Route Guide (280 miles of Suggested Routes)

These routes are leisure routes for gentle cycling using mainly paths along canal towpaths and through public parks. Pedestrians and other users have priority. 

Disclaimer

You cycle at your own risk.  Some paths may be muddy or in need of repair.  The descriptions are for guidance and whilst every attempt has been made to ensure they are representative they may not be accurate in all instances. Please email if there are notes that need correcting.

Distances are approximate.   Rough conversion guide 1 mile = 1.6km ; 1km = 0.6 miles.


N.B The first nine routes are Urban Explorer Cycle Routes from 

Click on the following link to take you direct to the site and you can print off the maps. These nine routes are summarised below.

Weblinkhttp://www.pushbikes.org.uk/rides/urban-explorer

Route 1.

Worcester Canal

Harborne to City Centre Circular (9 miles / 14km ) 

Rail Stations: New Street, Five Ways


Route 2.

  Birmingham University

Cannon Hill Park, Rea Valley, University, City Centre (6 miles /10km or 10 miles /16km)

Rail Stations: New Street, Stirchley, Bournville, University, Five Ways


Route 3.

  Cadbury World at Bournville

Northfield to Bournville Circular (6 miles / 10km)

Rail Stations: Northfield, Bournville,Kings Norton


Route 4.

  Shire Country Park

Billesley, Shire Country Park, Cole Valley (7 miles / 11km )

Rail Stations : Yardley Wood, Hall Green


Route 5.

   Plane Spotting at Birmingham Airport

Marston Green to Yardley Circular (10 miles / 16km )

Rail Stations: Marston Green, Lea Hall


Route 6.

   Gas Street Basin

Birmingham City Centre Canal Circular (6 miles / 10km or 8 miles / 13km)

Rail Stations: New Street, Moor Street, Snow Hill, Bordsley, Aston, Gravelly Hill, Duddeston  


Route 7.

    Freedom at Merrits Brook 

Woodgate Valley to Bartley Reservoir (6 miles / 10km) 

Visitor Centre: Woodgate Valley

Rail Stations - nearest for access to Woodgate Valley - University 


Route 8. 

    Birmingham and Fazeley Canal

Castle Vale, Pype Hayes and Over Green (6 miles / 10km or 11 miles / 18km)

Rail Station:  None surprisingly ?-Perhaps Water Orton 

Route 9.

  Michael Scheuermann Dove of Peace Brookvale Park 

Brookvale Park to Sutton Park( 7 miles / 11km returning by train) or 12 miles / 19km

 Rail Stations: Gravelly Hill, Aston, Sutton Coldfield  

                                                           _________________________________________________________

For the following routes you will need a copy of the Birmingham Greenways Map. I find it is also helpful to have copies of the local authority cycling maps which identify individual streets on housing estates etc.  These are listed under Useful Websites on the Birmingham Greenways Map.

Route10.

  Sarehole Mill

The Hobbit Route 'An Unexpected Journey' or ‘There and Back Again’ -  City Centre to Sarehole Mill , Shire Country Park and Trittiford Mill Park (7miles / 12km) Optional return via Stratford Upon Avon /  Worcester Canal (+ 8.5 miles /14km)

Rail Stations: Birmingham New Street, Snowhill, Moor Street. Bordsley, Small Heath, Tyseley, Yardley Wood, Shirley,  Kings Norton, Bournville, Selly Oak, University, Five Ways

From the Sea Life Centre / NIA head towards and under he BT Tower, along the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal.  At Aston Junction (Aston University on your right) bear right along the Digbeth/ Grand Union Canal.

(To avoid going around the city canal ring you can also cycle from the NIA across the city centre to Fazeley Street or Curzon Street and join the canal .)    

Follow the Grand Union Canal ( the towpath is poor around Small Heath)  until you get to the Ackers Centre. 

From the Ackers Centre cross the small Sparkbrook near the reception centre and head south following the signposts towards Sarehole Mill.  This is the Mill and boyhood idyll which inspired J.R.R.Tolkien to write The Hobbit - the worlds fourth largest selling book. From Sarehole Mill head south along The John Morris Walkway, through the Dingles (can be quite boggy here), to the delightful Trittiford Pools. 

Catch the train back to the city centre from Yardley Wood Station.

Alternatively you can extend the ride with ‘escape options’ at any of the stations listed above.

From Trittiford Pools you can join the Stratford upon Avon Canal either by following the Chinn Brook across Chinn Brook Recreation Ground (more like a track across a field) or by taking the track south of Trittiford Pools and then eventually joining the Stratford upon Avon Canal at the access point at High Street, Solihull Lodge.  

Take care if you use the road. I did not feel that this section of road particularly safe for cyclists. There is an alternative path for the final few hundred yards to the canal shown on the map but you need to be a bit of a pioneer or adventurer to tackle this.  

Once on the Stratford upon Avon Canal head west towards Kings Norton.  The trickiest part is the Brandwood Tunnel where the track leaves the canal.  It is necessary to go on the side roads for a few hundred metres before rejoining the canal and the signs are poor.  Ask a local.

