A magnificent 18 volunteers turned out for our much postponed workparty at Leathermill Lane in Rugeley. Thankfully the weather was better than the forecast and we only had light showers throughout the morning.
We collected masses of litter - the black bags filled two big gravel bags to the top. At Leathermill Lane Canal Bridge we pulled out 3 supermarket trolleys, a strimmer, a scooter and jogging machine. At Station Road bridge we pulled out two pushbikes and a flattened supermarket trolley. A dump of about 30 drinks cans were cleaned up between the bridges- somebody must have had a good party!
We also took down the canalside notice boards at Leathermill Lane bridge and they have been taken to Fradley for refurbishment.
A couple of things we found to be annoying - somebody protesting about increased charges for wide beams has been along posting notices on everything canalside they can find. I don’t feel it appropriate to comment on the message but the notices had to be taken down and then whatever they were stuck to needed cleaning. Another firm has been along sticking heavy duty advertising stickers on CRT property - obviously not realising that they will be charged by CRT.
We were joined by two local PCSOs who worked alongside our volunteers collecting litter. It is always good to see the PCSOs taking a positive role and having a visible presence on the canals.
Barry from CRT provided his usual friendly supervision and support. We also repaired the steps by Leathermill Lane Bridge but these will need more work later in the year.
Tesco did us proud again, with free car parking, access to their staff canteen and a subsidised lunch.
All in all, a brilliant effort all round - and it was really nice to see some of the bulbs we planted last year still coming through and the saplings throwing out new shoots.
(Report and photos by Margaret Beardsmore)
Undeterred by a brief snowstorm, 24 walkers assembled outside The Swan Inn at Fradley Junction. We crossed the Trent & Mersey canal at Shade House Lock to enter the perimeter of the former RAF Lichfield, also known as Fradley Airfield. Skirting a field bordered by birch trees we paused briefly at a dilapidated hut; with its steel door half-hanging off its hinges it was possible to peek inside to see what looked like accommodation bunks. At least we thought that was the case, until one of our group noticed earth banks around 3 sides of the building in the undergrowth nearby which looked suspiciously like blast protection around an ammunition dump. Phil Sharpe pointed out that this part of the aerodrome has been proposed for housing, with HS2 due to pass within earshot. Hopefully they have checked first for any left-over ordinance!
Walking along an old taxiway, and within sight of two large aircraft hangars, we soon arrived at the dead-straight Gorse Lane. We had intended to follow the footpath shown on the OS map that crosses the main runways, but sadly this has been closed for construction of new housing. Instead we turned left along Gorse Lane to join the Coventry Canal at New Bridge 91. Two pillboxes guarded the end of the main runway.
Constructed in 1939, the airfield once accommodated 3,500 aircrew and according to the Pearson's Canal Companion a headless figure in a flying jacket reputedly haunts the perimeter. It was probably too cold for him to come out that day, but fatal accidents were all too common at RAF Fradley, as we were shortly to learn.
We left the Coventry Canal at Fradley Bridge 90 and walked across to Fradley Church. The churchyard contains a number of Commonwealth War Graves. Unusually there is a German grave amongst them and John Parry recounted how the airman lost his life after baling out of a stricken Heinkel III at too low a height. The walk leader told the poignant story behind a line of graves dated 13 and 14 September 1942. A Wellington bomber suffered engine failure and returned to base with its bombs intact; it crash landed at Fradley on 13 September killing the Australian crew of 5. Four hours later, at 03:20 on 14 September, the 500 lb bombs on board the aircraft exploded killing the crew of 4 fighting the blaze, one of whom was just 17 years old.
Leaving the churchyard we crossed a field to pick up a quiet country lane that returned us to the Coventry Canal at New Bridge. After a brief photo on the swing footbridge at Fradley Junction we arrived back at The Swan Inn for refreshment.
(Report by Clive Walker, photos by Margaret Beardsmore)
The customary New Year's Day walk started from The Red Lion pub in Hopwas. Although the weather was overcast and showers were likely the turnout (28) was splendid, with one walker even driving all the way from Malvern in Worcestershire, which must be something of a record for the branch.
It had been planned to walk outbound along the towpath and return along the river Tame, but due to recent flooding, this route was abandoned and instead we returned along a tarmaced lane.
Strung out along the towpath of the Coventry Canal we proceeded in the direction of Tamworth, with fields to our right and hedging to our left. The group had been warned that the first mile or so would be muddy, and we must have been going quite slowly, because a narrowboat coming from Hopwas managed to catch up with us. The obligatory group photo was taken at Dunstall Farm bridge, just before a shower. This part of the Coventry Canal has remained surprisingly rural, wedged as it is between Tamworth and the A5. However, all could change very soon, with plans approved to build 800 houses on land between the river Tame and the Coventry Canal. Whilst the proximity of the canal will help to sell the housing, this development will dramatically change the character of the area, not to mention the fact that the developers seem to have overlooked the words "flood plain".
We left the towpath at the humpback Sutton Road Bridge and turned left to enter Ventura Park and the glitzy car showrooms of Tamworth. Like moths to a flame, one car company set up there first and their competitors had to follow suit. We walked down a short side road to enter Dunstall Lane, a designated cycle path between Tamworth and Hopwas. Although accessible at both ends for cars there is virtually no traffic on this road, not least because it is single track and there are no passing points. We were now walking parallel to the canal on our left.
The change in route added half a mile to our walk, but the easy walking meant we covered the 4½ miles in just over an hour and forty-five minutes. Having ordered our food in advance, our meals arrived in good time, most of the walkers deciding to dine in The Red Lion.
(Report by Clive Walker, photo by Margaret Beardsmore)