Spotlight on the canals – the Worcester & Birmingham Canal
Cruise through the wooded glades of the Forest of Arden, visit the bright lights of Birmingham and the beautiful Cathedral City of Worcester.
This popular 29-mile long waterway starts in Worcester as an off-shoot of the River Severn, travels through the green hills of Worcestershire and the ancient Forest of Arden, before ending at Gas Street Basin in the heart of Birmingham.
The canal climbs 130 metres from Worcester to Birmingham, using 58 locks, including 30 at Tardebigge – one of the largest lock flights in Europe.
Construction of the canal began in 1792 from the Birmingham end, and the final section was completed in December 1815. A major user of the canal in its freight-carrying heyday was the canalside Cadbury chocolate factories at Bournville and Blackpole.
Best for beginners
On a short break from our Tardebigge base near the top of the Tardebigge flight, it takes just five hours (with no locks) to reach Gas Street Basin in the centre of Birmingham.
Heading north from Tardebigge, in just one hour boaters reach the village of Alvechurch, with its canalside Weighbridge Inn, passing through fields, wooded glades and one short tunnel along the way.
The next pub is the Hopwood House at Hopwood, which serves freshly roasted Rotisserie chicken and house and guest cask beers on tap.
Then the canal goes through the 2493-metre long Wast Hills Tunnel, one of the longest in the country before reaching King’s Norton Junction, where the Worcester & Birmingham meets the Stratford Canal.
Soon the canal passes Cadbury World in the historic village of Bournville, where Richard and George Cadbury decided to move their expanding business in 1879, with the canal a critical mode of transport for the chocolate factory’s products and raw materials.
The landscape is now increasingly urban as you travel on into the very heart of Birmingham, passing through Edgbaston Tunnel.
With more canals than Venice, travelling by canal boat is a great way to explore Britain’s vibrant second city. Once moored up in Gas Street Basin, it’s a short walk to Brindleyplace with its National Sealife Centre, Ikon Gallery and dozens of waterside restaurants and bars.
Many of the City’s top attractions are within easy reach, including the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, home to the most important collection of Pre-Raphaelite art in the world.
Best for more experienced boaters
On a week’s holiday from Tardebigge, canal boat holiday-makers can complete the Stourport Ring, travelling a total of 74 miles through 118 locks in around 44 cruising hours.
It’s recommended to travel the route anti-clockwise, so begin by heading north to Gas Street Basin, then transfer onto the Birmingham Canal Main Line heading North West towards Wolverhampton.
The route continues lock-free for a while, passing through Cosely Tunnel, then Wolverhampton Tunnel, after which there are visitor moorings for exploring Wolverhampton, including its Grand Theatre and the fantastic Pop Art collection at its Art Gallery.
The Wolverhampton flight of 21 locks is next to negotiate, which takes around four hours, before reaching Aldersley Junction and the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal.
Six miles and another six locks later, boaters reach Bratch Top Lock and pumping station in the pretty village of Wombourne, with its popular Railway Café and choice of village pubs.
A mile later, the canalside Waggon & Horses pub with an extensive menu and large beer garden, is a welcome stopping place.
After another eight locks, boaters reach Stourton Junction, where the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal meets the Stourbridge Canal. From here, it’s an eight-hour journey on to Stourport, travelling through 13 locks, past Kinver with access to the National Trust’s intriguing Kinver Rock Houses, and the historic market town of Kidderminster, with canalside dining at The Watermill and The Lock Inn.
On arriving at Stourport, once a busy inland port, boaters can explore the basins by following circular walks, and enjoy dining at the Bird in Hand, Windlass Café or Rising Sun Inn.
Next there’s a 12-mile section of the River Severn (Britain’s longest river) to travel along to reach the beautiful Cathedral City of Worcester. Here the Stourport Ring route transfers boaters back onto the Worcester & Birmingham Canal at Diglis Basin in the heart of the city, offering the chance to see some of the City’s many splendid buildings, including its spectacular Cathedral – with medieval cloisters, ancient crypt and magnificent stained glass.
Now on the last leg of the journey, the Worcester & Birmingham Canal takes boaters out of Worcester and steadily upwards through rolling fields and wooded cuttings, passing through the village of Tibberton, with its Bridge Inn.
Dunhampstead Tunnel is next and then Hanbury Wharf, where the Droitwich Canal meets the Worcester & Birmingham Canal.
After travelling through the Stoke flight of six locks boaters can rest at The Queen’s Head at Stoke Pound, which offers wood fired pizzas, barbeques and live music, before tackling the mighty Tardebigge flight of 30 locks.
One of the largest flights in Europe, these locks take the canal up 67 metres over a two-and-a-quarter mile stretch, and take around five hours to complete before returning to our boatyard at Tardebigge Old Wharf.