At Lifford you can detour to look at the Reservoir or proceed to the Worcester Canal.  Head north along the Worcester Canal which which will take you all the way back to the city centre passing Cadbury World and the University. 


Route 11.

  Lectocetum at Wall near Lichfield

Treasure Trove to Treasure Site:  City Centre to Sutton Park,  with additional route to Wall and Lichfield (8 miles / 13km + optional 8 miles / 13km ) 

(If you cycle the extended route it is advisable to refer to Birmingham and Wolverhampton Ordnance Survey Map Number 139.)

Rail Stations: New Street, Aston, Gravelly Hill, Sutton Coldfield, Shenstone, Lichfield

From the NIA follow Pushbikes Route 6 (above) along Birmingham and Fazeley Canal below Post Office Tower, heading for Spaghetti Junction.

From underneath Spaghetti Junction (known as Salford Junction as far as the canal network is concerned ) head west along the Tame Valley Canal on Sustrans Route 535, leave the canal at Deykin Avenue Bridge, and then follow signposts through Brookvale Park to Banners Gate at Sutton Park as per Pushbikes Route 9 (above) .  This route is well signposted. 

Additional route to the Roman Lectocetum at Wall (near to the site of the Staffordshire Hoard) 

Continue north west across Sutton Park to Streetly Gate, then up Roman Road (the old Ryknild Street)  to Forge lane.  After Forge Inn turn right and head for Shenstone, then Wall, where there is a pub called The Trooper. From Wall follow side roads to Lichfield and either visit the Cathedral or catch the train back or both. 


Route 12.

   Birmingham and Fazeley Canal

The Warmley Warmer:  Birmingham City Centre to Sutton Park via Newhall Valley Country Park  (9 miles / 15km)

Rail Stations: Birmingham New Street, Aston, Gravelly Hill, Sutton Coldfield.

From the NIA follow Pushbikes Route 6 (above) along Birmingham and Fazeley Canal below Post Office Tower, heading for Spaghetti Junction.

From Spaghetti Junction head east along the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal leaving at Egerton/ Berwood Bridge and then head north through Sorrel Park and Pipe Hayes Park to Sutton Park - signposted Sustrans Route 534. This is a delightful route and should act as the benchmark/ gold standard  for all the city Greenway routes.  With the right level of investment it shows what can be achieved.  The  majority of the funds were not provided by the council.

A great ride out and return either by train or via Sutton Park - exit Banners Gate heading back south along the North Birmingham Route (Sustrans 535) with BT tower as your landmark guide for the city.

Note you also have the option to explore Pushbikes Route 8 taking you out to Over Green / Kingsbury Water Park;  or heading south from Castle Vale, past ‘Spitfire Island’ and Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens to link up with the Northern Cole Valley at Brook Meadow Road Public Open Space.


Route 13.

   Bartley Reservoir

University, Woodgate Valley, Bartley Reservoir, returning via Merrits Brook Greenway, Cadbury’s World, and the Worcester Canal (10 miles / 16km)

Stations: University, Selly Oak, Bournville.

Leave the Worcester Canal at Birmingham University or Selly Oak.  If you leave at the University pick up the path at the lower traffic island to the south of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital on the new Selly Oak By-Pass.  This is on the right. Follow the Bourn Brook west.  (At the time of writing this path was not visible from the island.  It begins a few metres off the road.)  Take care when crossing the main roads en- route.   

If you start at Selly Oak Station or Canal exit you need to head for Selly Oak Park.  Be careful of traffic around Battery Park. In the park you can still see the remains of the old Lapal Canal.  It is hard to conceive that a canal once ran in a narrow tunnel not much wider than a large sewer pipe the whole length of Woodgate Valley.   This canal served as a link between the Worcester Canal and the Dudley No 2 Canal and was another attempt to bypass the monopoly of the Birmingham Canal Company providing a shorter route to the River Severn.  

In Woodgate Valley you can take either of the routes described in Pushbikes Route 7 to take you around Bartley Reservoir. This reservoir is the main water storage facility for Birmingham and the water is pumped all the way from the Elan Valley in Wales.   Bill Odie did some of his earliest bird watching here. 

From the south east of the reservoir head along Merritts Lane/Street until you the northern tip of Leyhill Rercreation Ground on your right adjacent to Holloway. Follow the park left and downwards (numerous fun tracks) to join Merrits Brook Greenway at the bottom.  

The track left and east along the glacial valley through Manor Farm Park eventually reaching the Bristol Road.  Cross the road and head along a small path which follows Griffins Brook which brings you out on the Valley Parkway taking you through Bournville Park, around Cadbury’s World and back to the Worcester Canal / Bournville Rail Station.


Route 14.

   Kings Norton

Rea Valley Millenium Route : City Centre to either Waseley Hills or Lickey Hills - via Cannon Hill Park, and Kings Norton (signposted National Cycle Route 5) - continue to Lickey Hills from Longbridge. (10 miles /  16km) 

Rail Stations: New Street, Bournville, Kings Norton, Northfield, Longbridge, Barnt Green

This follows national Cycle Route 5.  It is signposted from the city centre running south near the Hippodrome out to Cannon Hill Park and south  towards Kings Norton and Waseley Hills Country Park.   

