The Basingstoke Canal has undergone a remarkable restoration project, meaning narrowboats are once again able to travel almost the whole length of the canal, from the base at Odiham in Hampshire, all the way to West Byfleet in Surrey. The Basingstoke Canal has an interesting history, it was used in WW1 to transport military cargoes from Woolwich to Aldershot. It was also where soldiers received training in boat handling so that they were able to make use of the French and Belgian waterways. This canal is a good option for novice boaters. The first lock is a full 12 miles from the base, giving you plenty of time to adjust to the tiller!
The Basingstoke Canal winds its way through beautiful Surrey and Hampshire countryside. Only an hour’s journey from London it’s perfect for those wanting to escape the city. It is also a good choice for those of you wanting to bring along your four-legged friends. There are lots of walks and dog-friendly pubs along the canal, or within easy reach. The Basingstoke Canal Centre in Mytchett is a great place to moor up for a spot of lunch. There are picnic benches and a cafe serving hot and cold foods. There is also a visitor’s centre, which offers you the chance to learn about the canal’s history. Or maybe purchase a souvenir from the gift shop!
The canal is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) due to the different species of dragonflies and damselflies that you can find in the area. A total of 25 species out of 39 inhabit the canal and may be seen during the course of your narrowboat holiday. One can spot a diverse range of other wildlife along the canal; it’s great for keen bird-watchers as you may get to spot herons, kingfishers and different varieties of grebes. Deer, badgers and foxes also have habitats along the towpath. The Basingstoke Canal also hosts the largest congregation of hibernating natterer bats in the UK (over 12,500!) in the Greywell tunnel. The tunnel is on the Basingstoke Canal, north of our base; it is not navigable due to a roof collapse in 1932.
Notable features along the Basingstoke Canal include Odiham Castle (King John’s Castle) which is north of the base. The castle runs adjacent to the canal; it hosts the ruins of the only octagonal keep in England. Other features include concrete pillboxes- small defensive structures for soldiers used to keep an approaching army at bay. Canal defences along the canal are not limited to pillboxes- in the Crookham area there is a set of 14 dragons teeth. These concrete square-pyramidal structures were used as anti- tank defence in WWII. The Basingstoke Canal is also home to the Deepcut lock-flight. 14 evenly spaced locks appear one after the other giving boaters a fun challenge! Passage through the flight does have to be pre-booked and can only be completed in weekly breaks or longer.