Cruising the Staffordshire (Black Country) Ring

Take 10 days and visit the Black Country Museum, Birmingham, the country’s second city, Gothic Lichfield and stately Shugborough Hall

This popular canal cruising ring navigates thorough the heart of the Industrial Revolution and the picturesque villages of the surrounding Midlands counties of Staffordshire and Warwickshire. There are plenty of locks as the route climbs up to the Black Country north-west of Birmingham, and then down again to the countryside to the south and east of the city.

A crew of 4 is best to make this a leisurely 7-day trip. So it’s the perfect canal boat holiday for all the family to get involved!

  • Staffordshire canal cruising ring - Gailey Wharf
  • Staffordshire canal cruising ring - Black Country museum, Dudley
  • Staffordshire canal cruising ring - Birmingham Canal Main Line
  • Staffordshire canal cruising ring - Central Birmingham
  • Staffordshire canal cruising ring - Central Birmingham canal architecture
  • Staffordshire canal cruising ring - Rural Warwickshire
  • Staffordshire canal cruising ring - Hopwas, Staffordshire

This particular itinerary is extended to 10 nights rather than 7 to allow full days at the Black Country museum and for shopping in Birmingham, a morning in the medieval city of Lichfield and an afternoon at Shugborough Hall. Ignore the non-cruising days for the 1 week holiday.

First afternoon – 2 hours cruising to the Anchor Inn, Cross Green.

Leaving Gailey Wharf, you will be heading SOUTH on the Staffordshire and Worcester canal towards The Fox and Anchor Public House a short walk from Cross Green Visitor moorings where you can moor for the night. This is 10 minutes from Slade Heath Bridge no. 72, about 1/3 mile from a sharp left hand elbow in the winding canal.

The canal dates from the 1770’s and was built by James Brindley in the ‘contour’ style, following the lay of the land much like a river.

You will have cruised your first 2 hours or so depending on how quickly you have become familiar with the boat handling. Tomorrow is harder work up the Wolverhampton flight so an early start, but not before a pie and a pint in the Anchor!

Day 2 – 7 1/2 hours cruising to Tipton and the Black Country museum.

Once you leave your mooring, you will be heading towards Wolverhampton where the scenery becomes more suburban.

The canal is not as undulating now – you will pass through Autherley Narrows a short stretch of ‘single track’ canal, just take your time – heading towards Autherley Junction, the southern most end of the Shropshire Union Canal off to the right; keep on the Staffs and Worcester.

Shortly the canal parts again at Aldersley Junction, and you leave the Staffs and Worcester by branching left onto the Birmingham Canal Navigation (BCN). Soon you will begin to climb the Wolverhampton 21 Locks.

Heading West towards Aldersley Junction between Locks 16 and 17 of the Wolverhampton flight – BCN Old Main LIne. The viaduct carries the Wolverhampton to Stafford West Coast mainline branch into the city centre where the canal is eventually level with the railway!

Once at Wolverhampton Top Lock and the town centre, stay on the main line canal to Coseley Tunnel, a short tunnel of 360 yards – remember to switch your light on! Moorings are up ahead…

For the Black Country Museum, Tipton Factory Junction is not far from the tunnel south end, where you will bear right onto the Dudley Canal. The museum is only 1/4 mile towards the end of this arm and you will moor at the Visitor moorings.

You will need to turn around here when you leave so it’s up to you whether you do this now when it’s quiet (and there’s no-one looking!) or tomorrow when there will be plenty of people to help! It’s all good fun…

Day 3 – Day at the Black Country Museum

Staffordshire or Black Country canal cruising ring
The Black Country museum is the largest working museum of the Industrial Revolution in the country.

Information, opening times, admission prices are here.

Day 4 – 4 hours cruising to Central Birmingham

Back to Tipton Junction and turn right along the Wolverhampton Level canal, it is lock free for a while now, ignore the right turning at Oldbury Junction, and turn right at the Spon Lane Junction. There are 3 locks at Smethwick, but after these it is lock free again and the canal joins the Birmingham main line at Smethwick Junction. At Deep Cuttings Junction turn left on the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal & try & moor up near Cambrian Wharf.