(The last couple of miles to Waseley Hills I found somewhat hilly and difficult.  However, there is a good visitor centre in the park.  It is then possible to continue on in a circuit returning to Birmingham via Bartley Reservoir.

The alternative route is to head to the Lickey Hills where there is a train connection back to the city.  At Tessall Lane just before Longbridge Station turn left.  This will bring you to the front of the station.  Cross the road and go via a small alleyway opposite through the small housing estate eventually reaching Groveley Lane. At Groveley Lane turn right and head down to Cofton Park where you bear left up the hill keeping Cofton Park on your right.  When you reach Barnt Green Road the Lickey Hills are in front of you waiting to be explored.

To return to Birmingham by train head south along Barnt Green Road and after about 2km you will see a large pub on your right hand side.  (This is very good if you wish to eat.) Just after the pub turn and before the railway bridge turn right up a side road which brings you to the station.  


Route 15.

     Galton Valley, Smethwick

The SSS: Smethwick,  Sandwell Valley, and Soho: 

From NIA to Galton Valley, Sandwell Valley, returning via River Tame Way, Handsworth Park, and Winson Green Loop Canal (13 miles / 21 km)

Rail Stations:  New Street, Smethwick Rolfe Street, Smethwick Galton Bridge, The Hawthorns, Tame Bridge Parkway, Hamstead

This lies on National Cycle Route 5.  Head from the city centre along the Birmingham Canal towards Wolverhampton.  Stay on the New Main Line. (Telford Canal - the lower left one in the deep cutting)  Between Galton Tunnel and Galton Bridge turn right up the track and follow the signposts.  The Route is well signposted. National Route 5 goes through Sandwell Valley crossing  both the River Tame Way and the Tame Valley Canal near Rushall Junction.  Visit Swan Pool and Forge Mill Lake. Refreshments are available at Forge Mill Lake.

You have a choice of two routes.  Both of which are enjoyable.  Both of which need investment in infrastructure.

Continue on National Route 5 until you reach the Tame Valley Canal.  Turn right along one of the most picturesque stretches of canal in Birmingham which is marred by the poor state of the towpath.  When you reach the top of the Perry Barr flight of locks exit the canal to the right and follow the track with Alexander Stadium on your left. When you reach the A34 cross the main road using the pelican crossing to take you along Perry Avenue (opposite) and into Perry Hall Playing Fields.  

(The alternative route from Forge Mill Lake in Sandwell Valley is to follow the River Tame Way to Perry Hall Park. You MUST stay on the south side of the river; there are no signposts to warn you of this.  It is a lovely route and wonderful to see how the Tame River has been cleaned up but parts of this are better suited to walking.  It could be a wonderful route but the paths need improving.  It is advisable to take the side roads around Woodend and The Croftway Greenway.  A pedestrian crossing is badly needed on the Walsall Road / Hamstead Hill Road.  At the eastern end of Cherry Orchard Recreation Ground the track is hard to find.  It goes near the river and underneath the railway line to bring you out to Perry Hall Playing Fields.)

Crossing Perry Hall Playing Fields - where you can see 13 games of Asian Cricket on Sunday mornings - head south west to exit onto Cherry Orchard Road. Turn left and on your left locate Bramley/Washington Drive (tricky) and then there is a small alleyway (even trickier to find) which will bring you out into Romulus Close which leads onto Romilly Avenue.  At the top of Romilley Avenue, turn right and then immediately left into Denweood Avenue.  At the top of Denewood Avenue dismount and be careful as you cross the main road.  Turn left walking towards the busy traffic junction of the B4124 Handsworth Wood Road and Church Lane / Wellington Road.   It is best to ask advice here.  Handsworth Park is to your right reached through a path leading off Hamstead Road. 

Cross Handsworth Park heading south.  The Park has recently had a lot of investment and it is well worth time having a look around. There is a tearoom for refreshments. See the impressive bandstand and the fish pond, and take time to visit the church where some of Birmingham’s most illustrious citizens are interred.  

From the southern exit head south along the attractive terraces of Thornhill Road to reach the bustle of Soho Road.  

(A short detour to the left takes you to the largest Sikh Temple in Birmingham, King Edward V1 Handsworth School, and Soho House in Soho Avenue, the home of Mathew Boulton, and meeting place of the Lunar Society.)

Cross Soho Road and cycle carefully down Grasmere Road to reach Bacchus Road. Turn left into Lodge Road, and then right through the mini park eventually crossing the lovely St James Park alongside Winson Green Prison. At the southern end of the park you access the Winson Green/ Soho Loop Canal.  Turn left and head back along the canal to join the Telford Canal back to Birmingham.

(Thanks to Jill Boddy for additional notes on this route.)


Route 16.

   Sheldon Country Park

The Convention Delegates Route - ICC to NEC. 

Canal Barges to Aeroplane Spotting : Traffic free across the City - West to East via Sheldon Park (11 miles / 18km)

Rail Stations: Birmingham New Street, Snowhill, Moor Street, Bordsley, Small Heath, Tyseley, Acocks Green, Marston Green, Birmingham International

Start between the International Convention Centre and the NIA at the top of the Farmers Flight of Locks on  Birmingham and Fazeley Canal.  At Aston Junction (Aston University on your right) bear right along the Digbeth/ Grand Union Canal.

