The Worcester & Birmingham Canal 

The Worcester and Birmingham Canal 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 and two rivers, a popular two week holiday route, and the much shorter Droitwich ring.


The Worcester and Birmingham Canal leaves the River Severn just below Worcester Cathedral, watch out for the sandbanks when entering Diglis lock. Worcester has a fine Cathedral, which dates from 1074, and Georgian buildings. The climb out of Worcester is fairly steep. After the first 16 locks, a junction with the recently restored Droitwich Canal at Hanbury Wharf leads back to the River Severn at Hawford Mill, about 4 miles north of Diglis Basin, creating the Droitwich Ring. Reopening the Droitwich Barge Canal and the Droitwich Junction Canal in 2011 has created an interesting shorter cruising ring.

Tardebigge Tunnel

Tardebigge Tunnel
Images Waterway Images

The short Stoke flight of 6 locks is quickly followed by the famous flight of thirty locks at Tardebigge, hard but interesting work for boat crews. The locks are close together and fill and empty very quickly so it’s possible to do them all in an (energetic) morning! Tardebigge Top lock is much deeper than the rest because it was originally built as a boat lift. The W&B has four tunnels, the longest is Kings Norton which is just under two miles long. Steam tugs were used from the 1870’s to haul strings of narrowboats through the four tunnels. The top three tunnels are wide allowing narrowboats to pass. The whole canal was originally intended to be a barge canal but that eventually proved too costly so the rest of the canal was built as a narrow canal.

At Kings Norton Junction the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal heads off through an unusual (disused) guillotine stop lock down through Shakespeare country to the River Avon. The Cadbury’s Chocolate Factory at Bournville has tours and exhibitions. Cadbury’s had a fleet of immaculately painted narrowboats which carried their raw materials to the factory. There is a village built by the firm for its workers and two half timbered houses moved here from other parts of Birmingham. Birmingham is entered through pleasant suburbs, passing the entrance to the disused Dudley Canal at Selly Oak and ending at a connection with the Birmingham Canal Navigations at Gas Street Basin in the heart of the busy city, amidst modern high rises and popular leisure and business developments like the ‘Mailbox’. The Worcester and Birmingham canal was built as a quicker route between the Severn in Worcester and Birmingham but opposition from other canals prevented completion of the last few feet of canal at Gas Street in Birmingham for twenty years.

Diglis Locks in Worcester

Canal Ring

The Avon Ring also includes the Stratford CanalRivers Severn and Avon and BCN. 1 or 2 weeks to cruise.
The Droitwich Ring includes the 2 Droitwich canals and short stretches of the Worcester & Birmingham Canal and River Severn, it can be cruised in 2 days. See our Avon & Droitwich Ring Cruising Guide.

Key Facts

Narrow canal, 30 miles, 58 locks, 4 tunnels. 2 energetic days to cruise.

All materials and images © Canal Junction Ltd. Dalton House, 35 Chester St, Wrexham LL13 8AH. No unauthorised reproduction.

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