This September (Saturday 18th), Birmingham Friends of the Earth, in conjunction with Heart of England Long Distance Walkers Association (LDWA), are organising a marathon length walk/run called the “Birmingham Canal Canter”.

Challenge walks can raise big money – Oxfam’s 100k Trailwalker over the South Downs raises in excess of a million pounds every year. Our more modest target will raise a percentage from everyone’s entry fee and give the option to be sponsored. It’s not every day you walk/run a marathon and hopefully friends and family will back the achievement with hard cash.

Imagine if a hundred people each raised a hundred pounds…  that would make this BFOE’s top fundraising event.

Nationally, the LDWA have the expertise in organising challenge walks, but locally are not sure of the required 25 helpers needed for the event. Without the 10 volunteers BFOE have promised to man checkpoints and prepare food, Heart of England would not have considered running the event. This collaboration will bring tangible benefits to both parties and BFoE are still looking for a few more people who can commit to doing this or even to making food to be consumed at the checkpoints. If you would like to help, please email – you will be fully briefed and it should be a fun day.

Starting and finishing at Alexander Stadium Perry Barr, the 26.2 mile route takes in the Tame Valley Canal Grand Union Canal, Cole Valley Way, Stratford on Avon Canal, Worcester Canal and returns on the Grand Union and Tame Valley Canals. The route is almost completely off-road with barely a crossing to make and very little ascent, which should make it a fast event for the runners and a good entry level event for those new to challenge walking.

It passes Brindley place, where the new NIA and Convention Centre contrast to the human scale of the 18th century buildings and canal furniture that lines the central hub of what was then Britain’s thriving empire, now centre of the cappuccino culture. It runs by Sarehole Mill, inspiration to Tolkien’s middle earth adventure, the mill featuring as Saruman’s attempt to industrialise and enslave the shire. Twice it passes the dark bowels of Spaghetti Junction, which would surely have given the young Tolkien’s imagination a new take on Mordor. Here under this 20th century temple to the motor car, the degradation, the fumes, and the noise make Fritz Lang’s metropolis seem like a utopia. Surprisingly, though most of the route is rural, linear arms of the countryside penetrate like lungs deep into the city. It’s amazing how quickly nature reclaims things; don’t be surprised to see herons, kingfishers foxes and other wildlife. Never dull, this walk explores the familiar landmarks of Birmingham but not as you’d know them. Cadbury’s, Birmingham University, even Selly Oak all look different to the façade they present to the street.

As a challenge walk there’s a time limit of 10 hours. This may sound daunting but keep to a steady 3 miles per hour, avoid a long leisurely lunch and you’ll make it. If you’re new to walking longer distances some preparations are advised.  Build up the mileage over the 4 weekends prior start on 10 miles, then 15, then 20, and take a rest the weekend before the event. Witch Hazel was recommended for toughening feet when I first started walking but I couldn’t stand the smell so I can’t comment on its effectiveness. Seriously, bring a spare pair of socks as the originals will have lost their bounce after 18 miles of walking or wear 2 pairs; a thin pair underneath a thick pair.  If you’re likely to get blisters, “compeed” – a waxy cream – will cool the area and help delay their formation.

Don’t forget to bring a mug (how could we use disposable cups), waterproofs – bringing them will help guarantee good weather – and O/S Explorer 220 or Landranger 139 maps. There will be four checkpoints with refreshments provided, and a tally taken from entrants to ensure no one gets lost. A hot meal and hot drinks will be provided at the finish with vegan/vegetarian options. It’s suggested you bring sandwiches, although food will be provided at some of the checkpoints. Bear in mind that 10 hours walk could burn 3000 extra calories – a wonderful fact for most of us but if you don’t fuel the engine it could stall.

On completion, a certificate is provided confirming and congratulating the achievement.


£8 in advance (with a discount of £1 for LDWA members).
Entry forms are available in reception at the Warehouse or online at

Places will be available on the day, providing the entry limit of 250 has not been reached, at a cost of £10. Good value when compared with other running events where only drinks are provided. This is not just another “race for climate change”, it’s the official non-nuclear one!!!