2017 Lichfield Branch Activities

Work Party at Brereton, Rugeley - Friday 31st March 2017

Clearing buddleia on offside bank from workboat (MB)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.

Clive litter picking (MB)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.

Brereton work party gang (MB)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)

Walk around Middleton Lakes - Tuesday 7th March 2017

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.

Walkers at Middleton Lakes (CW)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.

Walkers at Middleton Lakes with pheasant (CW)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)

Volunteer Work Party in Rugeley - Friday 24th February 2017

Adding handrail to steps (M Beardsmore)Landing on the offside bank (M Beardsmore)Trolleys and signs recovered from canal (M Beardsmore)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)

Open Weekend at Fradley Junction - Sat/Sun 18/19th February 2017

IWA stand at Fradley Junction Open WeekendLichfield 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)

Huddlesford Circular Walk - Sunday 1st January 2017

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.

Wakers at Brookhay 1.1.17 (CW)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)