In this new series of 20 episodes, canal enthusiast Alan Herd - 'The Water Boatman' - travels a popular inland waterways route, The Stourport Ring in central England. It takes him through the cities of Birmingham, Worcester and Wolverhampton and on six waterways, including a stretch of the River Severn. Along the way, Alan catches lifts on a variety of boats and visits boat yards, including one at Alvechurch Marina, and industrial heritage sites, such as Bratch Pumping Station - a fine example of great British Victorian engineering.
1. Birmingham Alan begins his journey in the heart of Birmingham, known during the Industrial Revolution as the workshop of the world. He meets a family of ten on a narrow boat holiday, admires the work of canal engineer James Brindley, and meets a new resident in Gas Street Basin where historical buildings sit alongside contemporary developments. 2. Bournville Alan travels on an innovative hydrogen boat from the University of Birmingham, down the Worcester and Birmingham canal into Bournville. He stops off to find out more about the home of Cadbury chocolate who used the canals to bring the raw materials in for the manufacture of chocolate, and arriving at King's Norton, sees an unusual 'guillotine' lock. 3. Alvechurch Alan continues his journey round The Stourport Ring as he catches a ride to Alvechurch Marina where he looks around a busy working boatyard. On leaving Alvechurch, he meets a couple with a swish new river-going boat they designed themselves, and gets a chance to take over at the wheel. 4. Tardebigge Alan arrives at Tardebigge, an area full of boating heritage and a boaters' rite of passage owing to the fact that it has thirty locks to negotiate. During the winter season, the locks undergo maintenance work and Alan volunteers to join the engineers and builders and lend a hand as they repair the locks. 5. Hanbury Alan catches a boat from Stoke Wharf in the direction of Hanbury and finds out why this area is famous for salt water even though it's so far from the sea. Arriving at Hanbury Wharf he meets a fellow canal enthusiast who is restoring his boat back to the decade it was built in - the 1970s. 6. Dunhampstead / Oddingly Alan is travelling from Dunhampstead to Oddingly on the Worcester and Birmingham canal. He helps with some boat painting at a boat yard and meets an artist who is fulfilling a long-held dream of working in decorative canal crafts. Arriving in the village of Oddingly, Alan finds out about historical tales of a grisly crime and meets a wildlife enthusiast who shares some of his knowledge of what to look out for on his journey. 7. Worcester Alan arrives in the city of Worcester and finds out more about how the arrival of the canal impacted on the porcelain industry that flourished here. Alan looks around Diglis Basin and then leaves the canal behind and continues the next part of the journey on the River Severn, past the magnificent Cathedral. 8. River Severn Alan's journey round The Stourport Ring has brought him onto the River Severn as he leaves Worcester behind and journeys on a river cruiser in the direction of Stourport. He stops off to try his luck with some river angling before journeying to a busy working boatyard. 9. Stourport Alan arrives at the very place that The Stourport Ring is named after - Stourport on Severn. This Georgian town was a major port, with both the River Severn and the canal providing the route for transportation of goods to and from the sea. Alan meets a local historian to find out more, before getting roped in to an auction of boating accessories. 10. Kidderminster Alan's journey round The Stourport Ring brings him to Kidderminster. In the 17th century the town was making woollen cloth, and with the arrival of the canals in the 18th century, its role in the carpet industry began to flourish. Alan discovers how the industry began and visits a factory still making carpets with traditional methods. 11. Kinver On his journey round The Stourport Ring, Alan catches a narrowboat lift along the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal through the picturesque village of Cookley to Kinver. He visits some amazing houses carved from the local rock that were inhabited right up to the 1960s. 12. Stourbridge Alan continues his narrowboat journey round The Stourport Ring and takes a detour up the Stourbridge canal. He discovers the area's historical connection with glass-making and tries his hand at glass-blowing. 13. Dudley Alan arrives at the heart of the Black Country, rich in industrial heritage. He journeys along the Dudley canal, discovers more of the area's history at Cobb's Engine House and meets local history expert Professor Carl Chinn. 14. Swindon Alan catches a lift on a lock keeper's narrowboat, visits a historic marina and meets a group of young working boats enthusiasts along his journey. 15. The Bratch Continuing his journey round The Stourport Ring circuit of canals, Alan catches a lift on Glyn and Rosemary Phillips' old working boat through Wombourne. Alan stops off to visit the amazing old Bratch Pumping Station - a fine example of great British Victorian engineering. 16. Wolverhampton Alan Herd has reached the 21 lock flight of Wolverhampton. He journeys through the locks on Duncan Pottinger's old working boat and stops off to try his hand at an old canal trade - traditional sign writing. 17. Tipton Alan visits a historic working boat gathering at the Black Country Living Museum beside the Dudley canal in Tipton. He finds out about historic boats 'President' and 'Sharpness' and journeys on a tug up to Tividale. 18. Oldbury Old Line Alan has reached Oldbury in the West Midlands on his journey round The Stourport Ring. As he motors along the Old line canal, he discovers remnants of its industrial heritage and joins volunteers who are cleaning the Titford Canal. 19. Oldbury New Line Alan is journeying round the canal route known as The Stourport Ring. Today, he explores the New Line in Oldbury as he catches lifts on two different narrowboats and travels under one of the busiest spots in England where two canals and a railway line meet a motorway. 20. Smethwick Alan is on the last leg of his journey exploring The Stourport Ring. He catches a lift on Martin Jennens' old working boat through Smethwick and past the Smethwick pumping station. Arriving at Hockley Port Junction, Alan walks off the towpath into Birmingham Jewellery Quarter before taking his final lift on a dining boat into the centre of the city.