(To avoid going around the city canal ring you can choose to head from the ICC across the city centre to join the canal at Fazeley Street or Curzon Street.)    

Follow the Grand Union Canal (the towpath is poor around Small Heath)  until you get to the Ackers Centre.  Here you have a choice.  You can either go via the Cole Valley or carry on along the Grand Union until you come to Stockfield.  The latter is the more direct route. 

Northern Cole Valley Option 

From the Ackers Centre head east on the Grand Union Canal for a few minutes.  Go under the railway bridge and then head north turning left before the Birmingham Recycling Centre along the side of the small river Cole.  Take care as you cross the busy Coventry Road into Hay Barn Recreation Ground. Follow the River Cole towards the northern end of Birmingham Airport and Marston Green.  Parts of the route are still like mown fields but are due for an upgrade soon.The route goes past Babbs Mill Lake before turning south to Marston Green railway station.

Sheldon Park Option

(Here you have another choice.  If you wish you can carry on to the Landrover Works and go via Elmdon Park see below)  

From the Ackers head east eventually passing Yardley Cemetary (on your left) before meeting a bend in the canal where the canal (south).  Leave the canal here - there is no signpost and nothing to indicate a route to Sheldon Park !  Head east through the houses and pick up a small track that goes to the right of Gilbertsone Primary School and then across some playing fields (mountain bike quality in parts but worth the effort).    After the playing fields you emerge onto Wagon Lane.  Turn left and this takes you to a crossover point at the Coventry Road from where you can follow the tracks across Sheldon Park all the way to the northern end of Birmingham Airport.  Here you can join the locals plane spotting before the last few hundred metres to Marston Green Station.

Elmdon Park Option (See Solihull Map)

This could be a good route but at the time of writing the latter part is unsatisfactory.

Leave the Grand Union Canal at Lode Lane and follow the excellent cycle route in front of the huge Landrover Works.  A fine example of how cars and bicycles can co-exist.  

(At one time Birmingham was the biggest exporter of bikes in the world.  Now the industry has all but disappeared. Why don’t we get some of those transferable skills from Jaguar- Landrover and start building hi-tec bikes in Birmingham again ?)

Look out for the track that runs to the right just after an access gate at the far end of the works.  It is not signposted.  Head slowly and carefully along this as it is marked as a walkway.   In Elmdon Park bear left heading northwards to reach Streamside Way.  Cross the Coventry Road.  

There is a path on this side of the Coventry Road road which follows Hatchford Brook north with Hatchford Brook Golf Course on your right. This path is poor and will not be suitable for most people.  Alternatively, go to the left and immediately right into Arden Oak Road, Shepheard Road, Mapledean Road, to join Sheldon Country Park. 

Follow the path through Sheldon Park as above until Marston Green Railway Station.  From here there is an excellent and well signed road route to all the way to the Airport, NEC, and Birmingham International Rail Station.  

Why use an expensive executive gym !! 


Route 17.

   Aston Hall

North West Explorer: Tame Valley Canal, Spaghetti Junction and Salford Park to Aston Hall, returning via Perry Barr Greyhound Stadium, Perry Hall Playing Fields, and Sandwell Valley (13 miles / 22km)

Stations: Tame Bridge Parkway, Hamstead, Aston, Witton, Perry Barr, Walsall

(Note: You can also join this route by cycling from Walsall using Sustrans National Route 5 and the Rushall Canal.)

This is one of the most beautiful stretches of canal in Birmingham.  It is hard to believe that you are between the M6 and the A34. Unfortunately it involves the largest stretch of poor canal towpath in Birmingham. The return path along the Tame River is also pioneering stuff in parts, but this has to be set in context.  In the 1960s the Tame River was one of the most polluted rivers in the country.  Over 2000 tons of debris and gravel have been removed in recent years.  Now it is a joy to see swans and wildlife.  

You need at least a hybrid bike.  If there was one improvement that could be made to leisure cycling in Birmingham it would be to resurface this stretch of towpath.  This would link Sustrans National Route 5 to Sustrans Route 535 (The North Birmingham Route) and Sustrans Route 534 (The Newhall Valley Route) -  opening up the whole of North West Birmingham linking the Black Country to Sutton Park all off road.

Exit Tame Bridge Parkway Station, and turn left on Walsall Road for a several metres. Locate track on left near Navigation Lane which takes you up to the canal.  Once on the canal turn left and follow the canal over the M5/M6 interchange feeling superior as you watch motorists in the fast lane of life below. When you reach the junction with the Rushall Canal follow the Tame Valley Canal through deep cuttings and across aqueducts to Perry Barr Locks.  The Alexandre Stadium is on your right.

(If you wish you can do a detour through Perry Park to look at the BMX track and also the Perry Bridge - adjacent to the Aldridge Road - reputed to be the crossing point used by the Romans for the Ryknild Street from Metchley Fort to the Lectocetum at Wall. 

It is also possible to shorten the route here by heading past the Alexandre Stadium, crossing the A34 into Perry Avenue and Perry Hall Playing Fields. From here you can follow the River Tame to Sandwell Valley as below.)

