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Leicester ring

Non-tidal rivers combined with broad and narrow gauge canals offer a mixture of waterway experiences.

Stately home viewed across field from Birmingham & Fazeley Canal Birmingham & Fazeley Canal, copyright Eddie Starck

The waterways which make up the ring include the Rivers Trent and Soar, the Grand Union (Leicester Line) and Oxford Canals and the Coventry and Birmingham & Fazeley Canals before returning to the River Trent along the Trent & Mersey Canal.

Derwent Mouth Lock is considered the junction between the Trent & Mersey Canal and the River Trent. Navigators should beware of the weir at Trent Lock; the River Soar continues to Leicester where the Grand Union Canal (Leicester Section) locks up towards Saddlington Tunnel, a roost for bats. A branch to the left connects with Market Harborough, scene of the first recognised canal rally in Britain in 1950. Beyond Foxton Locks lies the prospect of several hours lock-free cruising before a short flight drops to Norton Junction.

Arms and loops

To the right the Grand Union Canal continues to Braunston and the narrow Oxford Canal that wends its way through peaceful countryside for mile after mile on its journey to Hawkesbury, its level passage interrupted only by Hillmorton Locks. These were duplicated to speed up traffic. Arms and loops along the way indicate an original route that was even more convoluted before modifications. The cast bridges were made by the Horseley Iron Works on a branch of the Birmingham Canal Navigations at Tipton.

At Hawkesbury Junction, also referred to as Sutton Stop after the occupants who once lived here, the Oxford Canal joins the Coventry Canal. The sharp turn from one into the other can present a challenge to navigators of larger craft.

The Coventry Canal heads towards Bedworth as the conurbation begins to encroach. At Marston Junction the Ashby Canal offers over 20 miles of lock-free cruising, restoration efforts are in progress at its further end.

Drop to Fazeley Junction

Eleven locks at Atherstone and two at Glascote drop the line to Fazeley Junction and the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal. The line between Fazeley and Whittington appears to be part of the Coventry Canal but the Birmingham & Fazeley nameplates in lieu of Coventry Canal bridge numbers indicate that this section was constructed by, amongst others, the Birmingham & Fazeley Company.

The conurbation is again left behind and at Fradley Junction the Trent & Mersey Canal continues through Staffordshire countryside until the waft of hops indicates the proximity of the breweries of Burton upon Trent. At Stenson the narrow gauge locks change to broad as the River Trent approaches.

Waterways in this ring

Last date edited: 25 November 2015