The tranquil Ashby Canal is a 31-mile (50km) long canal running from the mining town of Moira in Leicestershire, to the point at which it connects with the Coventry canal in Warwickshire. The canal meanders through a very level, rural environment, needing no locks at all and is therefore the perfect destination for first-time boaters, more mature boaters or those looking for a lock-free stretch of inland waterways. This gentle and pretty route is ideal for walkers too. Click here for a location map.
Although it is named after Ashby-de-la-Zouch, the canal barely touches the town. It winds peacefully through the countryside for almost the whole of its 22-mile navigable length. Hedgerows and reeds add to a green landscape, rich in wildlife, including herons, kingfishers and moorhens. Coarse fish species include bream, roach, chub and pike. From Snarestone to Carlton Bridge, the canal is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, supporting aquatic plant life and several varieties of dragonfly.
Originally intended as a broad-gauge connection between the Coventry Canal and the River Trent (which it failed to reach), the Ashby Canal was constructed lock-free on a contour of 300 feet and served the coalfields around Moira and Measham.
The principal cargoes were coal and limestone to feed the furnace at Moira and the lime works at Ashby-de-la-Zouch. Such was the quality of the coal, prized more highly for its burning qualities than for its use in making iron, that it was still being routinely transported on the line until the 1960s. All this mining activity unfortunately led to serious subsidence throughout the 20th Century, resulting in the closure of the canal’s northern reaches. Since the 1990s, restoration work has seen stretches of canal reopen beyond Snarestone, where the width of the tunnel illustrates the original ambition to build a broad-gauge canal.
Nearby Measham gave its name to a particular style of pottery bearing a homely motto. Usually brown, it was popular with working boaters.
This unspoilt canal is also a gateway into medieval times. The ridge and furrow patterns created by medieval farmers can still be seen and the canal line touches the western edge of Bosworth Field, where Richard III met his match at the hands of Henry Tudor in 1485. The hawthorn bushes at Stoke Golding are said to be where Richard’s crown was discovered following the battle.
Bosworth Marina is situated just outside Market Bosworth, which is south of Shackerstone and north of Shenton. Shenton has the lovely Whitemoors Cafe and Antiques Centre, while the Shackerstone steam railway line, known as The Battlefield Line, is close by and the Bosworth Water Trust is opposite the Bosworth Marina. Those staying at the Marina can take a left turn as they exit for a brief day trip, exploring the northern route of the canal, or alternatively turn right and head south towards the Coventry canal at Marston Jabbett, near Nuneaton.
From Bosworth Marina boats can access four cruising rings. Click here for more information.