Birmingham canal walk, Livery Street to the Mailbox
Enjoy this 1 mile walk through Birmingham city centre, taking in Farmer's Bridge Locks, Old Turn Junction and Gas Street Basin. Download our walking map and step-by-step instructions to help you along the way.
With over 100 miles of navigable waterways, Birmingham sits at the heart of Britain’s canals. A skyline of contemporary architecture meets the canal here in a lovingly regenerated meeting place between old and new. The canal isn't hiding from the city, it's just waiting quietly below the bridge, steps away from the urban flurry. You’ll find locks hidden under bridges and buildings. Amble this parallel waterworld right in the city, where benches line the water to tempt you to simply sit for a while, watching boats and geese pass by.
Canal: Birmingham Canal Navigations
Start: Livery Street Bridge OS Grid ref: SP067874 Postcode: B3 1AQ
Finish: The Mailbox OS Grid ref: SP064864 Postcode: B1 1RS
Distance: 1.6km / 1 mile
Start: From Livery Street, descend the steps to the cavernous tunnel beneath Snow Hill Station, and turn back on yourself to follow the towpath under Livery Street.
1. Head up the ramp beside lock 12 of the 13 Farmer’s Bridge Locks which climb towards the city centre. These narrow locks, hemmed in by city buildings, used to get so busy with working boats heading in both directions that gas lighting was installed along the flight so crews could work day and night.
2. Beyond Ludgate Hill Bridge and lock 11, overlooked by the imposing 152m BT Tower, the canal slips under an office block with lock 10 straddled by the building’s pillars. Boaters watch their heads at Lock 9, directly underneath Newhall Street Bridge! Birmingham’s famous Jewellery Quarter is just west.
3. Look out for poetry carved into the lock arms at Lock 8. These lines were written by Roy Fisher to mark the creation of the Canal & River Trust charity in 2012.
4. Your views open as you pass the last few locks of the flight, widening into boat moorings at Cambrian Wharf next to Top Lock and its toll house. Benches invite you to linger a while.
5. The Birmingham & Fazeley Canal ends at Old Turn Junction, marked by the island in the water. Revel in the open space, sit and stare over the water - busy with canal boats, canoes, ducks and even geese. To your right is Utilita Arena Birmingham, and across the water is the National SEA LIFE Centre. The Birmingham New Main Line Canal heads off left and straight ahead. Cross the Grade II-listed intricate cast-iron footbridge (marked ‘Horseley Iron Works, Staffordshire, 1827’) and follow the ramp past the Malt House.
6. Just beyond Brewmaster’s Bridge is a wide leafy area with handy benches to take time and watch canal life and trip boats. To your left, doors lead into the International Convention Centre and Symphony Hall.
7. Cross the canal on the footbridge (beautifully adorned with flowers in spring and summer) towards the shops, bars, cafés, restaurants and art gallery of Brindleyplace, named after James Brindley, the canal engineer.
8. Duck your head under Broad Street tunnel into Gas Street Basin - the first place in the city to have gas lights to enable 24-hour canal operations. Today, the water reflects contemporary glass architecture alongside historic buildings.
9. Birmingham Canal Navigations (BCN) meets the Worcester & Birmingham Canal here. During the canal mania of the Industrial Revolution, canal companies fiercely guarded their water, so the BCN insisted a barrier was built to separate the two canals. The Worcester Bar, built in 1792, forced cargoes to be laboriously transhipped over it for 30 years. Sense prevailed in 1815 when a stop lock was built to allow boats through. The Bar now provides boat moorings. Look out for the red Transport Trust plaque.
The cast-iron bridge to the Bar is a modern copy, made in 1988 from Horseley's original design, the first cast-iron bridge made in over 100 years (not cheating, just new history making). A slope and archway lead out to the road. A red door was used by the fire brigade to gain access to canal water to put out fires during World War II.
End: Cross the footbridge where the Worcester & Birmingham Canal turns sharply southwards. The walk ends at the Mailbox (former Royal Mail sorting office, now a mix of designer shopping, cafés, bars, and the BBC’s Innovation Showcase). Boats moor here, and a Waterbus stop offers a fun way back to Old Turn Junction.