At its northern end, the canal joins the Birmingham Canal Main Line at Gas Street Basin. This pretty basin was once a thriving transport hub. Now, traditional narrowboats and elegant black and white iron footbridges sit side-by-side with modern bars and restaurants. Close by is luxury shopping centre the Mailbox, with its stylish clothing shops and cafes.
Among the cargos that once travelled on the canal was chocolate crumb to the Cadbury factory. Today, this is Cadbury World, a great day out if you have a sweet tooth.
Chocolate and guillotines
At Kings Norton Junction, the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal joins under permanently open guillotine gates. Opposite the junction is an attractive toll house with its board showing the charges.
The canal was realigned to allow the building of the M42. Tardebigge Wharf, with its dry dock, maintenance yard, workers' cottages, and historic warehouse remains the main base for maintenance on the canal, and is a great place to start a walk. It was here that Tom Rolt met Robert Aickman, which led to the creation of the Inland Waterways Association.
All 58 locks are in the second half of the canal, as the canal descends through rural Worcestershire. The Tardebigge lock flight has 30 locks in just over two miles, making it the longest in the country.
Hanbury Hall (National Trust) can easily be reached by a pleasant walk across the fields from Astwood Bottom Lock. Hanbury Junction marks the connection with the Droitwich Junction Canal, linked with the Droitwich Barge Canal and offers a route to the River Severn at Hawford. You might like to take a short walk down the Hanbury Flight, which was rebuilt by volunteers. Hanbury's other claim to fame is that it is said to be the real-life counterpart of Radio 4's Ambridge, home of The Archers.
Around Bilford, the countryside is left behind as the canal begins to encroach on the city environs. The Commandery was the headquarters of Charles Stuart before the Battle of Worcester in 1651.
Ahead lies Diglis Basins and two wide locks accessing the Severn. Once very busy with commercial traffic, the working boats have long been replaced by pleasure craft. Worcester Cathedral stares down imposingly on travellers entering the river.
The Worcester & Birmingham Canal is a justifiably popular cruising route and is now part of both the Avon and Stourport Cruising Rings. With 58 locks in all and five tunnels, it's well suited to energetic crews, or those who don't mind taking their time.
Days out along the Worcester & Birmingham Canal
If you're planning a day out then check out our free family-friendly guides and make sure you get the best from your trip to the canal.