TOTAL LOCKS: 108
CRUISING TIME PER DAY: 6 HOURS (39 HOURS IN TOTAL)
This route travels from historic Worcester to cosmopolitan Birmingham, with the contrast of country miles that amble between the two cities. But your journey is more than city sightseeing and relaxing in tranquil landscapes, it is experiencing engineering marvels such as the mighty Tardebigge Lock Flight, spotting rare wildlife, lingering in canalside beer gardens, and even sneaking a visit to a chocolate factory.
In its industrial heyday, the Worcester & Birmingham Canal once carried cargoes of porcelain from the world-famous factory in Worcester at the start of your route. Visit the Museum of Royal Worcester if time allows, or go sightseeing in the city centre and see its magnificent cathedral which dates from 1074 and overlooks the River Severn.
Leaving the marina, you head north on the canal gradually climbing through a series of locks as the water skirts round Worcester. Offerton Locks mark the last six locks for a while then the canal goes under the M5 as you approach Tibberton, where there are good visitor moorings. Leaving Tibberton, the railway is dramatically close, running alongside the canal as it snakes past the pretty church and farm at Oddingley then through Dunhampstead, with its short tunnel (230yds/210m long), before canal and railway part company again. The lazy approach to Hanbury Wharf is lined with reeds and full of the characteristic bridges of the Worcester & Birmingham Canal. At Hanbury Wharf, the canal goes under the old Salt Way and the recently restored Droitwich Canal (reopened in 2011) heads off west to Droitwich.
The canal continues north through glorious Worcestershire countryside, then the lock-free section ends with the six Astwood Locks. Just beyond Stoke Works, at Stoke Prior, the six Stoke Locks lead up to the well-placed Queen’s Head pub, with a chance for a breather before the main event, the Tardebigge Lock Flight.
Hold on tight to your goosebumps here, because the Tardebigge Flight launches into staggering ascent of 220ft in just over 2 miles. It’s the longest lock flight in Britain, with the exhilarating challenge of 30 locks, including a mighty 11ft top lock for you to remember travelling through! Keep your eyes peeled for a plaque just above Tardebigge Top Lock which commemorates the famous meeting between Tom Rolt and Robert Aickman which took place aboard narrowboat Cressy. Rolt and Aickman were the passion and brains behind the founding of the IWA (Inland Waterways Association) in 1946, with the aim to help keep Britain’s canal networks navigable.
Two short tunnels, Tardebigge Tunnel (580yds/530m long) and Shortwood Tunnel (613yds/560m long) and a wooded stretch now bring the canal into the pretty village of Alvechurch, with its boatyard and moored boats. As you leave Alvechurch, the canal turns sharply under the noisy M42 then crosses the valley on a high embankment past Lower Bittell Reservoir. Through a wooded cutting to Hopwood, you leave the lush Worcestershire countryside behind as you disappear into the immense Wast Hills Tunnel (2,726yds/2,493m long), emerging just before King’s Norton Junction, where the Stratford Canal heads off eastwards.
Another treat now 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?
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 Worcester Marina.
Max: 4 People
Max: 4 People
Max: 6 People
Max: 6 People
Max: 7 People
Max: 6 People
Length: 66ft (63ft from Falkirk)
Max: 8 People