The earlier weather forecasts for this walk were dire and seemed to be confirmed by the torrential rain as a few brave souls assembled at Fradley Junction. However, at the appointed time the clouds rolled away, the sky turned blue and the sun came out so we enjoyed a very pleasant, if at times quite windy, stroll along the towpaths and field paths between Fradley and Alrewas. The cold wind and exercise only made more welcoming the real fire and excellent meals in The Swan afterwards, which seemed an appropriate reward for defying the elements.
(Photo: Phil Sharpe)
This 4 mile walk around Gnosall was enjoyed by some 20 members and friends, with 4 others joining us for part of the route. Heading north from The Boat Inn along the towpath of the Shropshire Union Canal, we soon picked up the route of the old Stafford to Newport railway, now a pleasant footpath through the countryside. From Crows Nest picnic area we followed a circular route up Broadhill to the converted windmill on the top and back via lanes and the railway and towpath for a well earned drink and lunch at the pub.
(Photo: Phil Sharpe)
(Photos by Phil Sharpe)
On Sunday 26th September, the Inland Waterways Association brought together volunteers to improve the canal towpath walk and navigation through Rugeley.
32 volunteers rolled up their sleeves and made a huge difference to the appearance of the area along the canal. Benches were repaired and painted, vegetation was cleared, the newly refurbished notice boards were replaced (and now have information in them!), and the canal bank was repaired in places. Four bikes and a shopping trolley were pulled from the canal with grappling hooks. The graffiti at the Brereton end of the towpath was removed, and the Community Payback Team cleared vegetation from the sloping bank at Station Road Bridge.
Although the towpath improvements are an Inland Waterways Association initiative, British Waterways (the government body in charge of the waterway network) supplied the equipment, back up and management of the work party. They also provided a workboat and crew to facilitate the work.
Rugeley Lions Association had a team of 8 people who made a great contribution to the day, and Rugeley Town Councillor, Justin Johnson, and PCSO Liz Dale worked hard to remove the graffiti – community support in the real meaning of the words.
This is the 3rd volunteer event in Rugeley, and is making a real difference to the way the waterway looks, for the benefit of residents and visitors alike. More work parties are envisaged for the future, and will be publicised nearer the time.
See more action photos of the workparty.
Our Branch Garden Party was held courtesy of Mike and Jenny Moorse in their spacious and attractive garden alongside the Coventry Canal at Hopwas. It was blessed by mild and sunny weather, at least until mid afternoon. Thanks are due to everyone who helped organise and run this pleasant event which was thoroughly enjoyed by all who came along, although we could have coped with many more.
(Photo: Phil Sharpe)
Some 22 members and friends assembled at The Cross Keys in Penkridge for an evening walk led by Tim and Jill Burgin.
Heading south along the towpath of the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal to Lynehill Bridge, we followed a circular route by footpaths and lanes, meeting the canal again at Otherton Lock, and returned to our starting point. We were very lucky with the weather which only an hour or so earlier had been torrential rain, but was sunny and warm, if a little close, for our stroll. Afterwards, many of us enjoyed a refreshing drink and a good meal in the pub. (Photo: Phil Sharpe)
(Photos by Margaret Beardsmore)
On Sunday 18th July, volunteers gave up their time to make improvements to the Trent and Mersey Canal walk through Rugeley. This popular waterway walk needs a little love and attention for the benefit of walkers, cyclists and fishermen. In addition, some parts of the towpath have become eroded over the years, making it difficult for boaters to moor.
The Inland Waterways Association, who campaign for the maintenance and restoration of the canal system, have an initiative to upgrade the canal corridor in Rugeley. They believe that improvements will encourage more boaters to moor and spend money in the town. It will also be a pleasant place for everyone to enjoy.
About 18 volunteers, including members of the Police and a local Town Councillor, together with workers from the Community Payback Programme, were supervised by British Waterways who provided the materials for the jobs tackled. Litter was removed (again) throughout Rugeley and down to the Mossley Tavern. Graffiti was removed, fences and a bench were painted, and vegetation overgrowing the towpath was cut down. The dilapidated notice boards at Leathermill Lane were removed for refurbishment off site.
Work was started to repair the holes in the towpath which had been washed away. Many of the boat mooring rings had become overgrown with vegetation and this was cleared away, making the rings easy to see by passing boaters. It was noticeable by lunchtime just how many boaters were stopping to use these rings already!
See more photos of the work party.
The next work party will be held on the 26th September.
(Photos by Phil Sharpe)
On a bright sunny Sunday some 49 Lichfield Branch members and friends unaccountably chose to spend part of their afternoon underground in the darkness of Dudley Tunnel. It was indeed very very dark when the lights were switched off, and the thought of boatmen legging their craft and miners working in the vast limestone caverns by the light of only a few candles was scary. Fortunately, the Dudley Canal Trust's modern electric powered boat has banks of bright lights to illuminate the darkest of recesses and reveal what an amazing place this is.
