Short
Breaks

Birmingham & Return from Alvechurch Marina

3 Nights
CRUISING TIME PER DAY: 5 HOURS (10 HOURS IN TOTAL)

This route travels into the heart of cosmopolitan Birmingham, with the contrast of country miles and city sightseeing. A chance to spot wildlife, linger in canalside beer gardens, and even sneak a visit to a chocolate factory.

The pretty village of Alvechurch is a short walk down the hill from its boatyard and moored boats, and it’s worth allowing some time to explore before your cruise starts. Then after you untie the ropes on your boat, turn left on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal to head northwards past the village’s back gardens. Leaving Alvechurch behind, the canal turns sharply under the noisy M42 before it escapes across the valley on a high embankment past Lower Bittell Reservoir. Through a wooded cutting you arrive at Hopwood, with its well-placed pub, before leaving the lush Worcestershire countryside behind as you disappear into the immense Wast Hills Tunnel (2,726yds/2,493m long). You emerge from the tunnel a short distance before King’s Norton Junction, where the Stratford Canal heads off eastwards to Stratford-upon-Avon.

Another treat soon spikes your journey. Mr Cadbury built his chocolate factory and Bournville village for his workers on the canalside over 200 years ago. Today, what chocoholic could resist stopping off for a while to visit Cadbury World? And if time allows, it’s worth a wander round Bournville village with its quaint green surrounded by shops, overlooked by a statue of George Cadbury himself from the Quaker Meeting House. 

Once you’ve extricated yourself from the chocolate haven of Bournville, the canal continues north beside the railway line. Just beyond Selly Oak, you pass the campus of Birmingham University on your right then shortly after the expanse of Queen Elizabeth Hospital which has some striking modern additions. As you travel through the pretty residential area of Edgbaston, characterised by its white Georgian buildings, the canal skirts the edge of the Botanical Gardens which provides a beautiful setting before heading into the short Edgbaston Tunnel (105yds/96m long). The last mile into Birmingham is a mix of old and new as the Worcester & Birmingham Canal takes a sharp left turn at the Mailbox (the former Royal Mail sorting office, now a mix of designer shopping, bars, television and radio studios) to join the Birmingham Canal Navigations (BCN) at the ‘Worcester Bar’.    

The great spaghetti of canals that converge in Birmingham was once the beating heart of the Industrial Revolution. Cargoes of coal, glass, porcelain, chocolate crumb and the heavy trade of the Black Country were carried by canal boat to and from Birmingham. The big business of Britain’s canals was to link the nation to world markets and in the hot flushes of fierce commercial battles between the canal companies, the daily plight of boat crews sometimes petered into insignificance. Water was precious to competitive canal companies and, in a bid not to lose any of its canal water, the BCN insisted a solid bar was built to separate its canal from the Worcester & Birmingham Canal. The ‘Worcester Bar’ was built in 1792 and remained in place for 30 years, forcing canal workers to lift cargo over the bar to load and unload clumsily from boat to boat. In 1815, everyone huffed a sigh of relief when a cut was made and the Berlinesque bar was penetrated. The lock has gone, and boats roam freely today, but the bar is still visible to the informed tourist eye.

Gas Street Basin gives a clue to its importance in its name, as it was the first area in Birmingham to be lit by new-fangled gaslights. The neon lights of the modern city reflect a different millennium over Birmingham’s canals now, and mark the ever-evolving meeting place of old and new. Boats cruise into Birmingham through the backdoor of the city, yet arrive at its thriving heart. The bronze bull of the Bullring, the markets, Antony Gormley's sculpture, designer shopping, multi-cultural panache and a spectacular controversial library - that's Birmingham. Yet first impressions don't give away the city's biggest secret. It is at the heart of Britain's canal network and spaghettis more miles of water than Venice (over 100 navigable miles of it!).The historic waterside hub is alive with bars and restaurants. Symphony Hall, ICC, Barclaycard Arena and Brindleyplace spoil visitors with choice and beg you to stay as long as you can. Birmingham’s famous markets are only a short walk from the canal, and there are also art galleries, museums, theatres and dizzy opportunities for shopping too.

Once you’ve explored the city, it’s time to turn and retrace your tranquil route south back to Alvechurch Marina. 

Featured Boats

Featured Boats from Alvechurch Marina, Worcestershire

Two to Five berth Boats

Alvechurch Grebe

Max: 4 People

Length: 47ft

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Alvechurch Plover

Max: 5 People

Length: 58ft

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Alvechurch Bunting

Max: 5 People

Length: 47ft

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Alvechurch Weaver

Max: 4 People

Length: 47ft

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Six to eight berth Boats

Alvechurch Eagle

Max: 7 People

Length: 66ft

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Alvechurch Goose

Max: 8 People

Length: 69ft

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Alvechurch Gull

Max: 6 People

Length: 66ft

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Alvechurch Lark

Max: 6 People

Length: 66ft (63ft from Falkirk)

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Alvechurch Thrush

Max: 6 People

Length: 66ft

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Alvechurch Warbler

Max: 8 People

Length: 69ft

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Up to twelve berth Boats

Alvechurch Owl

Max: 10 People

Length: 70ft

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Alvechurch Swan

Max: 12 People

Length: 70ft

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