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on the Canals and Rivers of the UK

 
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Our guide to the waterways of the UK in detail.

The Worcester & Birmingham Canal.

 

This canal is built to connect Birmingham directly with the River Severn. It climbs steeply up out of the Severn valley in its first fifteen miles going through fifty-six locks to do so, thirty of them in the great flight at Tardebigge. In its second fifteen miles it has no more locks, but four tunnels as it goes right into the heart of Birmingham.

 

Worcester to King's Norton Junction.

It starts in Worcester where it comes up two broad barge locks off the river Severn into the basins at Diglis. The canal then curves around the centre of Worcester, starting to climb up through eight well spaced locks. Finally the six locks of the Offerton flight take you under the M5 and out of the last outskirts of the city to the village of Tiberton, six miles from the River Severn.

There is then a five mile level stretch, or pound, as the canal winds its way through Dunhampstead tunnel, 230 yards, and past Hanbury junction where the Driotwich canal,currently under restoration leaves the Worcester and Birmingham. This stretch is beautiful country with huge reed beds often hiding the canal bank from sight.

The pound finishes with the six Astwood locks. For the next mile there is a short stretch of industry. This finishes when the six Stoke locks are reached. Just above the bottom one is the main Black Prince base, always lots of boats around here.

Then the climb up to the Birmingham plateau begins in earnest with the ascent of the thirty Tardebigge locks, one of the longest flights in the country. All are set in the countryside, the main Tardebbige locks are often in splendid isolation with a growing view out across the Severn valley to the distant Malvern Hills. Finally the locks end with the arrival at Tardebigge yard, but just before this we pass by the large reservoirs, built to supply the canals and now full of wild life. As a break from the locks it is possible to walk around them.

The rest of the canal is all on the Birmingham level. It is a 15 mile pound which takes the canal right into the heart of Birmingham. The first part, broken up by Tardebigge tunnel, 580 yards and Shortwood tunnel, 613 yards, is delightfully rural even the quick passing over of the M42 hardly intrudes. At one point to the North West can be seen Bittel Reservoirs a reminder of how much water a canal needs to operate. Then comes Bast Hills tunnel, at 2,726 yards one of the longest on the UK canals.

Wast Hills tunnel changes the whole nature of the canal, you enter the tunnel in the country and you come out in the suburbs of Birmingham within a mile coming to King's Norton Junction where the Stratford upon Avon canal goes off to the East.

 

Kings Norton Junction to Birmingham city Centre.

The canal then cuts it way through the factories and housing estates on the way passing through Bourville the home of Cadbury's chocolate. Edgbaston is the home of Birmingham University and many of its buildings can be seen from the canal. . For much of the route it follows a railway, the relaxation of canal travel contrasting with the commuters rushing along in the trains.

The last tunnel, Edgbaston, 105 yards, not only has a footpath through it, but it also has street lighting. All this section of the canal has an excellence and very well used towpath.

Finally after a sharp right angle bend in the shadow of the mailbox development you come to Gas Street basin and Worcester Bar, an end of junction with the BCN, for many years navigation was not allowed, hence the 'bar'. Eventually a stop lock was installed, represented today by the narrow passage through it.. The Worcester and Birmingham finishes in the heart of Birmingham like it started in the heart of Worcester but unlike Worcester where the canal quietly crept through the suburbs in Birmingham it penetrates to the centre. Here in Birmingham is a vibrant townscape bars, housing, conference centres all compete for attention with numerous restaurant and trip boats.

 

Books on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal.

There are a number of very good books about canals, but two I would personally recommend on this canal are;

Working Life on Severn & Canal. Compiled by Hugh Conway-Jones and published in 1990 by Alan Sutton Publishing Ltd., Gloucester. ISBN 0-86299-745-3
This very readable book tells the stories of boat men working on the River and Canal much of it in their own words.

Lock Keeper's Daughter. Written by Pat Warner and published in 1993 by Shepperton Swan Ltd. ISBN-0-906986-08-7
This is an autobiographical account of growing up in a lock cottage on this canal in the 1920's and 1930's

Both of these books are in our library on Oak and Ash and available for you to read during your cruise as are many other books.

 

 

We will be on this canal in 2010 during cruises

1, 6 and 7

 

Some pictures of this canal?

Pictures from Worcester to Kings Norton / Pictures from Kings Norton to Birmingham

 

More information from Reed Boats about this canal.

A history of this canal.

 

Find our information about other canals and rivers on the canal index page.

 

 

If you have any questions then do ring us on 07977 229103
or email us at martinreed@reedboats.co.uk

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