The Stratford-upon-Avon Canal is a canal in the south Midlands of England. The canal, which was built between 1793 and 1816, runs for 25.5 miles (41.0 km) in total, and consists of two sections. The dividing line is at Kingswood Junction, which gives access to the Grand Union Canal. Following acquisition by a railway company in 1856, it gradually declined, the southern section being un-navigable by 1945, and the northern section little better.
From Kings Norton Junction at the northern end the canal immediately passes through the unusual King's Norton Stop Lock, the only guillotine-gated stop-lock on a canal. After 3/4 mile is the only tunnel on the canal, at Brandwood. It is 352 yards (322 m) long, and like many canal tunnels it has no towpath; horses were walked over the hill and barges were pulled through the tunnel using a handrail on the wall of the tunnel, parts of which can still be seen. On the outskirts of Shirley the brick-built Major's Green Aqueduct carries the canal 10m above Aqueduct Road and the River Cole.
270 yards (250 m) further south is the electrically operated Shirley Draw Bridge which carries Drawbridge Road over the canal. It is normally closed and can be opened using a British Waterways key. The northern section also has a swing bridge (no.2, normally left open), a lift bridge (no.28), and another drawbridge (no. 26), all operated manually.
On the southern section interesting features of the canal include the unique barrel-roofed lock keeper's cottages to be found south of Kingswood Junction. All but two have been swamped by large modern extensions, but those at locks 28 and 31 are still in something like their original state, neither of them have either electricity supply or mains water.
Many of the accommodation bridges south of Kingswood Junction are split bridges of cast iron, with a central slot to accommodate the tow rope of horse-drawn boats.
The southern section of the canal passes over three cast iron aqueducts, unusual in that the towpaths are at the level of the canal bottom.
- Travelling south from Kingswood Junction, the first aqueduct is the modest Yarningale Aqueduct which carries the canal over a small stream near Preston Bagot, Warwickshire. This cast iron aqueduct was built in 1834 to replace the original wooden structure which was washed away when the stream flooded that year.
- The second is the Wootton Wawen Aqueduct, just outside Wootton Wawen, where the canal crosses the A3400 main road.
- The third is the Edstone aqueduct (also known as Bearley) which at 475 feet (145 m), is the longest in England. The aqueduct crosses a minor road, the Birmingham and North Warwickshire railway and also the trackbed of the former Alcester Railway. There was once a pipe from the side of the canal that enabled locomotives to draw water to fill the loco's tank.