2011 Activities

Work Party at Rugeley - Sunday 4 December 2011

The latest in Lichfield Branch's work parties on the Trent & Mersey Canal continued the improvements to the canalside at Brindley Bank in Rugeley.  Led by Stuart Collins of BW, our 12 volunteers turned amateur archaeologists to uncover more of the canal wharf and tramway and reveal two of the original 'bloody steps'.  Digging out some stubborn tree roots and a covering of soil exposed a further length of the brick paved wharf with its 2 foot gauge tramway, once used to take coal to the boilerhouse of Brindley Bank pumping station.  The spoil was used to backfill and level the ground behind the canal edge piling.  Meanwhile another team removed dead trees and tackled undergrowth alongside the present steps, where a trial excavation uncovered two of the original sandstone 'bloody steps'; a piece of local history rediscovered.

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(Photos by Phil Sharpe & Derek Beardsmore)

Fradley Junction Open Day & Walk - Thursday 1 December 2011

About 40 members and friends assembled by the BW Yard at Fradley Junction for a walk around Fradley Pool and a site visit to see repair work on the canal locks.  Fradley Pool is an old canal reservoir now a popular nature reserve with a circular walk through the surrounding woodland, much enjoyed by all in the winter sunshine.  Boardwalks give easy access to the waterside and tree sculptures, interpretation boards and audio posts describe its history and wildlife.  An attractive thatched hide gives a full view of the birds on the pool.

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(Photos by Phil Sharpe)

Returning to the canal we had a close-up look at the lock repairs, explained to us by British Waterways' engineers.  Both Keepers Lock 16 and Hunts Lock 15 were dewatered for brickwork repairs, gate relining and sealing work on the cills to keep them watertight.  Interesting views of the paddle chambers and timbers in the forebay of the locks gave an insight into what is normally hidden under water.

Litter Pick at Rugeley - Saturday 19 November 2011

armitage_cubsTwelve young volunteers from the First Armitage Cubs group spent a morning picking up litter along nearly 3 miles of the Trent & Mersey Canal.  The cubs walked from The Mossley at Rugeley to the church at Armitage, clearing the towpath and adjacent areas of unsightly plastic bags, cans, bottles and assorted rubbish.  Accompanied by parents and members of IWA, and with equipment and support from British Waterways, they filled about 20 large sacks with litter, and even retrieved a supermarket trolley from the bottom of a steep embankment.  The enthusiastic youngsters worked hard to improve the canal environment for local people, visitors and wildlife.   (Photo by Phil Sharpe)

Shugborough & Cannock Chase Walk - Thursday 3 November 2011

Walkers_at_Little_HaywoodThe weather gods once again co-operated as the threatened rain held off and a lucky 13 of us, plus several dogs, enjoyed a dry and mild morning walk.  From Great Haywood we crossed the Essex packhorse bridge into Shugborough Park, passing monuments and follies to the Milford Road, then followed the Sherbrook Valley deep into Cannock Chase Forest.  The red and brown autumn colours of the trees were spectacular as Ed Rule guided us past Brocton Coppice, over the stepping stones, and around the hills to Severn Springs.  Crossing the River Trent again at Weetman's Bridge we followed the Trent & Mersey Canal towpath from Little Haywood back to Great Haywood to complete a varied and interesting 5 mile circuit.  There we retired to The Clifford Arms for a well earned rest and a very good meal.

(Photo by Phil Sharpe)

Chasewater Walk - Thursday 6 October 2011

Walkers_at_ChasewaterA small band of walkers braved a poor weather forecast to enjoy blue skies, if a little breezy, on this stroll around Chasewater Country Park.  With the main reservoir still largely drained for repairs, and the other water areas rejoicing in names such as Slurry Pool and Norton Bog, one might have been excused low expectations of the scenery.  In fact there is a fascinating mixture of attractive ponds, small hills, woodland and heather clad heaths around the north shore of Chasewater.
Ably led by Di Salomson who has known the area all her life, we followed made and unmade paths and a long boardwalk across some marshy ground for a most interesting walk.  We saw views over the whole area from a hilltop, visited the end of the dam to see the repair works and walked to the Anglesey Branch Canal, which is temporarily closed by a silt curtain dam while contruction work continues.  All this worked up a healthy appetite and thirst which was well satisfied back at the Uxbridge Arms in Chasetown.
(Photo by Phil Sharpe)

Canal Work Parties at Rugeley - Friday 9 & Sunday 11 September 2011


Cannock Chase MP Aidan Burley and British Waterways Manager Darren Green joined IWA members and local volunteers to help with the ongoing improvement of the canal through Rugeley.  On the Friday they travelled by boat from Armitage to Brindley Bank to see the results of previous work. There they joined a group clearing soil from the old wharf, cleaning up litter and clearing vegetation, as well as painting railings and trimming trees. On the Sunday more volunteers worked from Leathermill Lane on painting, clearing and tidying up the towpath through the town.

