Pearson's Canal Companion, South Midlands - This is the definitive guide to the waterways around Rowington. Smoke has a copy of this onboard - maps and information on all of the nearby canals and things to see and do. We would recommend you buy your own copy in advance to help you with your planning.

Canal & River Trust Guides - CART produce some handy little pdf guides (each 30-40 pages) on their website of things to do and see near waterways in each region of the country. Our area is mainly covered by the West Midlands guide but being annoyingly, as our closeness to the town of Meriden suggests, right bang in the middle of England your route may be covered by the East Midlands, South West and South East Guides. Please click below to download your free copies.

Henry's Big Map - I wanted to get one map showing all of the canals with locks, mooring points etc in one place for our extended area. This is my effort (click to view higher res file) - you will need to be adept at using the zoom function.....

Planning Your Journey

In terms of routes, the first thing to note is that we cannot guarantee which way round the boat will be so if it is facing North and you want to go South you will need to turn around at Kingswood junction (only 30 minutes round trip). However if you are facing South and want to go North then you will need to take a 2.5 hour round trip through Shrewley tunnel and turning around about a mile afterwards. This is a great experience but you need to factor the time into your planning. We will be able to tell you a couple of days before you depart which direction the boat is heading.

You will see from the map above that we are very near Kingswood junction (where the Grand Union Canal meets the Stratford Canal) which gives you several options:

  1. Going South on the Stratford canal. Very beautiful canal with signature barrel rooved cottages. Some of our favourite pubs on the network are here including the Fleur de Lys and the Crabmill. This route would take you over England's longest Aqueduct at Edstone and into Stratford itself which obviously has loads to offer in its own right. You moor in the basin near the Royal Shakespeare Company right in the middle of town. It is around 25 locks to Stratford but until you get to just outside Stratford they are quite spread out.
  2. Going North on the Stratford canal. This is also a very beautiful stretch of canal taking you through the Warwickshire countryside. Early on in your trip you would have to conquer the c.20 locks of the very picturesque Lapworth flight. This is an amazing experience but some intensive work for your crew! After that you have a free run without locks through the countryside (but a few pubs!) via Brandwood tunnel to Kings Norton junction on the edge of Birmingham. There you have the option to turn right into Birmingham and all it has to offer (including the magnificent Gas Street Basin) and all of the canal network beyond or left onto the Worcester & Birmingham canal which is more rural and involves the mile and a half of the Wast Hills tunnel. More beautiful Worcestershire countryside the other side and several great pubs including the Weighbridge in Alvechurch.
  3. Going South on the Grand Union Canal - Going south you will pass the dramatic scenery of the Rowington embankment - c.40m above the valley below before travelling through the equally breath-taking (and sometimes wet!) 400m Shrewley Tunnel. The Grand Union is a wider canal than the Stratford and so has larger, more dramatic double locks such as the magnificent flight of 21 locks at Hatton. This requires a little more heavy lifting on operating the locks than the Stratford Canal. The Hatton flight will take you 3-4 hours to complete - an amazing experience but quite hard work so please factor this into your planning. Beyond the Hatton Locks you have the wonderful towns of Warwick and Leamington to explore before miles more beautiful countryside. There are several pubs along this route including the Durham Ox at Shrewley, The Hatton Arms at the top of Hatton Locks and Cape of Good Hope as you enter Warwick.
  4. Going North on the Grand Union Canal. Going North on the Grand Union you have a wide long stretch of some 90 minutes until you reach the fantastic Knowle Wharf Locks. Some great pubs early on in your Journey including the Navigation, The Black Boy and nearby (and better) Kings Arms. The countryside is beautiful here too but you have to make a call at Copt Heath whether you want to go into Birmingham or turnaround. Most of the route into Birmingham you wouldn't know you are in an urban environment at all but it reveals its industrial heritage as you get closer to the city centre (to get there by this route you need to do c.20 more locks or you can turn onto the Birmingham and Fazeley canal and head out of Birmingham into the North Warwickshire Countryside.

Any route you choose we would advise using Canal Plan on the link below to help you plan how long it will get to places (and get back!). Our home location is "Turners Green Bridge No. 63". Please note that although turning points are frequent there are some stretches (e.g. on the Grand Union Canal going North from Rowington between Copt Heath and Hay Mills, Birmingham) where you can't turn for over an hour so please plan carefully to make sure you can get the boat back on time. You can also use the Canal & River Trust's interactive map - this is the definitive guide to where every turning point, water point etc on the canal network is.

Warwickshire Narrowboat Canal Holiday Planning