The Ring is a new arts programme which celebrates a 21-mile circle of natural and historic waterways which make up the Mid-Worcestershire Ring. Linking the Droitwich Canals, Worcester & Birmingham Canal and the River Severn, the route flows through the urban and rural landscapes of Worcester and Droitwich.
Navigable by boat or on foot over a weekend, the Mid-Worcestershire Ring is a unique tourist destination. The Ring is uncovering unusual and interesting stories of the place, people and natural environment by commissioning artists to produce ambitious and dynamic artworks and live events that encourage visitors and local people to explore and enjoy this loop of waterways in south Worcestershire.
The programme runs from March to September 2018, with temporary artworks and events popping up around the waterways. Check our Projects pages for details of the artists (and when you can see their artworks) and Events pages for bookable and one-off events. Please sign up to our e-newsletter, so you can be the first to hear our latest news – the sign-up button is at the top right of this website. You can also find @theringworcs on social media and use the hashtag #artsonthewaterways.
The Ring is part of the Canal & River Trust’s Arts on the Waterways programme.
A film introduction to The Ring © Green Gorilla Films
Discover The Ring
The Ring will celebrate the history and natural beauty of the Mid-Worcestershire waterways. From September 2017 – September 2018, internationally-acclaimed, regional and local artists will lead an imaginative exploration of Worcestershire’s urban and rural heritage; the people that live here and their hopes for the future. Visitors are invited to explore The Ring by foot, by boat or bicycle, to discover five new public artworks, performances, events and activities in historic and picturesque locations inspired by culture, stories and secrets of the waterway.
Look out for events and activities taking place at locations around The Ring. Sign up for our e-news and follow us to find out how you can get involved.
Reawakening of the Droitwich Canals
The Droitwich Canals includes the 1771 Barge Canal. Designed by James Brindley, it is one of the UK’s oldest waterways and was built to connect the River Severn with Droitwich town’s salt industry which has pre-Roman origins. It also includes the 1854 Junction Canal, one of the last to be built, in an attempt to fend off the competing railway carriers. However, following the introduction of the rail network and competition from other industrial developments, the canals continued to lose business. The late 1920s saw the last boat use the Droitwich Canals as salt production in Droitwich had ceased in 1922. The two canals were officially abandoned in 1939 and became filled with household waste, silt and debris.
In 2011, after almost a century of closure, the Droitwich Canals were reawakened thanks to 38 years of restoration work initially carried out by volunteers. Max Sinclair, who had played a leading role in campaigning and restoring the canals over four decades was awarded an English Heritage Angel Award in 2012.
The Mighty River Severn
The Severn, the longest river in Britain, enabled the Romans to establish a settlement at Worcester and was one of the main trade routes into the west of England. By the mid-1700s, the famous Severn ‘Wych’ barges were bringing coal down the river to power new manufacturing industries in the West Midlands such as the large saltworks in Droitwich. After the opening of the Worcester & Birmingham Canal, Wych barges docked at Diglis Basin so that cargoes could be reloaded into narrow boats for carrying on to the industries of Worcester and Birmingham.
One serious problem for the barge owners was the varying flows on the river. The Severn flooded in winter and had droughts in summer, creating shallows which delayed boats for days and sometimes weeks at a time. Victorian engineers solved the problem in 1844 by adding a series of large locks and weirs between Gloucester and Stourport to create a canalised river and a reliable waterway to navigate. The Ring includes one of these impressive locks at Bevere.
Worcestershire Waterways. A Source/Sauce of International Trade
The Worcester & Birmingham Canal opened in 1815, connecting Worcester and Birmingham to the River Severn. This enabled the import of coal from Shropshire and the West Midlands and created an international trade route which benefited the glove and porcelain industries as well as supporting the trade of locally made products - chocolate crumb, bricks and vinegar. The waterways were the main route for transporting the raw materials for these industries and delivering their products to an international market. Worcester’s most famous brand, Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce, which has been made in the town since 1837 was among the industries that relied on the canal network and it remains one of the only industries that continues to thrive today.
Weekend of Wonder: The Mid-Worcestershire Ring today
The Mid-Worcestershire Ring is 21-miles long and links three canals and a river: Droitwich Barge Canal, Droitwich Junction Canal, Worcester & Birmingham Canal and the River Severn. Approximately 250,000 pedestrians annually visit the Canal Ring, with around 2,500 boat movements through its 30 locks. The circular waterway can easily be completed on foot or in a canal boat in a single weekend.
The route enables pedestrians, cyclists and boaters to explore the contrasting landscapes of Worcestershire and its historic and contemporary architecture, passing through the attractions of Droitwich, the cathedral city of Worcester and the picturesque waters of the River Severn.
For further information visit:
The Canal & River Trust - Mid-Worcestershire Ring website
The Droitwich Waterways (Pamela May) Trust website.
Visit Worcestershire website.
The Ring project team is headed by Artistic Director, Cathy Mager, a curator and producer with 15 years experience and Project Manager, Manda Graham, who has worked in the cultural sector for 18 years. They are supported by a team of volunteers including; Beth Whalley, who is currently undertaking a PhD at King’s College London focusing on early medieval culture and contemporary arts.
Programming and Social Media Manager
Social Media Manager
- South Wales and Severn Waterways Partnership
- For Droitwich Spa
- Worcester, Birmingham & Droitwich Canal Society
- Droitwich Waterways (Pamela May) Trust
- Droitwich Arts Network
- Museum of Royal Worcester Porcelain
- New Art West Midlands
- Native - Graphic identity and website
- Digilis House Hotel
- Green Gorilla Films - Film
- F8 Creates and Hamish Gill - Photography
- Image courtesy of - Canal & River Trust Waterways Archive
- Image courtesy of - Droitwich Waterways (Pamela May) Trust
- Image courtesy of - Worcester City museum collection