Carry on along the Tame Valley Canal past Perry Reservoir crossing under the M6 along the deteriorating track.  

At Brookvale Road cross over to the surface towpath on the left hand side of the canal.  

(At Deakin Avenue you have the option to turn left to join Sustrans Route 535 to Sutton Park.)   

Follow the canal under Spaghetti Junction.  Take the exit to the right just before the Tame Valley Canal meets the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal, and walk a few yards along the Lichfield Road Bridge over the River Tame before turning into Salford Park.  This is the centre for The Birmingham Power League Soccer Centre.  There are some wonderful views of the iconic Spaghetti Junction from this vantage point. 

Head to the western end of Salford Park where you will find a small bridge.  Cross the footbridge and bearing left following the rough track on the right of the River Tame.  This will bring you out onto one of the service roads for the industrial estate.  Take care here as you bear left and then right for a few hundred metres towards Aston Park. I chose to use the pavement.

Here you can choose to visit the Jacobean Aston Hall

Refreshments are available at Aston Hall cafeteria which is available even if you do not visit the hall.

Leaving Aston Hall, head to the north west of the Park with Aston Villa Ground on your right.  There is a great ethnic atmosphere here with lots of take away curry shops but take care crossing Trinity Road. You need to get onto ‘The Broadway’, past Broadway School to reach Wellhead Lane.  Head north past UCE Perry Barr Campus emerging opposite Perry Barr Greyhound Stadium.   Cross the road and walk around the stadium on the wide pavement to the A34 Walsall Road pedestrian crossing.   

Once across the road cycle to the left along Regina Drive which will take you to Perry Hall Playing Fields.  Follow the paths across the playing fields with the River Tame on your right.  Just before you reach Cherry Orchard Recreation Ground it is necessary to go under the railway line.  Take care as you cross the Hamstead Road - a pelican crossing is needed here - and continue north.  Eventually you will rediscover the track but it can be poor here and it is better to use the side roads Croftway Greenway and Woodend. 

Staying on the left hand side of the River you will reach Forge Mill Lake.  There are refreshments at Forge Mill Farm.  Here you rejoin the National Cycle Route 5 which takes you north to the Tame Valley Canal.  Turn left to return to Tame Bridge Parkway.  

Alternatively Sustrans National Route 5 heads north from the Tame Valley Canal along the Rushall Canal to Walsall and onwards to Lichfield. 


Route 18

 Birmingham Canal Navigation Society Maltings

Birth of the Industrial Revolution: Brindley Canal, Telford Canal, Galton Valley, Tat Bank, Titford Pool, Soho Loop (13 miles / 22km)

Stations: New Street, Moor Street, Snowhill, Smethwick Rolfe Street, Smethwick, Galton Bridge, Hawthorns, Langley Green, Sandwell and Dudley

This is an extraordinarily interesting route from an industrial heritage standpoint.  It also takes you to Titford Pools - the major source of the River Tame which helps to feed Edgbaston Reservoir. 

The Brindley Canal was the original winding canal which followed the contours of the land. Its impact was massive.  The price of the primary source of fuel (coal) halved.  (Imagine the impact today if gas / petrol/ and electricity halved in price !)

The Telford Canal cut through the loops taking several miles of the route to the Black Country.   The Telford Canal was the HS2 of its day.   It was financed by Samuel Galton, a Quaker gunsmith who was also involved in the slave trade and a member of the free thinking Lunar Society- paradoxical but apparently true.  

Leave the NIA heading west along the Birmingham (Telford ) Canal.  Ignore the old Soho Loop (Brindley Canal) on your right.  

Where the two canals divide take the Telford Canal to your left. The Brindley Canal goes to the right and has three  locks.  Head through a deep cutting under the Engine Arm Aqueduct passing the Pumping Station.  Head through the Galton Tunnel and see the Galton Bridge towering overhead.  Head along the valley passing under several impressive bridges eventually being greeted by the spectacular sight of the M5 motorway above the West Coast Main Line railway,which is above the Brindley Canal, which is in turn above the Telford Canal.  

At the junction scramble up to the Brindley Canal and head along the path to the left over the Telford canal for a few hundred metres before crossing over the canal to the track on the right hand side.    The sound of the M5 Motorway above and the Black Country power hammers reverberate all around.  Brindley knew his stuff because the M5 motorway follows his route.  Under the M5 motorway you will come to a canal junction with a sign pointing left to Tat Bank (pronounced ‘bonk’ in this part of the world).  Head up what is known as the Jim Crowe flight of locks and you reach the Headquarters of the BCNS - the Birmingham Canal Navigation Society.  This is a pressure group formed in Walsall in the 1960s which prevented the wholesale closure of the canals in Birmingham.   Without them most of the canals in the area would have been filled in and built over.

Carry on under Uncle Ben’s Bridge eventually reaching Titford Pool straddled by the M5.  Titford Pool is one of the two major sources of the Tame River which sneaks its way north before meandering round to join its sister tributary at Bescot.

Retrace your bicycle steps back along the Tat Bank Canal which despite its name is not so ‘tatty’ these days; and was in fact once one of the most profitable stretches of canal in the midlands because of the numerous chemical works in the vicinity.  

