Ten intrepid walkers gathered at Baddesley Ensor on a dry but frosty morning, with a bitterly cold wind, for this 'challenging' expedition on the edge of Atherstone. The challenge lay not so much with the distance, a good 6 miles, but with the 300 feet (90 metres) height difference between the top of the hill at Baddesley Common and the Coventry Canal at Atherstone Bottom Lock; easy on the way down, apart from some black ice patches on the lane, but a bit of a struggle on the way back !
From near St Nicholas Church we detoured first around Baddesley Ensor before crossing the common to appreciate the panoramic views of Merevale Hall and the Warwickshire countryside. Descending Folly Lane, the route crossed the A5 and railway line to reach the canal at Baddesley Bridge for a gentle stroll down locks 8 to 11 of the Atherstone flight.
|Photos by Phil Sharpe|
Leaving the canal at Bradley Green Bridge, the walk crossed fields back to the A5 at Grendon, to climb back uphill via Waste Lane; although the waste from the collieries in this former coal mining area seems to have been largely reclaimed. But as the lane turned into a steep and severely eroded footpath the walkers were feeling a bit 'wasted' themselves before making it back to civilisation. Most of us then retired to the nearby Rose Inn at Baxterley where good food and a real fire helped restore some feeling to frozen hands and tired limbs.
Lichfield IWA were given a grant to improve the canal side in Rugeley and provide ‘country moorings’ in the Brindley Bank Area from ‘legacy funding’ following on from the IWA National Festival in Burton-on-Trent.
After negotiations with CRT, it was agreed to install 20 mooring rings on the Trent and Mersey Canal, between the Brindley Bank Aqueduct and Rugeley Bypass Bridge. CRT agreed to provide a hopper and all necessary equipment and materials, with IWA Lichfield providing the mooring rings and manpower. As we did not have any experience of installing mooring rings, we asked Brian Holmes of Shropshire Union Canal Society to be our team leader as he had the necessary expertise – and what a good team leader he was!
On Thursday evening we moored our boat, together with Brian’s ‘Thursday’s Child’ next to the hopper which was already on site. Friday morning saw Brian digging trial holes, whilst Derek and Ed cut the grass in preparation for Saturday.
Brian was up early digging again on Saturday morning, and by the time the main work party had arrived, he had three examples – (1) hole, with mooring ring in situ, and concreted over (2) hole with mooring ring showing and (3) just the hole. This meant that everyone else could see exactly what needed to be done – in other words ‘Here’s one we prepared earlier’.
We had a really good turnout of 16 volunteers from different organisations – some wearing more than ‘one hat’: IWA members, Brian from SUCCS, Rugeley Lions, LHCRT, Stafford Riverway Link, and Ulrich from WRG (who brought his brick kit). Everyone played their part, from the hole diggers, the concrete mixers, the wood cutters, the tree removers, the bricklayers, the step clearers, the undergrowth removers, not to mention the lunch, cake and tea makers. We completed the job at 3 pm, shortly before it began to rain, with everyone saying what a good day it had been, and what were we doing next?
On Sunday, 14 local volunteers turned out for a couple of hours in the morning for a scrub-bashing session. We managed to clear the long path leading from Wolseley Road down to the ‘Bloody Steps’, which is part of our intended ‘Brindley Trail’. We have just had our grant application to the Community Paths Initiative approved, and will receive £500 towards resurfacing the 150 yard footpath - providing we can raise another £1500 and do the work before the 31st March 2013!
Details of our next work party will be on our IWA webpage shortly, or you can ring Margaret on 07581 794111 or email email@example.com and ask to be put on the email list for all details of future events.
(Report & photos by Margaret Beardsmore. For more photos see Google album.)
On a wet and overcast morning, twelve intrepid walkers set off from Armitage for our branch walk. We were dressed in waterproof coats, trousers and boots. Naturally the clouds lifted and it became a pleasant autumn day.
We crossed the Trent and Mersey Canal at Armitage, and then went by towpath towards Handsacre for a short way. The walk then turned left and went by tunnel under the railway, crossed the River Trent by bridge and then across the fields towards Hill Ridware.
Just before Hill Ridware we turned left by the lake locally known as ‘The Floods’ which is full of wild birds. We went across fields to the Cawarden Reclamation Yard, eventually hitting the main road at ‘The Yorkshireman’ pub in Rugeley, and returning via the towpath to Armitage.
Despite the walk being longer than usual, with lots of stiles and lots of mud, everyone said they had thoroughly enjoyed themselves and thanked Derek for finding such an interesting walk.
We are about to put together our walking programme for 2013, and would welcome any suggestions for future walks – please contact me on 07581 79411 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
(Report by Margaret Beardsmore, photos by Phil Sharpe)
12 walkers, plus 1 dog, met at Norbury Junction for this 3 mile circular walk along the canal towpath, through a nature reserve and back along field tracks. The weather was a glorious October day and could not have been better.
