Canal Guide

Pedestrians have priority.  Don't spoil it for other canal users by cycling too fast !  

Read : Towpath Code Share the Space , Drop Your Pace

The Main Canals - Names and Locations

1. The Birmingham Canal Old Main Line (The Brindley Canal) (1768-1772)

Starting near the National Indoor Arena (NIA) adjacent to the National Convention Centre this canal winds its way west through the Galton Valley.  The Brindley Canal was built to connect with the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal at Aldersley near Wolverhampton and thus to provide a link to the River Severn at Stourport. The impact on the midlands economy was enormous.  A horse could pull 50 times as much on a canal barge as on a cart.   The price of coal (the main source of power) halved.  

Chief Engineer -  James Brindley.

2. The Birmingham and Fazeley Canal. (1790)

This heads north from the NIA towards Spagetti Junction (Salford Junction) signposted Sustrans Route 535.  It then heads east  towards Fazeley where it joins with the Coventry Canal.  The Brindley Canal and the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal formed the link between the Black Country and the River Thames. 

Chief Engineer - John Smeaton 

3.  Worcester and Birmingham Canal (1796)

This heads south from the rear of the Mailbox and Gas Street Basin via the Vale of Edgbaston towards Kings Norton.  It was built to provide a quicker link to the River Severn at Worcester, -facing strong opposition from the Birmingham Canal Company. 

4. The Grand Union Canal (1799)

This starts near Think Tank / Millenium Point and Fazeley Street and heads south east towards Solihull signposted Sustrans Route 53. Connects at the Ackers Trust for the Cole Valley and Sarehole Mill

5.The Digbeth Branch Canal (1799)

This starts near Aston University at Aston Junction on the north side of the BT Tower. It joins the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal to The Grand Union Canal. Spectacular tunnels and railway arches. 

The Grand Union Canal and the Digbeth Branch Canal bypassed Fazeley and cut over 50 miles off the journey to London.

6. The Stratford Upon Avon Canal (1802)

This joins the Worcester Canal at Kings Norton Junction  and runs east towards Yardley Wood and on to Stratford Upon Avon. It is an attractive canal but was never particularly commercially successful.  I am not sure whether it is possible to cycle all the way to Stratford upon Avon on this canal.

7. The Birmingham Canal New Main Line (The Telford Canal) (1827)

This was the HS2 of its day.  It runs in a virtual straight line out west from the NIA cutting through the loops of Brindleys original canal.  It took over seven miles off the journey to Wolverhampton. In the Galton Valley (now landscaped ) you can see both canals running side by side at different heights. Quite spectacular.  The National Cycle route uses the Telford Canal - the lower canal - for the link to Sandwell Valley.

Chief Engineer - Thomas Telford

8. The Tame Valley Canal  (1844)

This runs from Spaghetti Junction north west towards Walsall.  It provides a link between Sandwell Valley and Sutton Park. Parts of this stretch are some of the most beautiful on the Birmingham canal network. Inexplicably this route remains the only unsurfaced path on the canal network in Birmingham.   Volunteer Scythers needed….

9. The Birmingham and Warwick Junction Canal (1844)

This runs from Spaghetti Junction to the Warwick Bar near Fazeley Street.  It joins the Tame Valley Canal and the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal to the Grand Union Canal and forms part of the Heartlands Ring. 

Together with the Tame Valley Canal this route was built as the equivalent of the M6 Toll Road to bypass the congestion in the Farmers Locks (underneath the present BT Tower in the city centre ).  At its peak 150 boats per day would pass through these locks carrying an enormous tonnage.

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