Quick guide and location map
Enjoy lovely views along this pretty canal that starts near New Haw in Surrey, where it flows into the River Thames and, in the other direction, continues for 51.4 kilometres (32 miles) up to the collapsed tunnel in Odiham in Hampshire. You can choose to walk any section of the canal of a distance that suits you or you can cycle or explore by boat. Watch for the varied wildlife, have fun in canoes or kayaks or on pedalos, or buy a fishing permit and savour the peace and quiet as you fish. Please always follow the Countryside Code and if you are a paddler, boater or angler take a look at the Paddlers Code.
- Address and references: Basingstoke Canal Centre, Mytchett Place Road, Mytchett Surrey GU16 6DD
OS map reference: SU893549
- Type of site: canal
- Accessibility: accessible toilets in the car park, towpath is wheelchair and buggy accessible except for in wet weather and accessible boat trips available as well.
- Facilities: Visitor Centre at Mytchett, café and toilets. Free car park.
- Nature to discover: fish, amphibians, dragonflies, kingfishers and other birds, butterflies and much more.
- Dogs: please keep your dog under control.
- Size: 51.4 kilometres long (32 miles).
On the map below, use the plus symbol to zoom in to see the locations of the site's facilities, including the café, toilets and car parks. Zoom out using the minus symbol to view where the site is situated in Surrey, and to find other countryside sites nearby. The home symbol resets the map to the default setting.
The Basingstoke Canal has a Visitor Centre with a café, located at What3Words reference: common.traded.tops, and the toilets at What3Words reference: nuns.vocab.codes. It also has a canal path on the opposite bank to the Visitor Centre and a footpath leading along from the car park into the woods. The car park is at Mytchett Place Road, Mytchett Surrey GU16 6DD.
The Basingstoke Canal opened in 1794 and was the first canal to be built in England for the transportation of agricultural goods. Its purpose was to carry farm produce and other local products between south east England and London as cheaply as possible. It closed in 1932 and was purchased in the mid-1970s by both ourselves, Surrey County Council, and Hampshire County Council to save it from becoming derelict.
Nowadays, the canal is enjoyed by millions of visitors for a number of different activities, including walking, cycling, fishing, boating and camping to name a few.
The Basingstoke Canal has a number of pubs and train stations along the current 32 miles that are open, so you can plan a long walk or a shorter stroll to suit your preferences. Whatever stretch of the canal you chose to explore, you will enjoy beautiful and peaceful surroundings with much to discover including the abundant wildlife. Different parts of the canal hold their own surprises such as the series of locks in the Surrey part of the canal, the lakes and ponds near Mytchett or the rolling fields and picturesque cottages near Odiham.
The Share the Space message promotes courtesy and better sharing of the towpath space by all who use it, with the basic message being pedestrians have priority and cyclists must give way to other users. This is particularly relevant through Woking town centre section, which sees heavily shared use of the towpath as part of the Planet Network Saturn Trail cycling initiative.
What you can do here
- Take scenic walks of any length from a gentle stroll to a long hike along the canal
- Explore many rural stretches of the canal where you can find peace and tranquillity by the water
- Cycle, walk or embark on an adventure by visiting the Canal Visitor Centre to hire an unpowered boat such as a canoe, sit on top kayaks, row boats and pedalos. Cyclists, please give way to walkers on the towpath
- Camp out at the Canal Centre campsite
- Children's large grass play area
- Watch the abundant wildlife
- Dog walking
What you can see here and when
- Beautiful countryside
- Scenic waterway views
- Spring bluebells along the towpath at Mytchett
- Summer wildflowers
- Autumn colour
- Winter frosty scenes
- Nature to discover: fish, amphibians, dragonflies, families of ducks or, if you're lucky, you may spot the blue flash of a kingfisher, butterflies, insects and much more.
- There is a large car park with wheelchair access and toilets at the Canal Visitor Centre in Mytchett. There are also other car parks along the canal, but these have more of an uneven terrain
- The towpath varies in width between approx. 1 metre to 2 metres wide and can be muddy during the wetter seasons, particularly in the more rural, Hampshire half of the canal. The Surrey half of the canal is a hard sealed surface path for most of its length, suitable for wheelchair use
- There is also Accessible Boating based at Colt Hill Wharf in Odiham. This is a charity managed by volunteers who offer day trips and longer holiday cruises on two specially-equipped boats
- Multiple train stations along its length. Find out more on the canal centre website.
