Birmingham Canal Walks

Titford Canal

2 miles

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The Titford Canal walk starts in the subterranean depths below the M5 at Oldbury Locks Junction and, after climbing the flight of six Oldbury Locks, finishes at the Titford Pools. Constructed as a reservoir in 1773-4, the pools are the highest point on the BCN at 511ft and are bordered by the short but still navigable Causeway Green and Portway branches.

The Titford Canal was opened in 1837 to provide access to local coal mines, brick works and other typical Black Country industry from the old Main Line. Also referred to as 'the Crow', the six locks were restored to their current state in the early 1970s. The famous carrier Thomas Clayton was based at the bottom of the locks from 1889 - 1966, their boats collected tar and creosote, by-products from local gas works at Saltley, Smethwick, Swan Village, Walsall and others, and carried them to the  Midland Tar Distillers and Springfield Chemical Works, the inlet that the boats used can still be seen at the bottom of the flight. Fuel oil products from Stanlow were also taken up the locks to the Shell depot next to Langley Maltings until a pipeline was built in the mid-1950s. The landscape is still industrial, a tyre recycling plant to your left followed by large tanks filled with red diesel, but perhaps an improvement to when it was adjacent to huge chemical works that didn't think twice about expelling fumes and effluent into the air and canal.

Between locks 4 and 3 you cross the entry to the Crow Arm or Jim Crow Arm (the derivation of this name is unclear) that led to a basin serving Albright & Wilson's phosphorus works. Perhaps it's a grey day but you can't help noticing that the water resembles Castrol GTX in colour, and the area was once probably the most polluted on the system. After the top lock and Engine House Bridge, you'll find the headquarters of the BCN Society at Titford Pump House, built originally to house a Boulton and Watt engine that pumped water back up the locks. The original restored pump can be seen and the Coal Catchers railings and gate depict a horse with women and children catching and collecting coal. There's also a crow reflecting the locks' alternative name.

The Tat Bank Branch or Titford Feeder leaves to the left, designed by Telford it has no tow path and leads to Edgbaston (Rotton Park) Reservoir and water reaches Smethwick Locks via the Engine Arm (see Gas St Basin to Bromford Junction walk). 

Going under the disused GWR Oldbury – Langley Green railway line, you get to the disused Langley Maltings, Grade II and derelict. Closed in 2006, and attacked by arsonists, it was saved from being bulldozed by English Heritage and the Victorian Society. More dereliction follows but new houses are being built on the brownfield sites surrounding the demolished Langley Forge and generally the outlook improves as you make your way to the Navigation pub. To go clockwise around the pools you need to go up to the Wolverhampton Road at Jarvis Bridge and cross to the tow path on the other side. 

Follow the Causeway Green Branch which bears left and passes an entrance to the pools where impressive views can be had of the motorway marching over the water. Opened in 1858, this branch was abandoned in 1960 and now comes to an abrupt end at the M5. However, follow the path under the M5 and you'll reach Birchfield Lane. Turn right and carry on for a short distance before taking a path back to the pools and the Portway Branch which served various industries in the Titford Valley until abandoned in 1954. Your circular trip around the pools will then finish at a memorial depicting a rock driller from the Nine Apostles Colliery which operated beneath your feet until closing in 1904.