(Langley Green Station is nearby which also offers a starting point to explore this fascinating area of the canals.)

When you reach the Brindley Canal turn right to head back under the M5 but cross the Telford Canal staying on the Brindley Canal.  On your left you will see some of the oldest locks in the U.K. - the Spon Lane Locks.  Carry on now heading back east towards Birmingham with the M5 soaring overhead. The towpath in parts is unreconstructed and can be muddy but the route is interesting passing under the Summit Tunnel.  

It is hard to believe that the original Brindley Canal was actually almost as high as the present day M5 motorway hard shoulder until an engineer named John Smeaton lowered the canal in the nineteenth century taking out three of the locks.  He also designed the third Eddison Lighthouse.

Carrying on you will come to the Smethwick Pumping Station.  The Original Smethwick Engine designed by James Watt is now in the Think Tank Science Museum and is a marvel of steam engineering.  It is colossal and is a must see item. Though seemingly primitive the ultra reliable design helped to make James Watt and particularly Mathew Boulton very rich men.  It was used to continually replenish water across the Engine Arm Aqueduct to the locks on the Brindley Canal.

Continue east eventually rejoining the Telford Canal to return to the NIA.  If you wish you can do a mini detour along the rejuvenated Soho / Winson Green Loop.  


Route 19

The Greener Way 

Woodgate Valley/ Leasowes Park,

Bumble Hole, Netherton Tunnel, Galton Valley 

Submitted by Robert Latham , Pushbikes, Birmingham Cycling Campaign

I recently got hold of a copy of Push Bikes member Roy Watson's new Birmingham Greenways map.  Whilst looking at it I noticed there is a way of eliminating a tedious on-road section of a ride I make from time to time through the Netherton tunnel. Additionally, it makes it circular without going via my house, so it could be used by other people. So one beautiful sunny afternoon I set off with Roy's map in the spring clip of my pannier rack.

I picked up the route at Bottetourt Road, joining the Bournbrook Walkway, one of those shared-use paths where Birmingham City Council has carefully avoided the 'C' word in case it offends anyone. However, I'm not scared of words, so I'll use it liberally in this article. You have been warned. It has to be said that as a cycleway the Bournbrook Walkway is pretty poor, being very narrow and surfaced in something that appears to be finely crushed bone china. It also has some sharp turns and those wretched monkey cage stymie gates, just to keep out the occasional motorist with an unusually narrow car or slow rider motorcyclists. Best of all, at the Harborne Road end it ends in a step and a bumpy footway on which it is technically illegal to cycle the short distance to the toucan crossing, and motorists using the petrol station get priority. Thankfully I was going in the opposite direction, so I quickly found myself crossing Northfield Road. From there to West Boulevard a new path has been built which is no wider but better surfaced, in that it is all-weather. Alas it's spray and chip, making for heavy going and poor control. But at least the surrounding environment is very attractive (photo at the top of this article).

No assistance is provided getting across West Boulevard, a dual-carriageway on which people drive illegally fast. On the opposite side is a kissing gate and a five bar gate, so naturally everyone uses the muddy track to one side of these that someone forced through the shrubbery many years ago.

Once past this obstacle course, you're in the peace and natural beauty of the Woodgate Valley country park. If it hadn't been for Roy's map I probably would have never gone there, because until I looked at the map I thought it was a dead-end. There are two paths, one either side of the brook, and cyclists are supposed to use the northern path. However, the southern path was sunnier and consequently less boggy, so I opted for that (in Winter both paths would likely be impassable without knobbly tyres). There were lots of families out in the park walking and cycling, but whilst it was great to see children whizzing along on their bikes and having a great time, it was such a shame some of them had to keep stopping to wait for their parents, who were plodding along behind on foot. Have they forgotten what their children know?

What I didn't know, but the map told me, is that there is a quiet link between Woodgate Valley Country Park and Leaslowes Park in Halesowen. Of course parts of it make cycling slow and awkward, but it does mean that the Quinton Expressway and the motorway are not the barriers they appear to be. Whilst it was great to learn this from the map, this section did reveal some shortcomings. Firstly the map does not include minor roads, so it's impossible to look at the map and say "I want the third left", and if you do get it wrong then you have no chance of working out how you have gone wrong. Being able to count roads is very handy as it means you don't have to slow for every side road and locate the name plate. I appreciate there is a necessary compromise between clarity, map size, and scale, but could minor roads be marked with thin lines (ie without names)? This, combined with a couple of cartographic errors, and a five bar gate and "private land" signs erected by the golf course (presumably to deter passage along what I later learned is a public right-of-way), meant I had a hard time getting across to Mucklow Hill, but at least I know the route now.

Editors note: My aplogies for the cartographic error(s) refrerred to by Robert. The entance to Leasowes Park from Manor Lane is via Leasowes Lane.  On the map it appears as Western Avenue which actually leads off Leasowes Lane. 

On the positive side, the detour was via Breaches Pool, and I've wanted to take a closer look at that ever since I saw it whilst taking my original route to the Netherton tunnel.

