2012 News

Fradley Junction Open Day – Saturday 17th November 2012

The Canal & River Trust open day at Fradley Junction gave visitors an opportunity to see close-up the work being carried out on Junction Lock.  CRT staff were on hand to explain the repairs to the lock chamber brickwork, gates and paddles.  Scaffold platforms and a ladder allowed the more sure-footed to descend into the lock to see historic features normally under water including the top ground paddles and original eighteenth century brickwork of the top cill and fore bay.

Fradley Junction Lock open day Fradley Junction Lock top gate Fradley Junction Lock stop planks

A set of sturdy stop planks reassuringly held back the canal above the lock with scarcely a trickle of water getting through, thanks to the traditional technique of ‘racking’ with coal ashes.  The brickwork repairs and repointing is also being done traditionally using lime mortar to preserve the lock as a Listed Building.  It was encouraging to see the care taken by the Trust to protect its heritage whilst maintaining the lock as a fully functioning part of our modern leisure industry.

(Photos by Phil Sharpe)

Lichfield Canal construction progress - September 2012

Restoration of the Lichfield Canal is making impressive progress with work underway on both sides of the Tamworth Road.  At Darnford Park, contractors for the Lichfield & Hatherton Canals Trust are just finishing a sewer diversion and, working with the Trust's volunteers, excavations for the new canal channel and staircase locks are underway.  The spoil is being used to landscape the park and to construct a baffle mound alongside the A38 which will shield it from traffic noise.  A geotextile reinforcement is being used to stabilise the sandy soil.

Darnford Park excavation for staircase locks Darnford Park baffle mound construction
Tamworth Road foundation for canal narrows Tamworth Road overflow weir (Photos by Phil Sharpe. 6/9/2012)

Meanwhile, on the south side of Tamworth Road, the Trust's regular work parties and visiting groups have completed a new overflow weir structure, are extending the towpath walls and have laid the foundation pad for a canal narrows.  These are all works towards rewatering the next pound down to the A38, to extend the successfully watered section above Lock 26.  Anyone able to volunteer to help with this work or to make a donation towards the materials and plant hire costs can do so through the Trust's website at www.lhcrt.org.uk 

Canal & River Trust launch at Fradley Junction - 12th July 2012

The Canal & River Trust, the new charity taking over responsibilty from British Waterways, was publicly launched on 12th July at celebratory events around the country.  These included Birmingham for the West Midlands waterways and this one at Fradley Junction for the Central Shires waterways.  Lichfield Branch IWA was represented by Helen Whitehouse.

crt_launch_-_vips crt_launch_-_boat

(Photos courtesy of Waterway Images)

The VIPs pictured (left to right) are Harry Arnold (Vice President of IWA and member of C&RT Central Shires Waterways Partnership), Darren Green (Central Shires Waterways Manager), Helen Whitehouse (IWA Lichfield Branch), Nicholas Bostock (Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Staffordshire & IWA Lichfield Branch member), Charlotte Atkins (Chair of Central Shires Waterways Partnership), Tom Franklin (C&RT Trustee), Alison Smedley (IWA Stoke on Trent Branch), John Evans (IWA Leicestershire Branch), Beryl McDowell (IWA Leicestershire Branch and member of C&RT Central Shires Waterways Partnership).

Staffordshire Canal Watch

Many people will be familiar with Neighbourhood Watch schemes which help reduce crime by encouraging neighbours to look after each other, be more aware of potential problems and report any suspicions to their local police.  In recent years communications improvements have seen volunteers receiving email, text or recorded phone messages from the Police about local criminal activity, both as a warning and to seek help with prevention and investigations.

Now, the particular problems of the canal community in Staffordshire are being addressed by a related Canal Watch scheme which allows those who sign-up to have access to the OWL system of notification as used by Neighbourhood Watch.

Staffordshire Canal Watch was officially launched with an open access event at Aston Marina in Stone on 5th April.

Subscribers can choose how they prefer to receive information; by email, phone, fax, or mobile text, and the time of day.

This Staffordshire Police initiative is supported by British Waterways and also by Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service, as fire is one of the biggest threats to personal safety on boats.  They offer free fire risk checks and smoke alarms.

A range of literature is available, including a booklet on Fire Safety On Boats, Incident Report forms, bicycle and mobile phone registration, etc.  The information pack also promotes the new non-emergency local Police phone number: 101.  The emergency services in Staffordshire now have a record of canal bridge numbers which makes it easier to identify your location if you need to contact them.

