steadily upwards through rolling fields and wooded cuttings, passing through the village of Tibberton, with its Bridge Inn.

Dunhampstead Tunnel is next and then Hanbury Wharf, where the Droitwich Canal meets the Worcester & Birmingham Canal.
After travelling through the Stoke flight of six locks boaters can rest at The Queen’s Head at Stoke Pound, which offers wood fired pizzas, barbeques and live music, before tackling the mighty

Tardebigge flight of 30 locks. One of the largest flights in Europe, these locks take the canal up 67 metres over a two-and-a-quarter mile stretch, and take around five hours to complete.
There are moorings at the top of the flight at Tardebigge and spectacular views. From here, it takes just over an hour to get back to Alvechurch, passing through fields and woods and two short tunnels – Tardebigge and Shortwood.

Top 5 Easter Canal Boat Holidays

Top 5 Easter Canal Boat Holidays

Canal boat holidays are fantastic for families, offering the chance to set off on an adventure together – learning how to work the locks, navigate tunnels, speak the boating lingo, spot wildlife, explore traffic-free towpaths and visit waterside attractions along the way.

Our Easter prices start at £495 for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four people, and £775 for a week. Here are our top 5 destinations:

1. Boat to Birmingham & enjoy Cadbury World’s Easter Eggstravaganza…Perfect for beginners, boaters can travel lock-free to Birmingham in just five hours from Drifters’ base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal, stopping off along the way to find handmade Easter eggs in the World’s biggest Cadbury shop at Cadbury World. With more canals than Venice, there’s no better way to visit Birmingham, where over-night moorings are available at Gas Street Basin, close to Brindleyplace. There’s plenty for families to see and do this Easter in Britain’s second city, including penguin feeding at the National Sea Life Centre or Mary Poppins at the Hippodrome.

2. Join the Easter Boat Gathering at the National Waterways Museum…from 25 to 28 March the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port in Cheshire celebrates the start of the Summer boating season with a large boat gathering and Sea Shanty Festival. From Drifters’ base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire, it’s a 10-hour journey to Ellesmere Port (21 miles and 12 locks), where canal boat holiday-makers can moor up and join the gathering.

3. Visit Georgian Bath and its Award-winning Egg theatre…on a short break from Drifters’ base at Bradford on Avon in Wiltshire, boaters can travel along the beautiful Kennet & Avon Canal and reach the centre of the World Heritage City of Bath in seven hours, with just seven locks to negotiate along the way. As well as stunning architecture, great shopping and restaurants, Bath has many fantastic family attractions, including the Roman Baths and the Theatre Royal’s award-winning egg theatre.

4. Enjoy an amphibian ‘Easter’ egg hunt at Fens Pool in Dudley…On Friday 25 March, senior Canal & River Trust ecologist Paul Wilkinson is running an amphibian ‘Easter’ egg hunt at Fens Pool at Brierley Hill from 10am till noon. From Drifters’ base at Alvechurch on Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, Brierley Hill on the Stourbridge Canal mainline is a two-day journey away (30 miles and 12 locks), giving canal boat holiday-makers the chance to explore some of Birmingham’s extensive network of canals along the way.

5. Step back in time for a Horrible Histories Easter Adventure at Warwick Castle…Warwick Castle is launching its new Horrible Histories Maze this Easter, where visitors can muddle through time and face fun challenges to unravel history’s best kept secret. Their Horrible Histories Wicked Warwick live stage show will also be performed this Easter, plus fearsome fireballs from the trebuchet and soaring eagle displays. Narrowboat holiday-makers can reach Warwick on a short break from Drifters’ base at on the Grand Union Canal at Stockton.