Planning your visit
Address: Start off the walk at the Roundhouse, 102 St Vincent Street, Birmingham, B16 8EB
Opening Times: The towpath is always open but you'll need to check the opening times of the Roundhouse (opening in Spring 2021) and New Smethwick Pumping Station.
Price: The towpath can be used free of charge
Toilets: At Smethwick Galton Bridge train station.
The 4,5 mile stretch of the Main Line Canal runs from the Roundhouse in central Birmingham to Chance Glass Works in Smethwick.
The Revolution Walk celebrates three eras of transport: canals, railways and roads, evidence of which can be found all along this peaceful and historic canal stretch.
Although the Revolution Walk is ideal for discovering more about Birmingham’s industrial history, it is also surrounded by leafy banks, multiple trees and even a nature reserve nestling between the New and the Old Main Line Canal. There is plenty of wildlife spotting to be done there, including moorhens, geese and herons which are particularly fond of this canal stretch.
The flat towpath provides easy access to a variety of unique heritage and can be used as a green route in and out of the city.
Green Flag Award from Keep Britain Tidy
The Revolution Walk glows green after being awarded the prestigious environmental award in October 2020. The award is a first for the 250-year old Birmingham Canal Navigations and marks a remarkable transformation for the canals in Birmingham and the Black Country which were once at the heart of Industrial Revolution.
The Green Flag status, now into its third decade, is awarded to spaces that boast the highest possible environmental standards, are beautifully maintained and have excellent visitor facilities.
Key stops along the way:
- The Roundhouse: you can start your journey here and make your way towards the Icknield Port Loop and the Soho Loop along a popular walking, running and cycling route. As you’re making your way out of the City, make sure to look out for our urban orchard growing along the towpath.
- The Loops at the Rotton Park Junction: this is where the Icknield Loop and the Soho Loop meet. Continue along the Soho Loop to spot more wildlife and admire the stunning building of HMP Birmingham, formerly an asylum and fever hospital, to then join the New Main Line Canal at Winson Green Junction. The Icknield Port Loop is currently only available to visit by boat.
- Winson Green Junction and Gauging Station: this is a perfect viewpoint over the New Main Line Canal stretching all the way towards central Birmingham.
- Smethwick Junction: this is where the New Main Line and the Old Main Line Canal split. Built 60 years apart, the New Main Line Canal was completed in 1829 and cut seven miles of the journey. This in turn slashed the cost of coal by 70% making Birmingham a centre of manufacturing.
- Engine Arm Aqueduct: you can admire this stunning, grade I listed structure from the New Main Line Canal as you walk underneath it, or from the Old Main Line Canal where you can walk across it and see the cast iron detail up close. Take some time to relax at Smethwick Locks where there’s plenty of space for a picnic.
- New Smethwick Pumping Station: opened in 1892 to keep the water levels operational between the New Main Line Canal and Smethwick Locks. For more information, please visit the Sandwell Council website.
- Galton Valley Nature Reserve: hiding behind the New Smethwick Pumping Station is a peaceful nature reserve offering lovely views over the city. The reserve nestles between the two canal lines and you can continue your walk here, joining the Old Main Line Canal at the end of the nature reserve’s footpath.
- Galton Valley with the Galton Bridge: as you exit the Galton Tunnel take a moment to admire the bridges arching above you. Built in 1829 by Thomas Telford, the grade I listed Galton Bridge had the highest span in the world at the time, measuring 46 meters (151 feet). Originally built as a road bridge, today it is open only to pedestrians
Places to eat:
- Brindley Place
- Gas Street Basin
- Explorers - our Explorers' team can arrange a school visit
The wildlife along the Revolution Walk is very valuable given its urban setting, and includes:
- Huge variety of birds:
- ◦ Grey herons: the canal is one of the best places to experience large grey herons up close, even on the towpath.
◦ Wren: possibly our most common breeding canal bird.
◦ Peregrine falcon: nesting on city buildings and hunting for pigeons and other birds.
◦ Many others including black redstarts, jays, goldfinches, blue flash, kingfishers, mallards, Canada goose, moorhens and even gulls. If you’re lucky, you may also spot the very shy little grebe or dabchick and, in the Autumn, flocks of blue tits, great tits, coal tits and long tailed tits.
- Pipistrelle bats: The Common Pipistrelle is present along the canal right into the heart of the city, even roosting near the Roundhouse. Soprano Pipistrelle is a little rarer and can be spotted further out towards the Galton Valley. Nathusius Pipistrelle is considered extremely rare and only uses the canal network as a safe migration route.
- Otter: we believe it is likely that the Revolution Walk supports just one otter’s territory. You will be very lucky if you spot it
- Common blue butterfly breeds and feeds at Galton Valley among the wildflowers.
- Rare and precious plants such as bee orchids, viper’s bugloss, fleabane, heather, cowberry and even sphagnum moss growing along the canal. In the summer, the hemp agrimony flowers can be crowded with red admiral and peacock butterflies.
- Galton pear tree: our own heritage pear tree is over 150 years old and a species now lost to cultivation. We are cultivating it, and it is now part of the Great Canal Orchard, the longest orchard in the country.
By train – the Roundhouse is a 15 minute walk from the Birmingham New Street station and Galton Valley is only a two minute walk from the Smethwick Galton Bridge station.
By boat – there are moorings available along the stretch with boating facilities available at the Roundhouse.