This walk on a Thursday attracted a number of new non-IWA members and fourteen of us assembled in the car park of The Clifford Arms in Great Haywood.
After crossing the busy A51, the plan had been to proceed across fields north-easterly towards the hamlet of Tolldish but a fresh crop had just been sown obscuring the footpath. Moreover, it was wet underfoot and so we diverted along Tolldish Lane before turning right towards Moreton House. The path went gently uphill, Blithfield Reservoir lay two miles to our left but out of sight, and Cannock Chase loomed large on our right. Otherwise there wasn't much to see apart from farmland, cows and sheep. Like a flight of locks all the stiles came together on this walk and we crossed the first one at Moreton House. We were now facing south, and at Far Coley Farm we came across a large number of caravans which were being stored there out of season.
Heading downhill, the stiles came thick and fast, the grass too was longer here and as if on cue the rain came down. It was soon over, however, and we entered Colwich close to an old clay quarry, now a local nature reserve. Passing under the A51 we had to cross the busy railway line on a metal bridge. The lines cross-over at this point and the bridge gives a clear view of the site of the fatal crash of 19th September 1986 when the 17:20 express from Liverpool to Euston hit the 17:00 express train from London to Manchester. Remarkably only the London-bound driver, Eric Goode, was killed and there is a garden memorial to him alongside the track.
With news that the original bridge we were standing on had been swept away in the wreckage we hurried on to Colwich Lock and a group photo. We now followed the Trent and Mersey Canal back towards Great Haywood. Beechwoods looked splendid in their Autumn colours and across the Trent we could catch glimpses of a folly in the grounds of Shugborough House.
We left the canal at bridge 73, and this time passed under the railway line to enter a row of estate houses leading back to our starting point. We had ordered our meals in advance, all the walkers stayed to eat, and we were given a table to our own in the restaurant where we enjoyed a plentiful and cheap meal.
(Report by Clive Walker, photos by Margaret Beardsmore)
We had a good turnout of 11 volunteers for our Brindley Bank work party clean-up on the 3rd November.
Thankfully the weather was dry and we did the usual grass cutting, undergrowth strimming and litter picking.
The ‘Bloody Steps’ were cleared of leaves and accumulated moss, excessive ivy removed from some trees and overhanging branches were trimmed back.
The well-used path from Wolseley Road, down the steps and past the moorings through to the bypass bridge is now clear, with the whole area looking tidy. It should hopefully remain so through to the spring.
We also had a team with grappling hooks to remove underwater debris and they got a really substantial metal trolley, a large scaffolding base, a length of rebar and some bricks out of the canal under the bypass bridge, which have possibly all been there since the bridge was built.
Another battered trolley was removed from the aqueduct where several passing boats had hit an obstruction, and we dragged the whole trough to make sure it was then clear.
A less usual activity for some of us was posing for a video being made for CRT about volunteer activities, although the film makers arrived after much of the work had been done, so some of the shots may look a bit staged.
All in all, a good day’s work. A big thanks to everyone involved, and especially our cake makers !
(Report and photos by Margaret Beardsmore, Work Party Coordinator)
One of IWA’s aims is to help as many people as possible to enjoy our beautiful Inland Waterway network, including the elderly and disabled. We therefore applied to Rugeley Town Council for a grant to hire the ‘Walsall Enterprise’ narrowboat from the Truman Enterprise Narrowboat Trust.
The ‘Walsall Enterprise’ is a community narrowboat with disabled access and a large open front deck. Volunteer crew is provided, making it ideal for our needs.
On the Friday before the community trips some of our volunteers helped to crew the trip boat from it’s usual moorings at Calf Heath - this gave a few of our non-boating volunteers the opportunity to experience working the locks and in some cases steering. On the Sunday we made the reverse trip.
We had five boat trips altogether on Saturday, four of which were circular trips in Rugeley with the last one going to Great Haywood. This enabled the Walsall Enterprise crew to moor there for the night, making the Sunday trip more manageable.
We had groups from Wilson Keys Sheltered Housing, the LDD group (a charity for young people with learning and other disabilities), whilst Rugeley Community Church brought along some of their less able bodied and elderly congregation.
