2010-11 News

New Marina near Lichfield - November 2011

A new marina is under construction on the Coventry Canal near Lichfield.  To be known as Kings Orchard Marina, it's located 1/2 mile north of Huddlesford Junction and about 1/4 mile south of Streethay Wharf.  Designed to provide moorings for up to 89 boats on a 6 acre site, the earthworks and bank protection are largely completed and work has started on a facilities building.

kings_orchard_marina_basin kings_orchard_marina_buildings

(Photos by Phil Sharpe)

The marina is on the towpath side of the canal and the plans show a recessed entrance crossed by a new footbridge.  The marina was given planning consent in 2008 but construction only started earlier this year.  It is expected to be open for business in 2012.  A condition of the consent was that there be no residential moorings, and that improvements be carried out to the towpath near to the site.

This part of the canal system is increasingly popular for boat moorings, being centrally located, and several new marinas have been opened in recent years within a few miles of Fradley Junction.  IWA welcomes this latest addition to the canals' leisure facilities, but would not wish to see much more expansion of moorings in the vicinity which could increase congestion on the busy flight of locks at Fradley.

The Waterways Festival at Burton on Trent - July 2011

Burton_boatsStill informally known as "The National", the renamed Waterways Festival was again held this year in our area at Shobnall Fields in Burton on Trent.
Blessed for once with dry weather the Festival attracted good crowds and had a very pleasant atmosphere.  A well organised site contained all that boaters, restoration supporters and the general public needed for an informative and entertaining day out.
Visiting boats stretched for miles in either direction with the trade boats conveniently alongside the Festival site and a very good turn-out of historic boats along the towpath opposite.
(See a fuller report on the News section of the main website and here for more photos of the historic boats ).

(Photo by Phil Sharpe)

Victorian Fair at Fradley - May 2011

victorian_fair_fradleyOn 21st May Pat Barton and Kaye Harrison were pleased to represent the Branch at the Fradley Village Victorian Fair.   There were a large number of stalls and activities together with a flower festival in the church to entertain the visitors.   We were also able to respond to the request to wear Victorian dress as you can see from the photograph.   The weather stayed fine, although it was not a great opportunity for sales, those we did make being child orientated with pencils and bubble kits being the most popular.   However we were able to promote the National Waterways Festival in Burton on Trent to both spectators and campers.
(Photo by Kaye Harrison)

Award for Rugeley Volunteers - April 2011

IWA Lichfield Branch has received an award from British Waterways for volunteer work on the canal at Rugeley.  The Branch has organised a series of volunteer work parties to clean-up and improve the Trent & Mersey Canal through Rugeley over the past year, with dozens of members and local people taking part.

The award is a framed certificate of the “2010 Volunteer Organisations Recognition Award” and was presented at a User Group Forum meeting in Rugeley on 5th April to Margaret Beardsmore.  The citation says that “Lichfield IWA have worked closely with Central Shire’s Operational Teams and Regeneration Team along with local organisations and businesses to improve conditions along the Trent & Mersey Canal in Rugeley”.

Margaret has worked hard to bring together IWA members, BW staff, local residents, the Rugeley Lions Association, Police Community Support Officers, Community Payback ‘volunteers’ and others to really make a difference to the appearance and environment of the canal over the past year.  Margaret said she was pleased to accept the award on behalf of all those volunteers who had contributed to the success of the Rugeley Project.

Work has been carried out from Brindley Bank aqueduct, through the town to The Mossley, including litter and graffiti clearance, canal bank repairs, vegetation clearance, removal of derelict fencing, repair and repainting of benches, refurbishment of notice boards, etc.  Further work parties are being planned and it is hoped to obtain future grant support for improvements to the path and steps at Brindley Bank.

For reports and pictures of the work parties on 12/13 March see the 2011 Activities page and for the earlier work parties in September and July and the initial Towpath Tidy event in March 2010 see 2010 Activities.

High Speed Rail route affects Trent & Mersey Canal - April 2011

Revised plans for the proposed High Speed Rail route (HS2) around Lichfield show it crossing the Trent & Mersey Canal twice in close proximity near to Woodend Lock above Fradley Junction.  The canal here is on a curving embankment across the valley of the Curborough Brook and the railway would bridge the canal above the lock, crossing the valley on an even higher embankment and viaduct, and recross the canal beyond the bend.  The visual intrusion and noise from the new railway would affect the remoteness and tranquility of this popular location and have a damaging affect on its amenity value.

