The Worcester & Birmingham Canal and Droitwich canals
The Worcester and Birmingham canal links the two cities, built to connect the River Severn in Worcester to the Birmingham Canal System via a quicker route than the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal, although opposition from other canals prevented completion of the last few feet of canal in Birmingham for twenty years.
The W&B travels through some very pleasant countryside, climbing from the Severn through rolling fields and wooded cuttings and slicing through a hilly ridge south of Birmingham. The canal opens up a number of popular cruising rings, including the Avon Ring made up of two canals (W&B and Stratford) and two rivers (Severn & Avon), a popular two week holiday route. The W&B has four tunnels, the longest is Kings Norton near the junction with the Stratford Canal just under two miles long. Steam tugs were used from the 1870's to haul strings of narrowboats through the four tunnels. There's also the famous flight of thirty locks at Tardebigge, hard but interesting work for boat crews. The locks fill and empty very quickly so it's possible to do them all in an (energetic) morning! This canal offers plenty to see and lots to do!
The reopening of the Droitwich Barge Canal and the Droitwich Junction Canal in 2011 has created an alternative route to the River Severn and an interesting shorter cruising ring.
Worcester has a fine Cathedral which dates from 1074 and Georgian buildings. At Bournville is the Cadbury's Chocolate Factory which has tours and exhibitions. Cadbury's had a fleet of immaculately painted narrowboats which carried their raw materials to the factory. There is also the village built by the firm for its workers and two half timbered houses which were moved here from other parts of Birmingham.
The Worcester and Birmingham canal is well known for its locks, 58 in all climbing 428 feet from the level of the River Severn in Worcester up to Birmingham. Originally it was planned to use lifts to greatly reduce the number of locks and to save canal water. However there was some concern over whether the lifts would be robust enough, and good water supplies were secured by building reservoirs so locks were built instead. Tardebigge reservoir was below the canal summit level so a steam engine was used to lift the water above the locks. The engine house still stands. One lift was built, but was unreliable and became Tardebigge top lock, hence its great depth, at fourteen feet one of the deepest on the canal system.