If you are lucky enough to be enjoying luxury canal boat hire in Warwickshire this year, then you may experience the delights of the county’s very own ‘stairway to heaven’! This is a series of 21 locks at Hatton, which were installed in the 1930s to lift narrowboats up the steep Avon Valley.
The flight of locks on the Grand Union Canal were built in response to competition from improved road and rail links to Warwick and beyond. The traders who worked with heavily laden boats were so impressed by the widened waterway that they nicknamed the section of the canal the ‘Stairway to Heaven’, the Canal and River Trust explains.
At this point, the Midlands were a powerhouse of coal production, which fed the growing number of factories and power stations in the area. The canals were also important trade links to London and beyond, carrying goods such as sugar, spices, and tea. The commercial canal carriers wanted to ensure their lifeblood was not threatened by road and rial.
Of course, it only held back the inevitable changes for so long. However, nowadays, the locks are wonderfully well preserved, and can be enjoyed as a heritage leisure pursuit. The old wharf is now a centre to teach traditional skills to carpenters, and the stables used by the tow horses have now been converted into a café.
Today, you can spot wildlife as you make your way along the route, such as swans, moorhens, and wagtails, and sometimes the occasional badger or grass snake on the embankments. If you want a break from boating life, there’s plenty of other recreational pursuits to enjoy, such as fishing, cycling, canoeing, and walking.
At Hatton Wharf, you can also see a pair of restored working boats which once transported goods. There’s also family wildlife trails and visitor information packs to explore.