In total we took 50 people on what was in many cases their first boat trip and what a great time we all had. The volunteers from the Truman Enterprise Trust could not have done any more for our ‘guests’, whilst IWA Lichfield Branch provided refreshments for the trip - with our cake makers working overtime.
A big thank you must also go to the LDD volunteers, and Kevin from the Community Church for all their work to make the day such an overwhelming success. Some of our ‘non IWA’ local volunteers also provided valuable help and support. Altogether, it was a memorable day for all concerned - and very much what IWA is all about.
The Truman Enterprise Narrowboat Trust are very flexible in what they can provide. Their website for more information is www.truman-enterprise.org.uk
(Report by Margaret Beardsmore, photos by Margaret Beardsmore and Phil Sharpe )
As luck would have it, this was the only rainy day either side of weeks of glorious weather. Unperturbed, we set off from the car park of The Anchor Inn on the Mancetter Road at Hartshill and headed towards Leather Mill Farm at the end of a long tarmaced track. Turning right we passed through a hedge and walked alongside the river Anker in the direction of Caldecote Hall.
The house has a rich and varied history. For a long time it was home to the Purefoys, an ancient family of Warwickshire landowners and staunch Parliamentarians. It was besieged by the Royalists under Prince Rupert in late August 1642. Little did the Royalists know that the owner had gone into hiding in the estate grounds, and that the well-trained Royalists soldiers were up against a motley crew of Mrs Purefoy, her maids, her son in law, and eight employees who repeatedly loaded the armoury of twelve muskets. The house was eventually burned to the ground, but the Parliamentarian Colonel Purefoy got his revenge when he became one of the signatories to the death warrant of King Charles I.
The rebuilt Caldecote Hall has now been converted into flats having more recently been a "home for inebriates". Although the estate village is within earshot of the busy A5, time seems to have passed it by and it contains some interesting historic properties, not least the intriguingly-named Church of St Theobald and St Chad, which we approached but couldn't enter.
At a bend in the track we had the option of adding a mile to the walk by heading towards Weddington. Instead, and partly because the pub landlord had been very keen for us to turn up on time, we took the shorter route under the railway line and uphill to the Coventry Canal at Wood Bridge. Springwood Haven Marina opened here about 20 years ago, and its boathouse has a traditional canal look which belies its age. However the cream-coloured hire fleet of Valley Cruisers is no longer there.
We were now on the Quarryman's trail. Stone was brought to the canal by horse-drawn wagons, lorries and rail where it was tipped into narrowboats for onward transportation. The nearby Oldbury quarry still extracts stone for road building but it is no longer transported by water.
(Report and photos by Clive Walker)
The weather this summer has been very variable, so it was no surprise when rain was predicted to arrive just about the time we were due to start this evening walk. It had been a sunny day earlier so we hoped for some delay, but the forecast was spot on for once and the rain duly arrived right on cue. Undeterred however, our two dozen walkers donned waterproofs and unfurled umbrellas ready to see the progress being made on restoring the Lichfield Canal at Summerhill, near Muckley Corner.
Our guide, Peter Buck, the Lichfield & Hatherton Canals Restoration Trust engineer described the background to their acquisition of this section of canal, with the grant funding obtained which has enabled their volunteers to clear 50 years of undergrowth and start its restoration. Moving down into the canal cutting behind The Boat Inn, Peter explained that the lowered level of the A461 means that a new lock will be needed here, with some preliminary excavation and retaining walls already begun. Fortunately, after about a quarter of an hour the rain had eased off and the sky brightened, so the rest of our walk was more akin to the pleasant evening stroll we had hoped for.
Beyond The Boat the towpath has been levelled and surfaced, with much assistance from a wide range of corporate sponsorship groups, and now stretches about 1 km to the M6 Toll aqueduct, with a couple of short gaps where the sand wharf wall is being restored and a picnic area created. Noting an original BCN boundary marker still in-situ, we were impressed with all the work on the path and with the effort put into laying and replanting the towpath hedge throughout since our previous visit 2 years earlier. At that time an electricity cable was being laid in a trench beneath the towpath and is now invisibly supplying power to the adjacent quarry who have been very helpful in providing access and materials for the works. In due course the electric supply will power back-pumps at a new deep lock.
