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 purchased 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)