the Warwickshire Ring
Warwickshire Ring Narrow Boat Holiday Hire
Cruising the Warwickshire Ring aboard an Excellence Afloat at Valley Cruises luxury canal boat makes for an energetic week’s cruise (as indicated by the daily schedule), or a leisurely two weeks’ expedition. Based in the heart of the Midlands, the Warwickshire Ring is full of contrasting rural, urban, industrial and metropolitan scenery offering tantalising glimpses into the canal system’s noble history.
There are three versions of the Warwickshire Ring.
The shortest takes you from Salford Junction to Bordesley Junction by way of the Grand Union Canal - 52 hours – 93 locks – 3 tunnels.
Or from Salford Junction, along the Birmingham and Fazeley through Aston Junction and back to Bordesley 54 hours – 106 lock – 4 tunnels.
Or at Aston you may prefer to take in the ultra modern highlights of Birmingham’s canal system by continuing towards King Norton continuing along the Stratford Canal and rejoining the Warwickshire Ring proper at Kingswood Junction 57 hours – 119 locks - 5 tunnels.
We, at Excellence Afloat at Valley Cruises, recommend cruising around the Warwickshire Ring in an anti clockwise direction. This way the majority of the locks (and thus the hard work) is accomplished during the first half of your holiday, allowing you to take a more leisurely approach to the second leg of your voyage. The ‘hard work’ begins just four hours after leaving our hire base in Coventry Canal Basin. The town of Atherstone (a good place to stop for your provisions and enjoy one of the various restaurants or pubs) welcomes you with its 11 locks which should take two hours to complete. The Coventry Canal continues through several small towns and villages offering plenty of places to moor for your first night. (Above, Atherstone top lock, courtesy of Up The Cut.)
Next morning you will arrive at Fazeley Junction, functional and steeped in history, where you turn left onto the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal, completed in 1789, and in its heyday one of the busiest and most profitable canals built. Eight locks later you will come to Curdworth, the first, and, at just 57 yards, the shortest, tunnel on the Warwickshire Ring. That day’s cruising should conclude somewhere between Curdworth and the outskirts of Minworth where several shops, pubs and a steakhouse will offer a range of evening meal solutions! It is highly recommended that you do not moor beyond Wigginshill Road Bridge overnight.
The terrain begins to take on an increasingly citified feel until you finally reach Salford. This marks the junction between the Grand Union to Bordesley Junction and the Birmingham and Fazeley to Aston. Look upwards and you will see Spaghetti junction. Two worlds meet when the gentle chug of your engine and your 3-4 mile an hour progress competes with the roar of hundreds of vehicles travelling at ten times that speed above you. At Aston you can either turn right for Birmingham city centre or left to join back with the Grand Union at Bordesley.
To reach the city centre you will need to negotiate the 13 locks at Farmers Bridge. Rich with the essence of its industrial past, it is situated under the former Great Western Railway station of Snow Hill. It’s a subterranean world of mystique with the sound of splashing water and the smell of damp making a perfect Victorian scene. It remains unchanged for over a century.
You emerge from this underworld at Cambrian Wharf and the junction with the BCN - 'Birmingham Canal Navigation'. City breaks on the Warwickshire RingHere you turn left and enter the avant garde world of Gas Street Basin. Formerly the terminus of the BCN and the Worcester Birmingham Canal, rival canals in the early years, it was separated by the once famous Worcester Bar and boats had to be unloaded on one side of the bar and reloaded on the other so that goods could proceed on their journey. Today it is offers a wealth of attractions including a huge selection of waterside eateries at Brindley Place, the famous Sea Life Centre with its 360° submarine tunnel, shopping and leisure activities at the mailbox and the Ikon Art Gallery. Spend the afternoon exploring and moor overnight at Gas Street Basin, the heart of Birmingham’s canal network and secured by locked gates and CCTV. Alternatively, if you would rather spend the day at Cadbury World (make sure that you book), moor by Five Ways railway station, use this as your overnight base and journey the one stop to Bournville by train. (Photo Courtesy Marketing Birmingham)
If you prefer to navigate by either route via Bordesley Junction you will pass through Camp Hill Locks and continue along the Grand Union through Solihull until you reach the safe and secure moorings of Catherine-de-Barnes and the wide range of food offered at The Boat pub.
From the city centre Taking the extended version of the ring and stopping to enjoy the sights of central Birmingham means that today you have to make up some time. Follow the Worcester and Birmingham canal, which runs parallel with the old Midland Railway and passes through Edgbaston Tunnel, Bournville and on to Kings Norton Junction. (For two week cruisers there is a fascinating Motor Museum here or, if you enjoy tunnels, you could continue along the Worcester Birmingham Canal and go through West Hill a 2726 yard tunnel, Shortwood - 613 yards and Tardebigge - 580 yards, turning at Tardebigge to return to Kings Norton Junction.) Turn left and enter the Stratford Canal. You will pass under a guillotine lock and meet several swing bridges before you reach the Lapworth flight of locks. At the bottom of this flight turn left again at Kingswood Junction and onto a short canal that connects the Stratford with the Grand Union. Turn right onto the Grand Union Canal and you will find yourself back on the main part of the Warwickshire Ring once again. You will then need to complete the days four, five and six below in just two days in order to be back on schedule.
From Catherine-de-Barnes Your journey along the Grand Union takes you to Knowle Locks (right, courtesy of Stephen and Lucy – www.luphen.org.uk) and on to Kingswood Junction. From there travel through Shrewley Tunnel - 433 yards and, before you know it, you will be at the top of the Hatton flight - 21 wide locks that, if fortune smiles upon you, means that you can share the work with another crew. An energetic days cruising can be rewarded by an evening spent moored at the Saliford Arm or at the Warwick Cape of Good Hope pub, where a good meal can be enjoyed.
The majority of your (roughly) 100 locks are now completed and you will be offered the opportunity of having a relatively lazy last few days. Today will see you passing through the urban areas of Warwick and Leamington and then back into a more rural landscape, dotted with pretty villages. Just a final hour and a half of cruising will find you at Braunston turn where it is well worth taking the short diversion to Braunston Marina, a wealth of canal history and inspiration. A short walk will take you to the lovely Braunston village.
Beautiful scenery on the Warwickshire RingAt Braunston (right, courtesy of Stephen and Lucy – www.luphen.org.uk) get back on track along the picturesque Oxford Canal. In no time at all you will find yourself passing through the intriguing paired locks at Hillmorton and journeying through the historic town of Rugby. Your final tunnel arrives in the shape of Newbold’s 250 yards followed by the prettiest scenery the Oxford has to offer. The Rose and Castle at Ansty will provide a great last night feast, as will the Greyhound at Hawkesbury Junction (its wise to book). Or if you don't fancy an early start on day 7, turn left here and head back down the 5½ miles to Coventry Canal Basin where you can spend the night, and take advantage of the pubs, restaurants, theatre and amenities in Coventry or just have a last night relaxing on board.
You will need to return your boat on your final morning by 8.30am, so allow sufficient time for breakfast and and be sure to lmake time for a chat with one of us so that we can share in your experiences and discover which aspects of your holiday you enjoyed most. We hope that, as we wave you off, you are feeling relaxed, refreshed and content and are already planning your next holiday cruising the many routes around the Heart of the Midlands or Stratford upon Avon aboard a luxury canal boat from Excellence Afloat at Valley Cruises.
NB These cruising times and suggestions are a guide only, and it is your responsibility to return your boat on time.