- Canal Visitor Centre in Mytchett with large free of charge car park and toilet facilities. Also includes campsite, play area and unpowered boat hire, such as canoes, sit on top kayaks and pedalos
- Take a trip on the canal from different locations. The 'John Pinkerton' trip boat operates from Colt Hill in Odiham, the 'Rosebud' trip boat operates from the Mytchett canal centre and you'll find 'Kitty' the trip boat in Woking town centre wharf
- The Canal café is based at the canal centre in Mytchett serving a range of hot and cold food and a range of drinks
- Walking and cycling routes off the towpath, there is a Rambles on the Basingstoke Canal guide sold at the Canal Visitor Centre in Mytchett, or online. There is also Frimley Lodge Park just down the towpath in Frimley Green, GU16 6HY. They have three main car park areas which are free of charge
- Attractive angling locations – to fish on the canal you will need a permit. Please note there is a closed fishing season on the canal from 15 March to 15 June
- A series of guidebooks about the canal are available to buy online, or from the Canal Visitor Centre.
Site management, contact and designations
Basingstoke Canal is managed by the Basingstoke Canal Authority (BCA), that was set up in 1992 to manage the canal on behalf of Surrey and Hampshire County Councils.
The BCA has no legal or corporate identity itself and its staff are employed by Hampshire County Council and are governed by their policies.
The Canal Partnership consists of the two County Councils and six local, borough and district Councils (Hart, Rushmoor, Guildford, Surrey Heath, Woking and Runnymede). They fund and supervise the BCA through the Basingstoke Canal Joint Management Committee.
Send us any photos you take that you're happy to share on social media, tag @ExploreSurreyUK
If you need to contact us about any issues on the Basingstoke Canal:
- Telephone: 01252 370073
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: The Basingstoke Canal
- Write to us at: Basingstoke Canal Centre, Mytchett Place Road, Mytchett Surrey GU16 6DD.
Environmental designations of the Basingstoke Canal and what they mean
The canal is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for its water-based vegetation and its dragonfly and damselfly populations.
Changes to the Basingstoke Canal Authority and Canal Centre
Surrey County Council (SCC) and Hampshire County Council (HCC) are joint landowners of the Basingstoke Canal, with the Basingstoke Canal Authority (BCA) managing operations on the canal on behalf of both councils. A number of Borough, District, Town and Parish Councils that have the canal running through their areas (known as 'riparian authorities') also make important contributions to the BCA.
Over recent years, decreases in funding coupled with rising costs have made it harder and harder for the BCA to present a balanced budget. Both HCC and SCC recognise the importance of the canal and the significant recreational and health and wellbeing benefits it offers, and are proposing to make changes that will help make the BCA more effective in its decision-making abilities and more financially resilient to help protect it into the future.
For the vast majority of residents and visitors, they will notice very little difference from these operational changes and will be able to continue enjoying the canal itself and Visitor Centre facilities as they always have done.
What changes are being proposed?
The operating model of the BCA has not been reviewed for a significant period of time. A report has been undertaken by consultants who advised that the existing arrangements were unlikely to be the most effective to support efficient decision making, a point echoed by consultees of the report. A simplified governance structure has been proposed to the stakeholders involved with the Joint Management Committee (JMC) and is currently under review.
In order to address some of the challenges in funding, it is being proposed to focus the BCA's responsibilities on critical functions, such as ensuring the canal remains safe, maintaining navigation, and conserving nature.
Functions that fall outside of the above are generally classed as 'Visitor Services' and are located at the Canal Visitor Centre in Mytchett. As part of the proposals, the BCA Visitor Services team will transfer to SCC where resources and expertise can be shared with other SCC teams. SCC is also exploring possibilities for longer-term investment and enhancement of the Canal Centre and its services that will allow it to remain relevant and effective into the future.
What does this mean for the Canal and Visitor Centre?
Under the proposal, SCC will be taking on direct responsibility for the Canal Centre from 1st April 2024 and will be reviewing ways to make it operate more efficiently, but there will be a strong focus on continuing to provide the services that residents and visitors value. Most people will notice very little change and will be able to continue enjoying the Centre and its services as they have always done.
Are you planning on closing the Visitor Centre?
SCC recognises the importance of the Canal Visitor Centre as a community facility offering a wealth of benefits and has no plans to close it.
Will services and opening hours change?
The Visitor Centre will continue to provide the services that residents and visitors care about. Over the coming months there will be a review of processes to identify changes that may help the Centre to run more efficiently, but these are expected to be small changes with little impact on most residents and visitors. Any changes to areas such as opening hours will be communicated in good time before taking effect.
Why is it important to have a well-managed and maintained canal?
The canal is an important blue-green space for thousands of residents to enjoy and engage with nature. As a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) linking many other green spaces, it acts as a corridor for nature and helps to deliver our nature recovery strategies. As a man-made waterbody integral to the local drainage network, the canal does not self-manage and needs constant attention to ensure that its infrastructure remains safe for residents.
What does it mean for BCA staff?
Staff who are involved with critical functions and navigation of the canal will be unaffected and will continue working for the BCA under a HCC contract. Three members of staff whose work is primarily related to Visitor Services will transfer to SCC to work as part of its Countryside Visitor Services team, where resources and expertise can be shared.
There will be no redundancies, all staff will continue to have a position, but Visitor Services staff will report into a different team and manager at SCC.