Photo: Fairway Bridge, River Sow by David Dixon
Stafford Riverway Link Overview
The Stafford Riverway Link is a new name for the old Stafford Branch Canal or River Sow Navigation which formerly linked the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal at Baswich with the town centre of Stafford. The restoration project aims to rebuild this link for community benefit.
The link consisted of a short section of canal branching off the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal near St Thomas Bridge 101 leading via a basin and an aqueduct over a drainage channel into a lock down into the River Sow. From here the river course was straightened and made navigable for 1½ miles to its terminus at a basin near Green Bridge in Stafford.
The Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal opened in 1772 passing within I½ miles of Stafford at Radford Bank, but on the other side of the River Penk. However, the first fixed link with the town was not made until 1805 when a horse tramroad was opened running from a basin and warehouses at Radford Bank alongside the main road into the town centre. This carried coal from the canal and other goods but its limited capacity and the need for transhipment meant it was not a great success and it closed in about 1814. This was replaced in 1816 by the River Sow Navigation which was constructed privately without an Act of Parliament by Lord Stafford who owned all the necessary land. The navigation served the town for over a century but became disused in the 1920s.
Present & Future
The route can still be walked on riverside footpaths and the potential value of its restoration to boaters and for trade and tourism in Stafford can be appreciated. Stafford Riverway Link was incorporated as a Community Interest Company (CIC) in 2009. A Feasibility Study was commissioned in 2011 with financial support from IWA and Staffordshire County Council, and from 2012 working parties have been held at Baswich every few months. The site of the lockhouse has been uncovered and its foundations consolidated, the basin has been excavated, and a roadway around the field has been surfaced to give access for construction plant and materials. In 2019 a long term lease was secured on the site and reconstruction of the towpath side wall of the basin has been completed.
For more information see the Stafford Riverway Link website: www.stafford-riverway-link.co.uk