Leaving Birmingham behind at King's Norton the increasingly rural northern section of the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal offers several hours of lock free cruising interrupted only by the occasional lift-bridge. Towards the bottom of the Lapworth flight of 25 locks there is a short arm to the left with one lock that links with the Grand Union Canal, to the right the southern stretch of the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal continues through almost constant greenery towards the town, meeting a flight of 11 locks at Wilmcote.
At Bancroft Basin in Stratford the canal meets the Upper Avon running along side the theatre dedicated to the town's most famous son, William Shakespeare. There's a short navigable section of river to the left; to the right heading downstream is the first lock. The Avon is a charming river that for much of its journey flows timelessly through idyllic countryside, its low banks affording panoramic views across Warwickshire and the Cotswolds beyond. At Evesham the river becomes the Lower Avon and although increasing in size it never assumes overpowering proportions.
Tewkesbury sees the Avon locking into the larger River Severn and the difference in scale is brought home by the turn upstream under Telford's lofty Mythe Bridge. The Severn is commercial and though much of its trade has disappeared the size of its locks and the occasional large vessel leave no doubt as to its significance with the double river-lock at Diglis being particularly imposing.
Diglis Basins are accessed by broad-gauge locks. Beyond the basin the Worcester & Birmingham Canal is narrow gauge and it soon becomes apparent why it is known colloquially as ‘the 58'. A few hours spirited effort is needed to negotiate Tardebigge, its 30 locks make up the longest flight in the country, though weary lockwheelers can then rest on stretches that pass through dank tunnels and unspoilt countryside. Around Wast Hill tunnel the signs of conurbation reappear. King's Norton Junction lies to the right, with the line ahead leading directly into Birmingham city centre.