The Basingstoke Canal, often hailed as one of the most beautiful canals in England, is navigable for 32 miles from just beyond King John's Castle in the West to the junction with the Wey Navigation in the East. From Greywell it is 14 miles to the first of 29 locks at Ash, which is well out of range for a day trip from Odiham.
The Western section of canal from Greywell to Basingstoke was cut off by a roof fall in the Greywell tunnel in the 1930s. The tunnel is unlikely ever to be re-opened because it is now a major roost for bats.
Most of the water for the canal comes from natural springs in the Greywell Tunnel, which gives it a slightly alkaline quality. Between Greywell and the Wey, the water becomes gradually less alkaline, which results in an unusually-wide range of flora and fauna. As a result, the canal is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a balance has to be struck between conservation and boating on the canal.
The Basingstoke Canal is jointly owned and financed by Surrey and Hampshire County Councils with additional public funding from riparian local authorities. Day to day management is delegated to the Basingstoke Canal Authority with headquarters at the Mytchett Canal Centre.
In addition to public funding, the Basingstoke Canal Society, a charity supported by a large number of active volunteers, raises money through operation of the 50-seat John Pinkerton trip boat, and the 12-passenger Kitty, to finance their significant contributions towards maintaining and improving the canal and its facilities.
Books and booklets about the canal and its flora and fauna are available from the Basingstoke Canal Society.