Stretching for 25 miles between suburban Birmingham and Shakespeare’s birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon, this picturesque waterway passes through remarkably bucolic landscapes. Distinctive barrel-roofed lock cottages, brick bridges and idyllic villages add to the canal’s many charms.
Completed in 1816 with the aim of connecting the Worcester & Birmingham Canal with the River Avon, the waterway was used primarily to transport coal from Stratford to Evesham. By the 1950s, however, the southern section was unnavigable and it remained derelict until the National Trust restored it in the early 1960s.
To start your day out, park in Stratford-upon-Avon and call in at the Baguette Barge in Bancroft Gardens for picnic provisions. Pick up the canal towpath and leave the noise of traffic behind as you swap concrete bridges for quiet rolling countryside and water meadows. Keep an eye out for ‘split bridges’ – cast iron structures built in two pieces with a one-inch gap left between for a tow rope to pass through.
After three miles, you’ll reach the first of the Wilmcote Locks. Over the next mile, you’ll pass a further 10, which raise the canal up 77 feet. Keen gongoozlers should choice a picnic spot next to one of the locks or head into the village of Wilmcote to seek out a bench. If you have a bit more time on your hands, head to Mary Arden’s farm and visit the home of Shakespeare’s mother, before retracing your steps to Stratford-upon-Avon.
Read more about the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal on the Canal & River Trust website.