(Photo by Harry Arnold - Waterway Images) 

See more photos of the work parties here.

Fradley Junction Walk - Tuesday 6 September 2011


A blustery wind greeted the 18 walkers who turned out for the Lichfield Branch walk in September. We started from Fradley BW yard and headed down the towpath to Alrewas.

The circular walk then crossed the fields to Fradley Village, returning along the Coventry Canal to Fradley Junction, where the Kingfisher cafe provided an excellent and well-deserved lunch.

(Photo by Derek Beardsmore)


Wolseley Bridge Walk - Wednesday 15 June 2011

walkers_at_brindley_bankA pleasantly mild evening saw nearly 30 walkers assemble at Wolseley Bridge for a 4.5 mile countryside walk on the edge of Rugeley.  Members of IWA, the Rugeley Lions and others were ably led round by Ed Rule with Tim & Jill Burgin guiding some late arrivals at the rear. 

A winding path through woods and across fields on the edge of Cannock Chase gave us panoramic views over the Trent valley before dropping down to the Trent & Mersey Canal at Brindley Bank.  Here we heard how the 'Bloody Steps' got their name and saw the recently painted aqueduct railings and clearance done by the work parties.  A level stroll along the towpath brought us back to the Wolseley Arms for a welcome drink and meal.            (Photo by Phil Sharpe)

Canalside Work Party at Rugeley - Sunday 22 May 2011

Rugeley Community Volunteers Improve Canal Aqueduct Area:


A blustery wind and overcast sky greeted 19 volunteers as they gathered at the Brindley Bank Aqueduct area on Sunday morning.

With heavy showers forecast, the group rolled their sleeves up and tackled the long-standing graffiti on the bridge wall. Luckily, they had brought that magic ingredient, elbow grease! Four hours later the graffiti was gone.

Another group did an excellent job of painting the aqueduct railings white.  The ‘gardening team’ cut the grass, removed Himalayan Balsam and trimmed vegetation along the path leading from Wolseley Road.

 The work party was organised by the Inland Waterways Association, and supervised by British Waterways.  Volunteers included local residents, Inland Waterways Association Members, Rugeley Lions, Landor Society, Town Councillors, a Police Community Support Officer and helpers from Gnosall, Wolverhampton and Hednesford.

The work party was one of a series which are being held throughout the year. The longer term aim is to re-surface the path leading from Wolseley Road, re-profile the historic ‘Bloody Steps’, and improve the canalside area.

For information on future work parties, please email margaret.beardsmore@waterways.org.uk . Or ring 07581 794111.

(Photo by Margaret Beardsmore)     See more photos of the workparty.

Lichfield Canal Site Visit - Wednesday 18 May 2011

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(Photos by Phil Sharpe)
About 40 walkers enjoyed this evening stroll to see progress on the restoration of the Lichfield Canal.  Bob Williams of the Lichfield & Hatherton Canals Restoration Trust conducted the tour around 'Borrowcop Locks Canal Park' at Tamworth Road in Lichfield, where part of the canal is now in water again for the first time in over 50 years.

Contractors have recently completed work to remove the large land drain pipe from the head of Lock 25 to below Lock 26, allowing the intervening Pound 26 to be lined with bentonite matting.  This modern waterproofing material does the job of the old puddle clay and allows the pound to refill whenever there is enough rainfall flow through the drain.  A side drain also had to be diverted under the canal and around Lock 26, and the damaged invert of Lock 26 replaced with a new concrete floor.

The Trust's volunteers have been working on this site for 14 years, excavating and rebuilding the partly demolished locks and preparing for rewatering the canal.  Work continues to restore the top cill in Lock 26 where the central outlet from the ground paddles is being reconstructed and other brickwork repairs carried out.  Construction of an overflow weir and a new section of towpath wall where the canal meets the A38 should allow further rewatering of the pound below Lock 26 when funding is available.

To compare the picture above with one taken in March when the work was underway see the News page.

Walk at Hopwas Woods - Thursday 5 May 2011

Although the weather was kind for this annual walk, the bluebells were past their best this time.  Apparently the cold winter is what bulbs like and with the warm April, spring came early this year.  However, the 14 walkers enjoyed the woodland walk and the towpath trail, and several 'retired' to the Red Lion for lunch afterwards.

