Today we value canals for the countryside they pass through. But they were originally built to connect places – cities, towns and other waterways. Of no canal is this more true than the Birmingham & Fazeley, which remains remarkably busy despite the lack of any great scenic draw. Essentially, it connects Birmingham with the East Midlands.
As any boater soon learns, Birmingham is on the top of a hill. Fittingly, the B&F’s proudest moments are its lock flights. Farmer’s Bridge, in the city centre, is among the finest of all, its 13 closely packed locks diving below buildings and railway arches. There are two more on the way out of the city (Aston and Minworth), but the lovely Curdworth flight is the B&F’s other gem – rural and unhurried, with the unusually named Dog and Doublet pub near the bottom.
The WW Annual map will show you just how important a link route the B&F remains, but if you need any convincing, stop and look around at Salford Junction. To the south-east are Garrison Locks, heading to the Grand Union. To the west is the Tame Valley Canal, once the fastest route past Birmingham. And above you? Spaghetti Junction. It’s such a good location for a junction that even the motorway builders couldn’t improve on it.