The walk started by going north along the towpath of the Shropshire Union Canal, having looked briefly at the start of the derelict Shrewsbury and Newport network of canals. These are under active restoration but are mainly in private ownership and not available for walking. However the first lock could be seen from the junction bridge and is now a dry dock.
Passing under Bridge 39 called High Bridge we paused briefly to consider the unique feature of its arch; a short telegraph pole on a cross strut. Up to the 1960's this pole carried wires running along the towpath, but all other traces of the route have now disappeared.
Leaving the towpath at Bridge 40, we ascended to the Loynton Moss Nature Reserve. This is owned by the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust and is a post glacial landscape. As the ice age came to an end, huge blocks of ice broke from retreating glaciers gouging a depression known as a kettle hole. When the ice blocks eventually melted, this depression was filled with water to form a mere (lake) that extended more than 100 acres. Hundreds of years of natural processes and human activity have seen dramatic changes to the landscape. The lake has disappeared to form an area of the Moss.
The diverse range of insects attracts many breeding bird species each summer including willow warbler, reed warbler and reed bunting. Beyond the network of paths, the largely inaccessible areas of reedbed and wet woodland are home to a rich flora including uncommon plants such as marsh cinquefoil, cowbane and elongated sedge. The area of alder carr is a wonderful stand of wet woodland and when flooded resembles a miniature Everglades swamp. In the summer the grasslands are buzzing with insects feeding on wildflowers such as yellow rattle, birds foot trefoil and knapweed. There are information boards at points throughout the Reserve and it is well worth a visit if in the area.
Using footpaths brought us back to the road by the High Bridge which we crossed carefully, dodging the traffic, to reach a footpath going along farm tracks. After a while the boats on the Shropshire Union Canal came into view across the fields. We paused again at the site, and moat, of the old Norbury Manor House. The moat is still in water. Again there was an information board to read.
The track finally led onto the road by the starting point at the boatyard. Here there is a Millennium Boulder Trail sign, on a huge boulder. This is a six-mile walk offering plenty of interest. We followed part of it today - from the Junction to part way through Loynton Moss.
A thoroughly enjoyable morning with plenty of variety to the walk.
(Report and photo by Kaye Harrison)
Some 20 IWA members, friends and local residents enjoyed this 5 mile stroll through attractive countryside south of Whittington on a very pleasant, warm and sunny day. Starting from the village we followed footpaths through the fields and the disused rifle ranges of Whittington Barracks. Earth mounds mark the firing positions and the target areas retain their antiquated machinery and bunkers set in front of sandy hillsides. The path then led to the edge of Hopwas Woods which we skirted before descending to the Birmingam & Fazeley Canal at Tamhorn Park Bridge.
(Photos by Phil Sharpe)
The canal was busy with passing boats as we followed the towpath past Tamhorn House and cottages to Hademore Farm. Here we left the canal to walk through the strawberry farm with plenty of ripe fruit waiting picking. The lanes around Coton House then led us back to the village, passing the new cricket pavilion and St Giles hospice, for some well earned refreshments at The Dog Inn. Thanks to Ed Rule for researching and leading this walk which showed that we did have a bit of summer this year after all.
A couple of canal wharfs, a pair of churches, and two historic murders featured on this walk along the Trent & Mersey Canal, led by Marion Kettle of the Landor Society, Rugeley’s local history group.
At Brindley Bank, the venue of several recent work parties, the uncovered tramway track shows how coal was transported from the canal wharf to the boilers of the pumping station. Some of the original sandstone ‘bloody steps’ have been rediscovered and the story was told of how they acquired their name from the murder of a canal boat passenger in 1839.
Crossing the River Trent on the aqueduct, and the canal at the turnover bridge 68, the walk returned to Brindley Bank on the other side of the canal. Here is the site of a possible wharf where it has been speculated that flints were transhipped from canal to river boats for transport to Colton Mill.
Continuing along the towpath to Station Road brought us to a pair of churches. The ‘old chancel’ is Rugeley’s original medieval church of which the chancel and tower survive, although now in need of major repairs. The stones of the nave are reputed to have been used in building St Augustine’s church across the road in 1823. In the churchyard are the graves of that unfortunate canal murder victim, Christina Collins, and also the family vault of Doctor William Palmer, another infamous murderer who was said to have poisoned several friends and relatives in the years before 1856.
Thankfully, Rugeley is a safer place now than in Victorian times and all of us made it back to the starting point of our circular walk without any more murders !