Rugeley Work Parties - Saturday 12 & Sunday 13 March 2011

Volunteers Improve Rugeley Canal Towpath and Brindley Bank Area

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(Photos by Margaret Beardsmore)

Over the weekend of the 12/13th March, 25 local volunteers continued their improvements to the Canal side area in Rugeley Town Centre and Brindley Bank /’Bloody Steps’ at the north end of the town.

On Saturday, work concentrated on the towpath near Leathermill Lane, with vegetation clearance, painting of bench and access points, work to stop bank erosion, and litter picking from Brindley Bank down to the Mossley Tavern.  On the very wet Sunday morning, everyone ‘swooped’ on the bottom of the ‘Bloody Steps’ to clear many years’ of vegetation and rubbish.  The aim at this part of the canal side is to create a pleasant open parkland area that attracts walkers.  It is also hoped that a greater use of the path will deter youths from anti social behaviour.

The weekend was organised by the Inland Waterways Association, but supervised by British Waterways, who also provided a workboat and driver.  The boat was used to clear waterborne rubbish and offside litter, which was then taken away at the end of the weekend.  Rugeley Lions’ members put in a huge amount of effort; one of our PCSOs lent us not only his support but also a lot of muscle, whilst the Community Payback Team did a further litter pick throughout the area.  The Landor (local history) Society gave their moral support by way of cake and biscuits!

All involved had a thoroughly good time, which helped to lessen the earlier disappointment of not succeeding in the effort to raise funds from a Lottery Grant.  Unfortunately, so many groups had applied for money from the final tranche of Lottery Funding that the Lottery Team had to turn down otherwise acceptable bids.  The Inland Waterways Association are planning a Public Consultation in the near future, to discuss what improvements local residents would like to see in the Brindley Bank/’Bloody Steps’ area.  The whole area has now been surveyed and plans have been drawn up which will help future funding bids.

Anyone who is interested in knowing more can contact margaret.beardsmore@waterways.org.uk

See more photos of the work party on the Saturday and on the Sunday.

Daw End Canal Walk - Thursday 10 March 2011

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(Photos by Phil Sharpe)

Some 22 walkers joined us for this windy but dry stroll along the Daw End Branch of the Wyrley & Essington Canal, part of the Birmingham Canal Navigations (BCN) system.  Starting from the Manor Arms PH at Daw End we followed the towpath to Longwood Junction where we walked round the Hay Head Woods nature reserve, which was once a limestone quarry and the terminus of the canal.  The canal and basin are very overgrown now but west of Longwood Road the arm is still full of boats as part of the moorings of Longwood Boat Club.  After a very welcome tea and coffee break in their warm clubhouse, we returned along the canal for lunch at the pub.  Thanks to Brenda Ward for leading the walk and explaining some of the history of this fascinating area.

Jumble Sale at Penkridge - Saturday 5 March 2011

Our annual jumble sale at Penkridge, in partnership with the Lichfield & Hatherton Canals Restoration Trust, was very successful this year and raised over £500 divided between our two organisations.  We had around 200 customers, some of whom were queueing outside for nearly an hour before we opened, and kept us all busy as they sought out some very good bargains.  Thanks to everyone who donated the jumble, helped us set-up and serve on the day, ran the catering and distributed the all-important publicity posters beforehand.

Walk at Stone - Thursday 17 February 2011

The weather was fine, if a little cold for our circular walk around Stone.   We started at Star Lock and, ably led by Ivor Caplan, the party of about 25 set off along the towpath to Meaford.   The way back was along country roads, tracks across fields and then a short distance along the roads of Stone to Weatherspoons Inn in the old Post Office.   Lunch was a good social opportunity to enjoy the company of fellow walkers.   We were delighted to be joined by members of Stoke Branch and a number of other guests on this occasion.    Thank you to Margaret Beardsmore for co-ordinating the programme, with very special thanks to Ivor, who led the group, and to Joan for bringing up the rear, ensuring our safe return.

New Year's Day Walk at Lichfield - Saturday 1 January 2011

New Year's Day dawned dull and cold, but around 30 ventured out to follow a well organised walk around the lakes and parks in Lichfield.  Most of the walkers were regulars, but it was great to see a few new faces.  The walk took us around the lakes, still frozen in places, and then into the parks through the areas of refurbishment which will make a big difference when completed.  We then returned to The Feathers Pub for lunch for a very good and varied menu.  It is alway good to see IWA members on the first day of a new year, and our thanks must go to Carole and Denis Cooper for, once again, giving us a thoroughly enjoyable walk.