The original Crane Brook culvert and embankment had been destroyed when the BNRR (now M6 Toll) was built but the Trust has now replaced both in a major civil engineering project. They have since constructed a concrete trough canal channel above the culvert, with a concrete canal bed between there and the site for the new deep lock, which is necessary in order to raise the canal to the level of the aqueduct over the motorway. In the shorter term the intention is to build a towpath ramp up to the aqueduct to allow the Towpath Trail to be continued through to Barracks Lane, creating a new rural footpath accessible at both ends.
Whilst still a building site at present, L&H are happy to show groups around. Our members were suitably impressed with this massive volunteer effort to reinstate the canal and were happy to make individual donations to support its continuance. Over half of the party stayed on for refreshments and or meals at The Boat which has a sophisticated menu as well as being very supportive of the Trust’s endeavours.
(Report and photos by Phil Sharpe)
IWA Lichfield Branch members spent a warm and sunny day at Barton Turn on the Trent & Mersey Canal helping passing boaters through the lock. The aim of the “Lock Wind” was to publicise the voluntary work of IWA, and in particular our local Branch, and to raise some funds to support our activities.
With CRT’s agreement we had assembled a team of experienced lock workers who were kept very busy all morning by a steady stream of boats and, after a lunchtime lull, at a gentler pace in the afternoon. Without exception, the boaters were grateful for the help with working the lock, and we were pleased to have chosen one where the paddles and gates were so well balanced and easy to operate.
We had set up a stall alongside the lock with information on IWA, various items for sale, and a display of cakes, home-made by our Branch volunteers. With such a tempting array of cakes on offer it did not take much persuasion and by mid-afternoon all had been sold, boosting the funds of the branch towards supporting waterway projects. Overall the cakes, other sales and donations raised over £130.
For all the lock workers, cake makers and helpers a barbeque was then put on using the local pub’s facilities alongside the canal, and with thanks to Derek for supplying the meat, Helen for the salads and Pat for the puds we were all filled to the brim and went home happy after a very successful day.
(Report by Pat Barton and Phil Sharpe, photos by Margaret Beardsmore)
Setting off from The Finger Post pub at Yorks Bridge on the Wyrley and Essington Canal we soon crossed over the distinctive Horseley Iron Works bridge at Pelsall Junction to join the Cannock Extension Canal. At the gauging stop by Friar Bridge the two BCN cottages (nos.211 & 212) and the modernised stables opposite form an interesting group of canal buildings on the edge of Pelsall Common which was once the site of a huge ironworks.
The fourteen walkers proceeded northwards along the regimented Extension Canal, which was opened in 1863 to tap the Cannock coalfields. At Grove Basins we paused for a group photo. Leaving the wide towpath at Pelsall road bridge we entered the site of the former Wyrley Grove colliery. An information board gave a potted history of the coalfield, a map showing a network of railways and two narrowboats being loaded in the colliery basin.
We now picked up the Forest of Mercia Timberland Trail, a winding and narrow path that brought us to the estate of Little Wyrley and its Hall. We marvelled at the attempts engineers have made to correct subsidence at Hall Farm and its outbuildings. Little Wyrley Hall has a Tudor core and is currently owned by the Wallace family. The gate entrance has its own postbox and one of our walkers recalled emptying this on a regular basis.
The trail now continued across fields and along Cadman's Lane. For part of the way a brook flows down the pathway and walkers have to cross two small fords to divert to a neighbouring field before rejoining the green lane.
Soon we stumbled across Fishley “church”. This is nothing more than a broken stone in the undergrowth from which John Wesley gave a sermon, having been banned from preaching from a proper pulpit. A plaque tells us that this occurred on Aldersgate Sunday, which is on 24th May or the nearest Sunday before that.
Passing through gorse and a small wood we rejoined the canal at Pelsall Works Bridge where another group photo was taken. We then turned left past the site of the 2016 Festival of Water and back to Pelsall Junction Bridge, where repairs are being planned to replace stolen coping stones. A short walk then returned us to our starting point where we enjoyed refreshments in refurbished surroundings.