Community Volunteers Renovate Brindley Bank Area in Rugeley:
16 community volunteers worked hard to improve the Brindley Bank area in Rugeley on Sunday 27th May. The adults were helped by enthusiastic young volunteer James, who was most disappointed when he ran out of litter to pick, but turned his hand to helping clear Himalayan Balsam and ivy. Other tasks included mowing and strimming the bankside along the country moorings and cutting back bushes overgrowing the path down from the road.
The work party was part of a continuing project to improve the Brindley Bank area, by the Trent and Mersey Canal aqueduct in Rugeley. Part of the work was to uncover the rest of the historic coal tramway which has been discovered on the site. After much digging on a very hot day, the end of the tramway track and wharf was finally revealed. Coal used to be transported by narrow boats to Brindley Bank and then put onto small tram carts. These would have been taken by the tramway into Brindley Bank Pumping Station to fuel the steam engine.
The work parties, both at this site and along the canal in Rugeley Town, are lead by the Inland Waterways Association, and supported by local volunteers including helpers from Rugeley Lions, the Landor Society, and Town Councillors. Refreshments were kindly provided by Etching Hill Women’s Institute.
For more of Margaret Beardsmore’s photos of the work party see the photo album.
This IWA evening walk followed the route of the former River Sow Navigation, opened in 1816 between Stafford and the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal at Baswich. It was led by Ivor Hind, Chairman of the Stafford Riverway Link Community Interest Company, which is promoting restoration of the link.
Starting from the Civic Centre at South Walls, about 20 participants first saw the site of the original canal basin at Bridge Street, now covered by later buildings. Since the navigation became disused in the 1920s the water level has been lowered and the riverside developed and redeveloped, but the river channel remains unobstructed and a well surfaced towpath makes walking easy out of the town under the Queensway, Riverway and Fairway bridges. Here the towpath changes sides and becomes an unsurfaced, unfenced route across the meadows, with cows and wildlife for company.
The river seems rather narrow, shallow and winding in places and will need some improvement for larger boats. At Baswich a footbridge once crossed the tributary River Penk but now crosses dry land since the river was diverted. A narrow canal lock used to connect via an iron trough aqueduct to a canal basin and then the main line of the Staffs & Worcs Canal. Unfortunately, the lock and aqueduct have long since been demolished but recent trial excavations have uncovered parts of the walls of the canal basin. The towpath bridge and lock cottage have also disappeared, but compared with most other waterway restoration projects the SRL scheme is relatively straight forward and definitely achievable, with more local support.
Our walk then retraced the 1½ mile route back to Stafford as the evening light started to fade, after a very pleasant and interesting walk.
(All photos by Phil Sharpe)
(For more information see www.stafford-riverway-link.co.uk )
This walk was dual badged as an IWA Lichfield Branch monthly walk and also as one of a programme of Canal Heritage Walks being arranged throughout May for the West Midlands Waterways Partnership, part of the new Canal & River Trust soon to take over from British Waterways.
(Photo by Phil Sharpe)
Perhaps the limited advance publicity, the urban location, parking charges or the poor weather forecast reduced the attendance, but the 8 of us (and 2 dogs) that did participate thoroughly enjoyed an interesting walk. The rain was no worse than light drizzle and the urban environment is a fascinating mix of heritage and new buildings. Our guide, Denis Cooper, explained the history of the Walsall Canal as we walked from the Town Wharf basin past the restored warehouse and wharfingers cottage, along the Town Arm and up the flight of 8 locks, passing old basins and the Albion Flour Mill now attractively converted to flats. At the top lock the toll house and Boatman’s Rest mission, once a local canal museum, are currently empty but the Old Birchills Wharf boatyard remains busy, as the walk continued through to Birchills Junction.
Returning to Walsall Wharf, refreshments were enjoyed at the coffee shop in the corner of The New Art Gallery, and some of us had time to explore its free exhibitions of paintings, drawings and sculptures. We found several waterway scenes, including an etching of the Thames at Old Chelsea by Whistler and ‘Le Canal’ by Lepine, amongst the impressive collection of Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh, Turner, Epstein, etc. Walsall certainly merits more visitors by canal; after all, where else can you so easily combine canal heritage with high art ?!
The Waterside Action Team Rugeley (WATR) had additional help on Sunday from the Victory Christian Centre Youth Group. WATR, which is a community group lead by the Inland Waterways Association, are gradually improving the Brindley Bank area of Rugeley by the Canal Aqueduct.
(Photos by Margaret Beardsmore)
The latest development is a bid for money from the Community Paths Initiative to help improve the public footpath leading from Wolseley Road down to the ‘Bloody Steps’ by the canal. This path will form part of a 2.5 mile circular walk around the canal which will be named ‘the Brindley Trail’ in honour of James Brindley, the chief engineer of the Trent and Mersey Canal.
The young volunteers made a start clearing years of accumulated undergrowth, weeds and litter and after the morning much progress had been made.