Anyhow, I eventually made it to the Dudley N°2 canal on the opposite side of Mucklow Hill from Leaslowes Park, and from there I was on familiar territory. If you take this route, be aware that you will have to carry your bike over a steeply stepped bridge to get from the Mucklow Hill side of the canal to the tow path.

The tow path along the Dudley N°2 canal is in poor condition, and best avoided in Winter. Interestingly it does feature a short section of spray and chip path that was built just before those in Birmingham, and like those in Birmingham the chippings have worn off in patches. There is also a short section of the canal that has no tow path because the canal disappears into the Gosty Hill tunnel; cyclists have to climb a steep path and then travel by road over the top. This is probably just as well, because the tunnel is reputed to be haunted. As you take this road, keep an eye open for the "pepper-pot" tunnel vent in the front garden of an otherwise ordinary house.

             

The moorhens at the western end of the Gosty Hill tunnel mark the access point to the tow path, and (if you're heading west) a trail of other sheet metal artworks, such as the one on the right that offers a helping hand for those unsure which way to go on the Dudley N°2.

At the delightfully named Bumble Hole there is a convenient café stop, giving you the opportunity to fuel up for the long and gruelling ride through the Netherton tunnel.

 Actually it's not at all gruelling, but at 2,768 metres long it is one of the longest canal tunnels in the UK. It is also unlit. Originally lit with gas, this was later replaced with electric lighting powered by a water turbine at the northern portal (the turbine house can be seen in the photo below, the water being fed from the Old Main Line aqueduct above it). Today it is unlit, so it demands a powerful and reliable front light, and an equally reliable bike (there is no possibility of stopping to fix a puncture). It makes for a quirky bike ride, and when I emerged from the northern portal I met a group of young men who were greatly looking forward to cycling it in the opposite direction.

     

  

At the end of the Netherton branch a right turn takes you back to Birmingham along the Main Line. The tow path is initially poor, but it steadily improves as you head towards the city centre, making a good speed easily possible. However, it's still worthwhile looking out for pieces of industrial heritage, and infrastructure through the ages as it comes together along this green corridor.

Half way back to the city centre I was stopped by a woman with a large but beautiful and docile dog who asked me how long I thought it would take her to walk to Wolverhampton. She didn't care it would take hours; she was just going to keep walking, enjoying the sunshine and peace and quiet, and if she grew tired she planned to hop on the train back to Birmingham. We spent some time chatting, and she commented on how much safer the canal felt compared with the surrounding streets. Many people I meet who don't use the tow paths believe it's the other way around.

Once back in town it is possible to stay on the tow path, but given the path will be busy with pedestrians it is quicker and easier to follow the route of NCN5 past the library (hint: ignore the sign that directs you off the canal up a flight of steps, and instead go under the bridge and use the ramp on the opposite side), and then rejoin the canal at Waterfront Walk. From there one stays on the Worcester and Birmingham Canal until University station, and then Bournbrook Walkway is reached via Vincent Drive. Once a horrible, narrow, busy road, where tail-gating and speeding was the norm, Birmingham City Council elected to close it completely to through motor traffic when the new hospital was built, and it is now a quiet cycling and walking route.

The complete route can of course be found on the Birmingham Greenways Map as a clear, green line. I'm not too bothered about the small problems I had with the map, because wayfinding a new route is always a bit problematic, and more importantly, the map has shown me a much nicer, greener route.

The Lapal Canal Trust

Many years ago I learned of the existence of the Dudley N°2 canal courtesy of a banner hung on the Worcester and Birmingham canal at the junction with the N°2 in Selly Oak. It had been placed there by the  Lapal Canal Trust. It encouraged me to explore the N°2 between Selly Oak and Halesowen. In particular I was intrigued by the long-buried Lapal Tunnel. At 3,470 metres it should be one of the longest canal tunnels in the UK, but there is almost nothing to see of it because the nature of the ground above it meant it kept collapsing, and in 1917 it was abandoned. In cycling out to the Netherton tunnel my intention had always been to get as close as I could to the original course of the N°2. Interestingly, my new route, as described in this article, not only gets me closer to the route of N°2 (despite it avoiding a short section near Leaslowes Park), but also it takes me close to the new, proposed route for the canal (through Woodgate Valley). The trust originally wanted to re-open the Lapal tunnel, but knowing its history I thought they were completely mad. Professional consultants Atkins (independently) agreed it wasn't such a good idea, and proposed a new route through Woodgate Valley. To me this slightly modified route looks splendid, and I hope it goes ahead (preferably with a nice wide tow path for cycling and walking). Alas I fear it will not happen, as Britain is penny rich and pound poor when it comes to infrastructure.

Last year I visited Assen in the Netherlands, where they place a higher value on water features. Unlike Britain,  the Netherlands doesnt routinely flood (saving them the huge sums of money Britain has to spend on addressing the resultant damage), and that's partly because everywhere you look you will find artificial bodies of water that store and forward heavy rainfall. As you can see from the photo they make a feature of them. The Dutch now take great care of their living environment, but in the past they adopted the same roads construction culture as the UK still does, and just as in the UK it resulted in death, a brutal environment, and the need to use every spare square metre for car parking. Having spent forty years reversing that trend, they now have too much road space and too much car parking, so they are removing it. This has allowed the local authority in Assen to dig out and reopen the canal that leads into the town centre. They take all this so seriously they even moved one of the remaining parts of the canou can do this sort of thing when you have a sustainable transport system that doesn't bankrupt you. The Dutch can do it; can we?