Into the heart of the Industrial Revolution on the Birmingham Canal Main Line between Wolverhampton and Birmingham. The infrastructure in this area is typical of canal era engineering and a boon for urban history buffs.

Amongst some of the attractions are the National Sea Life Centre and the Jewellery Quarter Discovery centre, also many fine Art galleries and over 500 restaurants offering every choice of food!

For shopping a visit to the new Bullring is a must, which covers an area the size of 26 football pitches and a has a huge range of shops.

Close by is the National Indoor Arena, one of the busiest large scale indoor sporting and entertainment venues in Europe.

Day 5 – Day in Birmingham

Staffordshire canal cruising ring - Bullring Shopping centre, Birmingham
A short walk through the main retail district from the canal basin is the new Bullring centre. With the connected Grand Central shopping complex this forms the largest city centre shopping mall in the UK.

Day 6 – 7 1/2 hours Urban cruising into the Warwickshire countryside

Have a big breakfast because you have 12 locks at Farmers Bridge straight away, and 10 locks at Aston, all to do this morning!

From this point the locks fall steeply away from the heart of Birmingham, you will soon encounter the Farmer’s bridge flight of 12 locks, where you will need a BW anti vandal key.

Climbing the Farmer’s Bridge lock flight to Cambrian wharf, central Birmingham. The canal basins are an eclectic blend of restored Industrial Revolution architecture and 21st century city centre dwelling and leisure amenities.

At Aston Junction continue left and northwards where you encounter the Aston flight of locks which takes the canal down 11 locks to Salford Junction.

The Minworth Locks are soon reached & there is a handy couple of bridges up ahead for access to eateries – the Hare & Hounds by Minworth Green Bridge, and The Boat by Caters bridge.

As the canal descends towards Fazeley it loses the industry that has accompanied it since Birmingham.

At the village of Curdworth there is a pub to the south of Curdworth Bridge, the Cuttle Bridge Inn, and the White Horse in the village. Stay overnight at Curdworth Visitor moorings.

Day 7 – 7 hours scenic cruising to Whittington/Huddlesford

Beyond Curdworth Tunnel and the M6 motorway, the canal continues to Fazeley in complete isolation through empty fields, only the 11 locks falling to Fazeley junction breaking the journey.

At Bodymoor Heath is a lovely pub, the Dog & Doublet by Cheatles Farm Bridge. To the right is Kingsbury Water Park, a 600 acre landscaped park containing 30 lakes from old gravel pits. There are walks, nature trails, fishing, horse riding, sailing and wind surfing and power boating.

There is also a childrens farm at Broomey Croft near Kingsbury Swivel bridge.

The Gothic style footbridge at Drayton Bassett is quite the folly with its twin battlemented towers; wonderfully eccentric – worth a photo!

At Fazeley Junction the Coventry Canal meets the Birmingham & Fazeley, turn a sharp left and you will pass Peels Wharf.

This all gives way to lightly wooded open fields towards Hopwas Hill. The canal follows the course of the River Tame very closely, passing below Hopwas village.

Hopwas is a pretty & tidy village with a green, built on the side of a hill. It has a PO, and a convenience store. On the Canal is the Tame Otter Pub, where real ale & food are served all day. There are moorings available. The Red Lion is also nearby, serving food at lunch and in the evenings, steaks are a speciality.

Just beyond here there is a delightful wooded stretch that covers the side of the hill.

Landing is forbidden because these are the Whittington Firing Ranges.

After the wood the canal continues in a side cut embankment with a view of Tamworth to the east.

The next village you will reach is Whittington. There is a PO stores, garage, chemist, Chinese takeaway & off licence. The village centre is to the west of Whittington Bridge, the shops are best approached from Bridge 78. There are 3 pubs here, The Swan Inn on the Canalside, and the Bell Inn & Dog Inn in the main street.

Between Whittington & Bridge 78, the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal changes to the Coventry Canal.

Moor up for the night just after Bridge 78. 

Day 8 – Morning in Lichfield (Gothic cathedral, ancient Tudor city), 5 hours to Rugeley

Either continue to Huddlesford, moor up and walk the 1- 2 miles to Lichfield, OR take the 765 bus to the Central Bus Station from the Dog Inn, Whittington.