Other volunteers worked hard to uncover the old tramway which is by the aqueduct, renovated a bench across the canal, and generally tidied the area up. Further work parties will be arranged in the near future but anyone going to have a look at the area will already notice the difference!
Our annual Jumble Sale at Penkridge raised nearly £600 for the waterways this year; a very successful outcome and the best result for several years. Organised jointly by Lichfield Branch IWA and Lichfield & Hatherton Canals Restoration Trust, the proceeds are divided equally between the two and go to support restoration work on the local canal system. Thanks are due to everyone that assisted by donating jumble, collecting or storing it, distributing posters, helping with the set-up and sales on the day, making cakes and serving refreshments, etc. A truly co-operative and enjoyable event which also finds good homes for what may otherwise be thrown away. (Photo from LHCRT)
(Photos by Phil Sharpe)
21 walkers and several dogs assembled at the Turf Lodge for this enjoyable stroll in the early spring sunshine. Crossing the busy A5 to the the truncated end of the Cannock Extension Canal, we passed two active boatyards and colourful moored boats, and noted the remains of several former colliery basins. Leaving the canal at Wyrley Grove Bridge we spotted a herd of deer in the nearby fields. From Lime Lane, well trodden paths through the woodland edge of Wyrley Common led us to Engine Lane where the remains of the Slough Arm Canal were visible, still holding some water. Heading north along an old mineral railway brought us back to the A5 but a pleasant route across the fields avoided the traffic and returned us to the canal at Pelsall Road Bridge for a short stroll back to the pub.
A good turn-out from Rugeley Lions, IWA members and friends made short work of planting 420 trees along the Trent & Mersey Canal in Rugeley.
The work party, supervised by British Waterways, had been postponed for 2 weeks due to frozen ground but the rescheduled day was blessed by mild and bright weather, ideal for the task. The trees have been donated by The Woodland Trust as part of their Jubilee Woods Project to plant millions of trees across the country to commemorate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.
Our trees were being used to replant the gaps in the towpath hedge north of Leathermill Lane, to improve the appearance of the canal through the town and encourage more wildlife. 420 trees sounded challenging but with such good support, and fortified by tea and cake, the job was completed in just over 2 hours.
(Photo by Phil Sharpe)
On a frosty, sunny, blue skied winter’s morning, ten stalwarts, who had obviously ignored the weather warnings, ventured out for our monthly walk starting at the Dog and Doublet Public House, Bodymoor Heath.
The canal was frozen, but, due to the pattern of the ice, it was obvious that there had been some sort of boat traffic in the last 24 hours. However, no boats (moving that is) were seen this morning. Our walk took us down the towpath of the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal to Kingsbury Water Park. There followed a walk around two of the large lakes that form a small part of this large area of extinct gravel quarries that have been turned into a magnificent water park.
A large variety of birds were visible on the lakes, including the normal array of mallards, swans, coots and moorhens, plus a heron and some other members of the duck family that I, unfortunately, could not identify. One of our walkers was lucky enough to see a Kingfisher.
Once round the lakes, it was back up the canal towpath to the Dog and Doublet where a very enjoyable lunch was had by all.
(Photo by Margaret Beardsmore)
23 walkers braved the rain and turned up at the old Rothen’s Coal Yard, Coleshill Street, Atherstone where BW had opened up the yard for car parking just for us!
We gathered in the rain at Lock 1, and just as we set off the sun came out and remained with us for the rest of our visit.
We walked down to Lock 4 which was surrounded by security fencing; the lock had been completely drained as had the pound below it. This enabled us to see at first hand how deep the locks at Atherstone are, and also to see the work going on in the lock. Special scaffold boards had been placed across the lock with handrails, enabling us to cross the lock to get a much better view.
Talking to the site foreman, he explained the work that was going on. A new lock gate apparently costs somewhere in the region of £20,000 to replace, plus labour. To offset this cost, BW had constructed the gates with rebates, where sacrificial fillets of oak and rubber were fitted (rubber on the leading edges of the gates and 3” by 2” oak planks on the cill). This means that every 4 to 5 years they can replace the rubber and oak fillets, thereby stopping leaks in the lock. Six locks can be similarly repaired at a total cost of £900 for materials – makes economic sense!
We continued with our walk down to Lock 9 where similar work was being undertaken, and then strolled back to our cars. A very informative morning; something BW and its successor should do much more often.
There was an excellent turnout for the traditional New Year’s Day Walk which is an annual event for Lichfield Branch. Thirty Five walkers met at the National Memorial Arboretum for a most enjoyable walk led by Ed Rule. Our circular route took us to Alrewas, along the Trent and Mersey Canal towpath up past Wychnor and then across the A38 and along a path by the railway back to the Arboretum where most people had a well deserved lunch.
(Photos by Margaret Beardsmore)