For more information see Lapal Canal Trust, and sideways by two metres

Bio:

I campaign with Push Bikes for cycling as transport. In this country I ride a vintage Dawes road bike, and in Germany I ride a Peugeot hybrid. It was whilst cycling in Germany that I realised something was very wrong with British infrastructure, and British attitudes towards cycling. I've also cycled in France and the Netherlands.

I have a car, but getting around Birmingham is quicker by bike and less hassle than trying to squeeze an unnecessarily large metal box down overloaded streets (and finding somewhere to park it). Consequently my bike does more kilometres per year than my car. 

This way around also keeps me trim and fit.

Pushbikes - The Birmingham Cycling Camapaign

pushbikes.org.uk/about-us/join-push-bikes

Robert Latham 14/06/2015

The Grand Cross 

James Brindley’s dream was to create a “Grand Cross’ of canals linking the four great rivers of England - Mersey, Trent, Severn, and Thames.

He never managed to realise his dream.  But you can enjoy a cycling version crossing the West Midland Centro area from east to west or from north to south (or vice versa as below) by combining the details on the routes above.

All you have to do is put on your cycling gear, get the bike out, take a deep breath and set off.  


Route 20.

  

 M5 Motorway above West Coast Main Line, Brindley Canal and Telford Canal 

Black Country Museum to Birmingham Airport (West to East)  (18 miles/ 30km)

Stations. Tipton, Dudley Port, Sandwell and Dudley, Smethwick Galton Valley and relevant stations in between to Marston Green and Birmingham International.

Join the Wolverhampton to Birmingham Canal (The Telford Canal) near to one of the above stations. 

Cycle east towards Birmingham to reach the NIA. 

Turn left at the NIA along the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal passing underneath the BT Tower as far as Aston Junction.

Turn right along the Digbeth Canal to Typhoo Basin.

Take the Grand Union Canal passing the Ackers Trust to Stockfield.

From Stockfield head to Sheldon Country Park as far as Marston Green.

From Marston Green take the signposted on road route to Birmingham International.

Wimps catch the train back !


Route 21.

   Kings Norton Church steeple

Lickey Hills to Lichfield (24 miles / 40km)

Stations: Barnt Green and all relevant ones in between to Lichfield 

From the Lickey Hills head down Groveley Lane and then upwards eventually turning left at Edenhurst Road to reach Northfield Station and Tessall Lane.

From Tessall Lane pick up Sustrans National route 5 to Worcester Canal.

Head north on Worcester Canal to Gas Street Basin and NIA.

At NIA turn right onto Birmingham and Fazeley Canal to Spaghetti Junction.

At Spaghetti Junction turn left onto Tame Valley Canal and follow Sustrans Route 535 to Deakin Avenue and Brookvale Park.

From Brookvale Park head north on 535 Route to Banners Gate Sutton Park.

Cross Sutton Park to Streetly Gate and up Roman Road to Forge Lane.

After Forge Lane turn right and head for Shenstone.

From Shenstone head to Wall.

From Wall follow side roads to Lichfield.

Wimps catch the train back to Barnt Green


                     ________________________________________________________

22. The Birmingham Big One : ‘Eroica’ Circuit  (50 miles / 82km)

                                                   

Stations: Numerous around the city.

This ride puts it all together with a circular tour which you can join in the city or anywhere, north, south, east or west.    

           N.B. It is not a race !!!        Pedestrians have priority in all instances.        

Starting at the NIA (refreshments)

  1. Head west along the Telford Canal signposted Sustrans National Route 5.(6k)
  2. From the Galton Valley head north through Sandwell Valley (refreshments) following Sustrans National Route 5.(5k)
  3. Head south east along the Tame Valley Canal until Deakin Avenue.(6k)
  4. Join Sustrans Route 535 to Sutton Park (refreshments) (9k)
  5. From Sutton Coldfield through Newhall Valley (refreshments)- Route 534.(6k)
  6. From Castle Vale head south to join Cole Valley Route at Cole Hall. (4k)
  7. Head east past Babs Mill Lake to Marston Green and Sheldon Country Park.(6k)
  8. Sheldon Country Park (refreshments) to Stockfield for Grand Union Canal.(4k)
  9. West to the Ackers Trust (refreshments) (2k)
  10. South along Cole Valley past Sarehole Mill (refreshments) to Trittiford Pool.(6k)
  11. West to Lifford Reservoir.(5k)
  12. Lifford to Bartley Reservoir /Woodgate via Merrits Brook Greenway.(9k)
  13. Woodgate Valley Visitor Centre (refreshments) to University (refreshments) (6k)
  14. University to Telford Canal via Harborne Walkway and Edgbaston Reservoir. (7k)
  15. Telford Canal to NIA (1k)





contact: rjwatson@birminghamcyclinggreenways.co.uk                                                  © 2015 Roy Watson