Does Birmingham really have more miles of canal than Venice? The exact numbers depend on where you draw the city boundaries, but the whole Birmingham Canal Navigations (BCN) system adds up to 100 miles of canals.
It is one of the most intricate canal networks in the world. The hub of the BCN is the bustling city centre junction at Gas Street Basin. Here, colourful boats and historic canal architecture sit side-by-side with vibrant modern restaurants, cafes and bars. The basin is in the heart of Birmingham’s cosmopolitan nightlife and shopping districts. The mainlines and city centre canals are busy with boaters, walkers and cyclists.
However, elsewhere on the BCN, you can really get away from it all on winding suburban canals and some surprisingly rural branches. In the northern waters of the BCN, there are some rarely-explored waterways that are truly off the beaten track.
The canals were the life-blood of Victorian Birmingham and the Black Country. At their height, they were so busy that gas lighting was installed beside the locks to permit round-the-clock operation. Boats were built without cabins for maximum carrying capacity, and a near-tidal effect was produced as swarms of narrowboats converged on the Black Country collieries at the same time every day.