Fazeley Junction development abandoned – May 2012

The construction of new homes alongside the canal at Fazeley Junction has been abandoned with the buildings unfinished.  Intended as a residential Care Home complex and 12 ‘assisted living’ apartments, the walls and roofs were largely complete but work then stopped, leaving the buildings as a shell without windows or internal fittings.

fazeley_junction_construction Fazeley_Junction_The_Boathouse

(Photos by Phil Sharpe)
A planning application for developing the site, formerly an untidy collection of garages and disused buildings, was first lodged in 2005 and approved in 2006.  IWA Lichfield Branch commented on this and several subsequent amendments, which would have provided a mix of houses and apartments in new buildings and by conversion of ‘The Boathouse’, a historic canal warehouse once used for boatbuilding but fallen into disrepair.

However, these plans were not implemented and in 2010 a new application was made for the Care Home complex which was approved in December 2010.  This again included re-use of The Boathouse with the design respecting its historic character and the new buildings of generally attractive appearance.  Work started, with a substantial investment being made by the developers, Havercroft Construction Ltd., but was then abandoned before completion.

The site is prominently visible at an important junction on the waterways network, where the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal joins the Coventry Canal.  The photographs show the site in November 2011, but the scene 6 months later is unchanged with no sign as to when work may resume.

Steam narrowboat President at Fradley Junction - Sunday 22nd April 2012

president_at_fradley president_leaves_fradley

(Photos by Phil Sharpe) The historic steam-powered narrow boat 'President' and its butty 'Kildare' stopped off at Fradley Junction on its way to the Thames for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Pageant.  IWA members were on hand to help work it down the locks above the junction, where it moored for a while to allow visitors to view the boats and talk to the volunteer crew.

President has been chosen to represent Staffordshire in the spectacular 1,000 boat pageant on the Thames in June, and is sponsored by many of the county's major industries, companies and universities.  Among the items on board is a small JCB excavator; which may be useful for digging it out of trouble if the low water levels further south on the Grand Union Canal persist !

Built in 1909, President is part of the National Historic Fleet, and a steam traction engine and Vintage cars rolled up to add to the heritage display.  Our volunteers were kept busy controlling traffic to give everybody access and avoid any problems along the crowded towpath.  Despite showery weather, a very large crowd had turned out to see the boats, hear the speeches and enjoy the festive atmosphere; and give a rousing send off to President and Kildare as they headed off south down the Coventry Canal.

HS2 decision threatens the Trent & Mersey Canal – January 2012

Following the public consultation on the High Speed Rail proposals (see April 2011 report below) the Government’s decision to proceed with HS2, as announced on 11th January, includes some route changes that threaten the environment of the Trent & Mersey Canal.  IWA and BW both objected to the earlier plans that would have severed the canal in 2 places at Woodend Lock near Fradley through crossings with insufficient headroom for navigation.  This was clearly a serious design error which has now been corrected by raising the level of the line, explained in the “Review of Possible Refinements ..” document, as below:

          "It became clear through consultation that the height of the alignment over the Trent and Mersey Canal was not enough to allow proper navigability of the canal."

          "We have reviewed the vertical alignment over the canal and raised it to around five metres to enable navigable use of the canal. The adjustment would result in marginally more noise and visual impacts, although this change would affect only a small number of people. Landscaping and mitigation such as tree planting would assist in screening visual impacts of the embankments and railway."

          "Given that this adjustment is a requirement for canal navigability, we recommend that this change be included in the line of route."

          "To allow for a future extended network we have also slightly altered the line of route just north of Streethay, including a short straight section of track. This would avoid the need for substantial disruptive and expensive remodelling of the track in this area after HS2 London to West Midlands has opened. It would mean the alignment would be slightly amended from that shown on the consultation route over a distance of just over half a mile."

          "The adjustments would mean that the line would be continuously above ground level from the village of Streethay to the WCML reconnection north of Lichfield."

This document and the amended route maps along with other reports can be seen at http://www.dft.gov.uk/topics/high-speed-rail

Whilst maintaining navigation, the raised height of the line will inevitably increase the visual and audible intrusion of the trains on the environment of the canal, and to say it affects only a small number of people ignores the tens of thousands of boaters and towpath walkers annually who use the canal in this area.  The changes also take the route even closer to the lock and lock cottage at Woodend which are both Listed Buildings and ignore the Conservation Area status of the Trent & Mersey Canal. T_M_Woodend_Lock

But a further threat is revealed in the comments about a straight section of track avoiding the need for future remodelling.  The curved section at Woodend is only a temporary connection to the existing railway pending publication of plans for the continuation of the route to Manchester.  But this statement clearly implies that it has already been decided where this will start, and projection of the new straight line section would take it through the middle of Fradley Wood and over the Trent & Mersey Canal again with a third crossing just above Shadehouse Lock !  That would mean 3 new rail bridges within about half a mile, 2 of which would be unnecessary if our requested realignment north of Streethay had been considered.

This level of damage to the canal environment around Fradley is not acceptable and readers are urged to write to their MPs protesting about this wanton damage to a cherished part of our canal heritage.

Slight changes have also been made to the alignment of the other canal crossings in our area; the Lichfield Canal at Cappers Lane and the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal at Curdworth.