Cruising Rings - medieval city of Lichfield on the Staffordshire or Black Country ring
Tudor Row in Lichfield, Staffordshire is a testament to the era when Lichfield gained it’s City status from King Henry VIII

Huddlesford is the junction with the Wyrley & Essington Canal, presently used by the Lichfield Cruising Club, but is the eastern end of the Lichfield and Hatherton Canal Restoration Trust’s multi-year project to reconnect the Coventry (Trent and Mersey) canal to the Staffs and Worcester near our home mooring at Calf Heath.

There is an award winning friendly canalside pub here, – The Plough serving real ale & good food. The Canal runs northward through flat open country and a swing bridge announces your arrival at Fradley Junction, where you meet the Trent & Mersey canal.

There is a boatyard here, a British Waterways information centre and cafe, and a very popular pub, The Swan – reputedly one of the most photographed pubs in the country. It is in a 200 yr old listed building, with cosy fires, real ales, and good bar meals with a carvery on Sundays.

The canal soon enters quiet countryside until it gets to the village of Handsacre. There is useful store 500 yards south of Bridge 59, and a fish and chip shop and a cafe near Bridge 58. The next village is Armitage and there is a very popular restaurant called Tom Cobleighs Spode Cottage, also the Plum Pudding Pub is canalside, and the Ash tree at bridge 62.

You pass on your left Spode House, a former home of the pottery family.

There are pleasant moorings by Bridge 66 with the town centre and shops just a short walk away.

Day 9 – 3 hours scenic cruising to Great Haywood, afternoon at Shugborough Hall

Cannock chase to the south covers an area of 26 miles and has been designated an area of outstanding natural beauty. Near the Sherlock valley are German war graves from the 1st and 2nd World wars. The museum of Cannock Chase illustrate the life of the Chase, from medieval times to a 19th century colliery.

To the south of Wolseley bridge is a The Wolseley Arms, indian restaurant, and antique, craft & garden centre.

Staging for Little Haywood lock, Trent and Mersey canal. Visitor moorings are just to the south under the bridge and are a short walk from Shugborough Hall.

The village of Little Haywood is off to the right, but a good place to moor up for the night is before Haywood Lock, with lovely views of Shugborough Hall. Shugborough Hall dates from 1693 and belonged to the Earl of Lichfields family. The estate is now managed by Staffordshire County Council and is open during the season. You can look around the Mansion, servants quarters, walled garden and beautiful terraces and stone monuments with extravagant names scattered around the stunning 19th century Grade One listed gardens. Also on hand is Park Farm which contains an agricultural museum a working mill and a rare breeds centre. There are stores in Great Haywood.

Day 10 – 5 1/2 hours scenic cruising to Cross Keys Inn, Penkridge

After the lock turn left at Great Haywood Junction onto the Staffordshire & Worcestershire canal.

The Cross Keys is UKvacationsAfloat’s local pub, just 2 hours from Gailey Wharf in Penkridge – a market town and parish in Staffordshire with a history stretching back to the Anglo-Saxon period. 

You soon come into Tixall Wide, which resembles a lake rather than a canal. To the north is the extraordinary Tixall Gatehouse , this massive 4 storey Elizabethan building dates from 1598 and is all that is left of Tixall hall. To the south is Shugborough Hall and the park surrounding it.

At Milford there is good farm shop south of Bridge 105. Your crew should always be at the ready on this canal, as the locks come at regular intervals!

Radford Bridge is the closest point to Stafford, about 1.5 miles if you fancy the walk, although there is frequent bus service. (Stafford is to the North, or right of the canal.)

Stafford is well worth visiting as there is a lot of fine old buildings including the City Hall complex of Italianate buildings dating from 1880. There is also a robust looking gaol and there are some very pretty back alleys.

The canal continues along the Canal until it reaches the old coaching village of Penkridge; there are a couple of locks here, pubs and stores in the village. Moor up at the Cross Keys.

Last morning – 2 1/2 hours to Gailey Wharf

A few more locks close together but another pleasant couple of hours home!

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