The River Severn,  the River Avon and the Droitwich Canal

The River Severn, Britain’s longest river, rising in mid Wales and flowing for 220 miles to the Bristol Channel. However the navigable section starts at Bewdley a few miles above Stourport and runs about 45 miles to Gloucester. The large locks are electrically operated by lock-keepers.

River Severn at Worcester.

River Severn at Worcester.

The River Severn

The journey down the wide Severn from the old canal port of Stourport on the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal is through pleasant gently rolling countryside although the high banks, necessary to restrain the floodwaters which can surge out of Wales, mean the view is frequently restricted to tree lined banks. You can moor at the foot of Worcester Cathedral steps. Gloucester Docks has some magnificent old seven storey grain warehouses which now house antique centres, shops, offices and bars, with the city close by.

The Gloucester and Sharpness Ship Canal

Built to bypass a notoriously dangerous stretch of the Severn, the cruise down to Sharpness Docks, through the frequent manned swing bridges with their classical keepers cottages, is well worthwhile. It is possible to enter the tidal Severn estuary at Sharpness and navigate down to Bristol docks, where the Kennet and Avon Navigation can be joined but this is a serious undertaking because of the nature of the river and the large and fast tides. Most boaters share the services of a river pilot and travel in convoy.

Tree lined River Avon

Tree lined River Avon- Waterway Images)

The River Avon

The Avon meanders much more than the Severn, through beautiful watermeadows above Tewkesbury, famous for it’s abbey and fine buildings, and winds on amidst willow trees through the Vale of Evesham to Stratford-upon-Avon. Pershore and Evesham should be visited and you can moor near the Royal Shakespeare Theatre at Stratford-upon-Avon.

The Avon became effectively divided at Evesham, the Upper Avon becoming disused in the last century and the Lower Avon rarely used and only open to Pershore. The Lower Avon was restored by a Trust in the 1960’s but restoration of the Upper Avon was considerably more difficult and there was opposition from many landowners along the River. It was eventually reopened in 1974. Many locks and weirs had to be rebuilt and there is a wide variety of lock shapes, sizes and gear. You operate them yourself and some can be a little awkward at first.

The Droitwich Canal

The reopening of the Droitwich Barge Canal and the Droitwich Junction Canal in 2011 has created an alternative route to the River Severn and an interesting shorter cruising ring, one of the few that can be cruised on a short break of 2 or 3 days.

The canal includes a motorway culvert with a low headroom which some boats might find difficult, and which can be closed to all navigation when water levels are high after heavy rain.

River Avon at Tewkesbury
River Avon at Tewkesbury

Canal Rings

The Avon Ring is made up of the River Severn from Worcester to Tewkesbury, the River Avon, the Stratford Canal and the Worcester & Birmingham Canal.

The Stourport Ring includes the River Severn, BCN & Staffs & Worcs Canal.

The Droitwich Ring includes the Droitwich Canal and short lengths of the Worcester & Birmingham Canal and River Severn.

Big locks on the River Severn.
Big locks on the River Severn.

Key Facts

River Severn – Broad river, 42 miles, 6 locks, 2 or 3 days;
River Avon – Broad river, 44 miles, 17 locks, 2 or 3 days.
Gloucester & Sharpness Ship Canal – Broad canal, 16 miles, 1 lock, 1 day
Droitwich Canal – Broad canal – 7 miles, 16 locks, 1 day

All materials and images © Canal Junction Ltd. Dalton House, 35 Chester St, Wrexham LL13 8AH. No unauthorised reproduction.

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