Photo: Manuel Ebert
The Worcester & Birmingham Canal was built to connect the industrious Black Country to the sea by providing a link to the River Severn, opening trade routes to the rest of the world.
The walk starts at Gas Street Basin (Moor Street is the nearest train station) in Birmingham, Britain’s canal capital. Before setting off, you can spend a little time exploring this vibrant hub with its unique jumble of old and new canal buildings housing pubs, cafes and bars.
Follow the Birmingham Canal Old Line south, past South Ways station and towards the university. As you head out into rural Worcestershire you’ll pass the famous Cadbury factory in Bournville. Cadbury was reliant on the waterways for milk delivery and it was here that chocolate crumb (cocoa, sugar and milk in dried form) was offloaded from barges to be mixed with cocoa butter in the factory to make our nation’s favourite sweet treat.
After eight miles, you’ll reach Alvechurch – a pretty village with a bustling marina. Its high street was once the main road from Redditch to Birmingham. Call in at The Swan for a refreshing pint or The Weighbridge, which was once the old weighbridge office for offloading coal barges onto horse and cart for local deliveries.
Soon you’ll come to a series of locks known as Tardebigge Flight. Its 30 locks are spread over a distance of 2 ¼ miles, making it the longest flight of locks in the UK. The flight enables boats to ascend or descend 67 metres – that’s higher than the tower of Worcester Cathedral! As you can imagine it provides quite a challenge for boaters daring to give it a go. It’s a great place to observe the comings and goings from the comfort of the towpath, flask of tea in hand.
The village of Stoke Prior marks journey’s end. At Stoke Bottom Lock, turn right over the bridge to head into the village, where you can catch a bus (number 145) to Bromsgrove railway station.