The route around Lichfield has been amended following local protests about the original alignment which would have cut through the edge of the City on high and intrusive viaducts and embankments.  The new route now swings out beyond Streethay but then continues much further north than necessary before curving back to join the existing West Coast Mainline railway.  By starting the westwards curve just north of the A38 crossing at Streethay the route could pass through open land clear of other properties to join the existing railway further south and entirely avoid the Trent & Mersey Canal.

The Trent & Mersey Canal is a Conservation Area in recognition of its heritage and amenity value but no account appears to have been taken of this in planning a route to minimise adverse impacts.  In any case this part of the route is only a temporary alignment pending decisions on its continuation north to Manchester and it would seem particularly unnecessary to inflict such damage on the Canal Conservation Area when it may not form part of the final route.

Other changes to the route around Lichfield affect the Lichfield Canal restoration where the crossing point has been moved to Cappers Lane.  The plans show HS2 crossing directly above Cappers Bridge which was built in 2006 to reinstate the crossing ready for the canal to be restored beneath it.  The railway here would be on embankment about 12 metres high with a viaduct over the Darnford Brook floodplain and Cappers Bridge.  Although the canal route should be maintained, the visual and noise impact of the high speed railway would be considerable.

A further canal crossing in Lichfield Branch's area is at Curdworth on the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal, which remains unchanged from the earlier plans (see March 2010 report below).

The relevant maps are 30 for Woodend, 29 for Cappers Lane and 27 for Curdworth.  All the plans can be seen on the Department for Transport website at http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/rail/pi/highspeedrail/ where responses to the public consultation can be made on-line (or by post) until 29 July.  Comments may also be made by email to highspeedrail@dft.gsi.gov.uk . IWA asks everyone concerned by the unnecessary double crossing of the Trent & Mersey Canal or by the impact of the other crossings to make their views known.

Lichfield Canal Rewatering - March 2011

lichfield_rewateringWork is underway to rewater a section of the Lichfield Canal at Tamworth Road in Lichfield.  Contractors McPhillips have removed the large land drain pipe and are relining the pound between Locks 25 and 26 with bentonite matting to enable it to be filled with water, for the first time in over 50 years.  The picture was taken from the public viewing point on 10th March 2011 and shows the first lengths of matting being laid on the reprofiled bed of the canal.  The pipe on the left is a temporary bypass drain.


(Photo by Phil Sharpe)


 Repairs to Rushall Locks 8 & 9 - February 2011

rushall_lock_8_repairs rushall_lock_8_worksite

(Photos by Phil Sharpe)

As part of its winter work programme, BW's West Midlands Waterways had arranged a stoppage on locks 8 and 9 of the Rushall Canal from January to March 2011.  On the 21st February a small group from IWA were invited to view progress with the brickwork repairs to the lock chambers.  Various areas of eroded and damaged brickwork had been cut out and were being refaced with specially made, imperial sized, blue engineering bricks bedded in traditional lime mortar.  It was interesting to see that behind the hard engineering brick facing, the walls had originally been constructed from softer red bricks, and great care was being taken to key the new brickwork into these and to align the courses to match.  One luxury which the original brickies did not have, and which many a restoration group might envy, was a temporary plastic roof over the lock chamber to keep out the rain and a large propane gas warm air blower to keep the lime mortar, and the workers, at optimum temperature !

Cannock Chase MP enjoys a boat trip at Rugeley - October 2010

aidan_burley_steering aidan_burley_with_mb

(Photos by Phil Sharpe)

Aidan Burley MP, the Member of Parliament for Cannock Chase, enjoyed a boat trip through Rugeley on Saturday 2nd October 2010.  Aidan had been invited to join Inland Waterways Association members Margaret and Derek Beardsmore on their narrow boat 'Yesitis' to see this part of his constituency from a different angle.

The Trent & Mersey Canal through Rugeley is a historic waterway and a recreation, amenity and wildlife corridor.  Aidan was able to see some of the improvements carried out on recent voluntary work parties and the need and potential for further enhancements (see 2010 Activities, and also 2011 Activities).  IWA has been working to engage Rugeley traders and local councillors to support efforts to improve the canal corridor for the benefit of canal users, local people and the local economy.