(Report by Clive Walker, photos by Clive Walker and Phil Sharpe)
On the 5th May our volunteers were back up at Brindley Bank in Rugeley. We were very pleased to welcome three new local volunteers, especially as so many of our usual gang were away.
Our main task was to cut back the grass and vegetation which was encroaching over the towpath, which meant a lot of hard work for Sheila, Heather, John, Paul, Alison and Steve.
Derek mowed the grass and Barry from CRT strimmed the edges, so the area looked a lot tidier when we were finished.
Phil lopped off a lot of overhanging branches from the top path (no birds in there!) and generally made the path easier to walk along.
Pete did his usual litter pick but was disappointed not to find much litter!
After lunch it was time to go ‘batty’.
We have installed three heavy duty bat boxes on the advice of Staffordshire Bat Group. Unfortunately, they weren’t there to help us, but following their advice Paul put up the bat boxes in appropriate trees.
On Sunday morning, as it had rained overnight, I did a trial wildflower seed scattering. We will see how these go on before making a plan for more wildflowers for next year.
A big ‘thank you’ to everyone who helped on the day and to Margaret Curtis for the cake.
Call for help: If any of our members are splitting any wildflower plants or can gather seeds for us for future planting please let me have them so we can use them in future.
(Report and photos by Margaret Beardsmore, Workparty Co-ordinator)
In conjunction with Brereton Millions we arranged with CRT to remove buddleia from the offside canal wall by the Brereton Community Centre. CRT provided a work boat and two CRT volunteers as crew, plus supervision.
We had a full team of volunteers, and Brereton Millions also provided volunteers, besides letting us use the community centre for welfare, tea and coffee throughout the day, and a very nice lunch for us all. Pat Barton kindly made us her usual excellent fruit cake.
Before we started, Stuart Collins (the Ecologist from CRT) did a thorough search of the area to check that we weren’t disturbing nesting birds.
Our Buddleia Bashers filled most of the workboat with the unwanted vegetation. Whilst they were busy doing that, other volunteers had a good litter pick along the canal and also into the surrounding area where litter was very unsightly to any canal users. Twelve bin bags of litter were collected which filled up the rest of the space on the work boat.
In the meantime, myself, Mat Walker from Brereton Millions, and Stuart walked around the area and made plans for a future wildlife reserve along this section of the Trent & Mersey Canal - all very exciting stuff. More details to follow when we have them, but funding will be provided by Brereton Millions.
(Report and photos by Margaret Beardsmore)
Birds was the theme for this walk, as thirteen walkers, many of them armed with binoculars, assembled in the car park of the Dog and Doublet Inn at Bodymoor Heath.
Leaving the car park we turned right, under Cheatle's Farm Bridge and past Lock 9 of the Curdworth flight, and soon reached a road bridge, where we left the Biringham & Fazeley Canal to walk cautiously along Bodymoor Heath Lane. Two honey buzzards circled overhead, a warm-up act for the birdlife to come. Passing through a gate we walked across two fields, towards a large complex that the OS map describes simply as a 'sports ground', but which in fact is the training centre for Aston Villa FC. We passed around the perimeter, and you can't help but notice the high embankments and even higher fences that surround the training ground. Are they more worried about people getting in, or balls getting out, I wonder?
Crossing a muddy quarry track we zigzagged through Coneybury Wood. Birds darted in and out of the trees and the walking pace slowed as people stopped to identify the wildlife. We eventually reached a tarmac road and the entrance to RSPB Middleton Lakes. We paused for refreshments at the converted barns that are adjacent to the medieval Middleton Hall, which once belonged to the Willoughby family; their principal residence being Wollaton Hall in the centre of Nottingham.
A group photo was taken on a wooden walkway, one of the many viewing platforms in the bird reserve, which was acquired by the RSPB as recently as 2011. The path through the plantation was alive with birdlife as one would expect and we eventually reached the canal at Fisher's Mill Bridge. We then turned south to walk parallel to the canal through more of the reserve with extensive views eastwards towards Dosthill and the river Tame. We rejoined the towpath, which at this point doubles as the Heart of England Way. Kingsbury Water Park was to our left where gulls were busy feeding and screeching in Canal Pool.