Starting from the Parkhead end after a coach transfer from Tipton, we entered a very small bore brick lined tunnel with an even lower height gauge which prevents many narrow boats from entering, so trips like this are the only way for most people to experience it. The boat steerer gave us a running commentary as we passed through several unlined sections of the tunnel, enlivened by numerous calcite flows and rills on the walls and stalactites hanging from the roof.
Towards the Tipton end there are several side tunnels, ancient and modern, branching off before the boat emerged into Castle Mill Basin, an amazing quarry open to the sky with vertical walls overhung with trees and ivy from which more tunnels lead off in all directions. We followed one of these to an underground audio-visual display which explained how the complicated geology had been formed and how Castle Hill at Dudley had been hollowed out for its limestone, iron ore and coal to create the Black Country's iron industry. A circular boat trip taking in the massive man made cave of the Singing Cavern, tableaux of miners at work, and several more sections of connecting tunnels brought us back to the Basin and into the final short tunnel leading back to the Tipton portal, outside the Black Country Living Museum.
A fascinating trip, and followed by a Black Country faggots and peas supper at the famous Ma Pardoes real ale home brew pub in Netherton. A pity many of us had to drive back or we would have been able to savour more of what the old miners must have most looked forward to after a hard day down Dudley Tunnel.
The Lichfield Branch of the Inland Waterways Association (IWA) helped celebrate a historic canal boat voyage on Wednesday 19th May at Fradley Junction, where the Trent & Mersey Canal and Coventry Canal meet.
Narrowboats Heron and Jupiter are re-enacting a voyage around the canal system by famous author Tom Rolt in the centenary year of his birth. The voyage in 1939 on his narrowboat Cressy led to Tom writing his famous book Narrow Boat that inspired the founding of the Inland Waterways Association and the saving of the canal system.
The recently elected Chairman of Lichfield District Council, Councillor Barry Diggle was on hand to greet the boats and present them with a medallion showing pictures of the local canal, to add to their collection covering each of the areas they pass through. IWA members manned an exhibition about their local and national activities, and the Save Our System campaign (SOS) to improve waterways funding so they can continue to be well maintained for public benefit.
The reception and exhibition at Fradley Junction was arranged to meet the boats as they passed through the Lichfield area and to generate publicity and public support for the waterways. It is one of many events being organised by the IWA this year to focus attention on the importance of the nation’s inland waterways as a ‘linear national park’ of over 4,000 miles which is available for everyone to enjoy, free of charge.
In addition to providing a valuable recreational resource for families wanting to go for a walk, go cycling or fishing, or to go boating, the waterways are also a great place to see wildlife, and are the guardians of over 200 years of heritage. But the waterways are currently under threat due to lack of adequate funding. The event successfully highlighted this danger to the many people who visit Fradley Junction to enjoy its unique heritage.
A record turn-out of 46 joined us for this walk along the Coventry Canal and through the woods at Hopwas Hays, near Tamworth. The rain held off and the bluebells were out in force as we hoped, although perhaps not yet quite at their best, but carpeting the woodland floor nevertheless. Mike Moorse led us on a 3 to 4 mile circular route including some level walking along the canal towpath and an invigorating uphill walk through the woods, rewarded with a downhill return section. Some of us enjoyed a pint and a home-made lunch in the Red Lion afterwards.
(Photos by Ed Moss)
Our ‘Towpath Tidy’ along the Trent & Mersey Canal through Rugeley, organised in conjunction with British Waterways, attracted some 20 volunteers including our members, local residents and BW staff. We cleared all the litter from nearly 2 miles of towpath from The Mossley to Brindley Bank Aqueduct, including the worst areas on the offside at Leathermill Lane and the steps near the aqueduct. A team also filled a BW workboat with timber from a long section of collapsing wooden fencing, leaving the canal corridor looking much improved.
We hope to arrange more events in future to improve the image of the canal for boaters and local people.
Our annual Jumble Sale was once again held in the Peace Memorial Hall at Penkridge. Fortunately the inhabitants of this friendly village appear to have an insatiable appetite for jumble ! Thanks to everyone who donated goods, and cakes, and those who helped on the day, we made over £300 which was shared between Lichfield Branch and Lichfield & Hatherton Canals Restoration Trust.
No doubt we will be back again next year so why not start putting things on one side for us now ?
This second in our new series of weekday walks again proved popular both with our members and non-members who had seen it publicised locally. Led by Margaret and Derek Beardsmore we followed a winding route for 3 or 4 miles around Kingsbury Water Park and back along the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal. The weather was kind for February, especially considering how cold and snowy it had recently been. But it was sufficiently invigorating to feel that the pub lunch in the Dog & Doublet afterwards was justified.
Three-quarters of those who came were non-members, many of whom had read about it in the local press, so we hope they may join us again on more of our waterway related events.
(Photo by Margaret Beardsmore)