Phil Sharpe, Chairman of the local Lichfield Branch of IWA, was also able to brief Aidan on the current debate about the future management of the waterways and the importance of secure funding for any new civil society organisation.

Aidan then took the tiller on the return trip for some lessons in boat handling, and managed to steer a straight course avoiding other boats, and the ducks !

Tree blocks Trent & Mersey Canal in Rugeley - July 2010

rugeley_tree rugeley_workboat
rugeley_chainsaw rugeley_boats

(Photos by Phil Sharpe)

Over 40 boats were delayed for more than a day when a large tree fell over and completely blocked the Trent & Mersey Canal in Rugeley on Sunday 11 July 2010.

Eyewitness Phil Sharpe, Chairman of IWA Lichfield Branch said “I just happened to be next to the kitchen window when I heard a loud crack and looked out to see the top of the large willow tree in next door-but-one’s garden disappearing !”.

The trunk had snapped off about 10 feet above the ground and large branches completely blocked the canal.  A group of half a dozen walkers on the towpath had a narrow escape as some of the smaller branches fell across the towpath just a few yards in front of them.  It was very lucky that there was no boat passing at the time.

The day had been quite windy with sudden gusts, although nothing extraordinary, but willow trees are notoriously brittle and the prolonged dry weather may have made it even more so.  A neighbour had remarked that it was looking rather unstable some months ago and had even reported it to BW as it was leaning so much over the canal.  However, most trees come down in autumn gales and it was a surprise for it to go at this time of year.

After the initial fall, just after noon, there were several more loud cracks over the next half hour or so as parts of it settled further down into the canal.  By then, a queue of boats had already started to build up in both directions on what was a busy summer Sunday.  BW were promptly informed on their emergency number and a team came out mid-afternoon to assess the situation and clear the towpath, but it was obvious that they would need to bring a workboat and a lot of equipment to clear the canal.

On Monday morning a tug and work flat were brought down from Great Haywood and the team set to work with chain saws and a tirfor winch.  Several hours hard work later the canal was largely cleared and by 4 pm boats were once again on the move.  About 20 boats had by then queued up in each direction and they were eager to get going; many shouting out their appreciation for the BW team’s hard work as they went past.  Most had been quite philosophical about the delay, accepting it as part of an ‘adventure holiday’, although some of the hire boaters might have some explaining to do back at base if they can’t make up all the lost time.

High Speed Rail Line will affect our canals - March 2010

The detailed route plans now published for the proposed High Speed 2 railway from London to Birmingham also include a line from Birmingham to Lichfield.  Intended as the first part of its continuation to Manchester and Scotland, this would initially join the existing West Coast Main Line just north of Lichfield.  On its way it would cross the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal just below the 7th lock up on the Curdworth flight, at a skew angle on a 260m viaduct about 8m high.  A dashed line on the key map labelled 'Provision for North East Connection' also heads off alongside the M42 (through Kingsbury Water Park) for a future crossing of the Coventry Canal somewhere near Polesworth.

But perhaps one of the most controversial sections is the route proposed around Lichfield.  This would cross the Lichfield Canal restoration site at Darnford Lane and, although a 35m bridge is shown across the Darnford Brook which should be wide enough to also span the new canal channel, it would be 15m high with considerable noise and visual impact.  The line continues across the golf course, over the A38 and over both existing railway lines on high embankments and viaducts, which is already generating much opposition.

IWA nationally will also be concerned by the route alignment across the southern Oxford Canal on its winding summit level around Wormleighton Hill, which would severely affect its remoteness and tranquillity.  Other canal crossings are a long viaduct 15 m high over the Grand Union Canal and Coln valley at Harefield; a bridge over the Grand Union Canal east of Leamington; and on the railway into Birmingham another crossing of the Grand Union Canal (Birmingham & Warwick Junction section) near Saltley Viaduct below Garrison Locks on a 12m high viaduct; and finally a 12m viaduct over Ashted Bottom Lock on the Digbeth Branch Canal.

Detailed maps and reports can be seen and downloaded at the Department for Transport website.

Update, March 2011: Revised plans are now out for public consultation - see above.