After a mile along the towpath of the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal, and with the early Spring sun directly in our eyes, we arrived back at our starting point where we took refreshments.
(Report and photos by Clive Walker)
Our work party in February was luckily the day after Storm Doris and before the next round of bad weather.
We had a good turnout of volunteers (13) plus support from CRT which was much appreciated. Tesco provided a hot lunch again plus free parking, and our cake makers Margaret Curtis and Pat Barton did us proud!
At our previous work party we installed some steps by Leathermill Lane, but we felt they needed a bit of improvement and a handrail to make them safer. Pete from CRT was the ‘main man’ on this task, with Derek as his labourer.
The offside area by Leathermill Lane canal bridge has been an eyesore for some time, and since we had the CRT aluminium boat we tackled the huge accumulation of brambles and rubbish.
Some volunteers had great fun with grappling hooks, removing 8 supermarket trolleys, a bike, 3 road signs and a big red road barrier from the canal under the bridge. It was really disappointing to have this much rubbish in the canal as we only cleared it just before Christmas.
Our litter pickers worked wonders up and down the canal bank, and we have had wonderful feedback from local residents about all our hard work.
We also noticed the first signs of Spring bulbs coming through from our December planting, although it will be some time before they are at their best.
(Report and photos by Margaret Beardsmore, Volunteer Coordinator)
Lichfield IWA, along with Lichfield & Hatherton Canals Restoration Trust, were invited by CRT to attend the open days on Saturday/Sunday 18th/19th February at Fradley Junction when members of the public were allowed to climb down steps to inspect the bottom of Junction Lock which was under repair. We were provided with a gazebo in the workshop courtyard opposite the cafe whilst LHCRT had the use of the small visitor centre.
CRT clearly had put a lot of effort into organising the event with large numbers of their volunteers and staff present, and Richard Parry visited on Saturday. The target was for 300 members of the public to attend each day but CRT’s efforts were well rewarded when on both days over 600 people were counted going down into the lock.
Our stand which included the display boards and a small table of merchandise was manned from 10am to 3pm on both days by members of the committee and the wider branch. We distributed IWA canal maps and talked to passers-by who bought books, fridge magnets, and model narrowboats.
The event was well worth the branch attending as it gave us the opportunity to meet local residents, publicise IWA and to demonstrate our ongoing cooperation with CRT.
(Report by Mike Bending, photo by Margaret Beardsmore)
New Year's day saw twelve walkers assemble in the car park of The Plough Inn in Huddlesford. They were undeterred by the break in the dry spell of weather and were suitably equipped as we set off eastwards at a brisk pace in the steady rain.
After half a mile we turned left into a tree-lined avenue heading towards Thatchmoor Farm which is also a local depot for a well-known frozen food delivery firm based in Wiltshire. The farm is well-maintained and modern, and there was no sign of the slurry that some walkers had feared.
We then turned east and and had to negotiate three stiles that took us around the perimeter of a stud farm at Sennex House. Passing the second duck-pond of the day, and a driveway gate that fortunately was open, we walked through onto Brookhay Lane. This took us northwards towards a junction of road, rail and canal close to Brookhay Cottage where we joined the Coventry Canal.
Many members will recall previous owners of this cottage as it has strong connections with Lichfield Branch. It also has one of the longest and thinnest gardens you will ever see as it tapers to a halt 1/4 mile from the house.
We then proceeded along the towpath back towards Huddlesford. By bridge 87 there is an unusual milepost marked 3 miles on the one side (to Fradley Junction) and 2 ½ miles on the other. Considering the terminus at Coventry is more than 20 miles away, you have to know the history of the Coventry Canal to understand the reason for the mileage of 2 ½ - answers by email please to the author!
The rain had started to ease off as we passed first Streethay Wharf and then Kings Orchard Marina. We retired to The Plough Inn for a well-earned hearty meal.
(Report and photo by Clive Walker)