Sustainable travel

Birmingham by kayak: How to explore the UK’s ‘city of canals’ sustainably

Believe it or not, Birmingham contains more kilometres of canals than Venice or Amsterdam. Fiona Whitty gets paddling on a serene, eco-friendly tour

Tuesday 02 August 2022 10:04 BST
Birmingham has more kilometres of canals than Venice and Amsterdam
Birmingham has more kilometres of canals than Venice and Amsterdam (Mailbox Birmingham)

A monochrome cat peeps tentatively through a narrowboat’s cratch cover, eyeing my kayak with mistrust. Nearby a flock of Canada geese waddle nonchalantly along a slipway while skeins flit overhead.

Elsewhere down the canal, a cheerful vendor sells fudge from a boat galley and drinkers chat on sun-shrouded terraces. The serenity is fractured only by the fuzz of chatter emanating from grinning friends, groups of shouty teens and the odd hen and stag do crowd revelling in weekend jaunts.

In such surroundings, it’s hard to believe I’m in a city. And not just any city – this is Birmingham, the UK’s second city. And, as it turns out, the country’s City of Canals. Rather staggeringly, it boasts more kilometres of canals than both Venice and Amsterdam, but its historic waterways are somehow largely overlooked.

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