Canal Holiday Cruising Notes from Sawley Marina


A short river section takes you to Derwent Mouth, and the entrance to the Trent & Mersey canal.

Within an hour or so of departure, you arrive at Shardlow. This is an attractive canal village with a restaurant and a number of Canalside Pubs, including the Navigation Inn Tel 01332-792918) by Bridge 3,
a haunted pub with moorings. Also near the Canal is the Old Crown (01332-792392).

Pub at Shardlow basinThis is a good place for the first night’s mooring. There is a Heritage Centre where you can gain an insight to canal life from the early 18th century, near Shardlow Lock, as you leave the village. If you feel like a stroll around the village then try the village trail.

Everywhere, there are examples of large-scale canal architecture. By the Shardlow lock is the biggest and best of these buildings- the 18th century Trent Mill, now the Clock Warehouse, an attractive eating and drinking establishment.

Passing Weston on Trent on your right hand side, near Weston Lock, there is a pleasant walk south east down the lane from the lock to the river opposite Kings Mills.  In the village, there are a couple of pubs with restaurants. 

Soon, you will come to the small villages of Swarkestone & Barrow-on-Trent off to the left.

The Crew & Harpur Arms at Swarkstone is near the river bridge, The Ragley Boat Stop Pub is a large pub 300yds west of Bridge 17 (tel 0132-703919) 

There is a good pub alongside the Stenson Lock & Marina, about hour before you get to Willington, ‘The Bubble Inn’ ( Tel 01283-703113).  Moor up at bridge 19 for a pub full of character, it even has a ghost of an old lock keeper!!!

The next main village is Willington, about 5 hours cruising from Shardlow. This has an open village green area and pubs, shops and a Post Office. The Green Dragon is a popular & welcoming pub with low beams & moorings     ( Tel 01283-702327)Willington

A 12 arch stone aqueduct carries the canal over the River Dove.

At Bridge 29a you will find The Mill House Bar with its own moorings and large canal side terrace.  Children welcome and they have a family dining area and inside and outside play areas.

Stop off at the Horninglow Basin for some fish and chips.

In another 2 hours, you will arrive at Burton-on-Trent. Traditionally associated with the brewing industry, it is internationally known as the brewing capital of Great Britain.  The previous section of the canal has double-width locks, but once you reach Dallow Lane Lock, you will reach the first of the narrow locks which only have a capacity for one boat at a time.

You can visit the Bass Museum or Heritage Brewery Museum here:

Coors Visitor Centre is ¾ miles from Horninglow Basin. here you can see all aspects of brewing during the late 19th Century, also a preserved steam engine, cafe & shops, also conducted tours round the Brewery.

Marstons Brewery Visitor Centre (tel 01283-507391) Tours of the brewery include the unique and world famous Burton Union system are generally available Monday  to At the end of the tour, have a drink of real ale in the Visitor Centre. Please telephone in advance to book if you want to visit Marstons.

There are numerous pubs near the canal including. The Navigation Inn (with moorings) (Tel 01283 568977).

If you are only having a short break with us, Burton on Trent can, in the main, be comfortably reached, leaving enough time for your return journey. There are 2 turning points at Burton-on-Trent , one at Horninglow Wharf, the other at Shobnall Marina. We do not recommend that you moor here so if you are here for a short break, you may want to turn around and head back towards Willington, or if you have made good headway or are staying for a week, you can push on to  Branston, which is a good spot for an overnight stay. This is just over an hour or so from Burton-on-Trent.

At Branston (as in pickles!!) you can moor near Bridge Inn, (Tel 01283-564177) at Bridge 34, which has good food and real ales.  There is also a seasonal shop selling provisions, home made cakes & crafts.

Nearby is the Branston Water Park, with several walks around the ponds and lakes formed from old gravel pits. There is a small ‘Visitor Centre’ a short walk from the towpath.

Canal lock gates Another 3 hours cruising from Branston brings you to Alrewas, a large, attractive village with shops and pubs and worth a stroll around.

The canal's meandering passage through the village, passing well tended gardens and a bowling green, and the presence of the 13th century church create a friendly and unruffled atmosphere.The back lanes harbour pretty half timbered thatched cottages.There is a fine Butchers here, also well worth a visit is a fantastic wine & whisky store – Barkers of Alrewas, which holds hundreds of different bottles of Scotch amongst its stock.

Good pubs are the Crown Inn near bridge 46 & George & Dragon in the village.

A further 3 hours or so cruising brings you to Fradley Junction, where the Trent & Mersey meets the Coventry Canal. Stay for a while at The Swan Pub situated on one of the most picturesque waterside locations in the Midlands. Try and spot some of the wildlife to be found here including kingfishers, herons and moorhens.  Visit the shop and information centre for souvenirs. Fradley Junction can be comfortably reached in 3 days cruising from Sawley, generally giving plenty of time for the return journey. Visit the Fradley Pool nature reserve and have a go at pond dipping or view the abundance of birdlife from the bird-hide.  For the more energetic, pick up a map and guide and try one of the wonderful walks - listen en-route for the Green Woodpeckers

For those who like to spend long days cruising, and who are able to reach Fradley Junction in a shorter time, there is a choice. The Coventry Canal has no locks for some miles from Fradley Junction.The Plough at Heddlesford Junction is worth a visit. You then go into Whittington and may even reach Hopwaas, just south of Tamworth.

If you carry on along the Trent & Mersey, around 3 hours cruising will bring you into Rugeley, a town with lots of facilities. If you have enough time before you have to turn around for the return journey, you may get as far as Great Haywood, 2 hours from Rugeley. This is the junction with the Staffs & Worcester Canal.
The Canal borders the grounds of Shugborough Hall, the home of the late Patrick Lichfield. The house & grounds are open from March to October 11-5pm. The house is an 18th Century mansion, and has magnificent grounds.

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All distances and times are approximate. The timings do not take account of cruising conditions which are variable and be aware delays can and will occur. It is your responsibility to return your holiday narrowboat before or at the time specified in your agreement(s) with the Company.

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Superb Canalboat Holidays on the Trent & Mersey and Llangollen canals