Saturday 1 February 2020. Start
at 10.30am, finish by 4.00pm
Covering a concise area
around Etruria in Stoke-on-Trent, taking-in the CRT Open Weekend for the
Bedford Street staircase
OS 118 Stoke-on-Trent & Macclesfield (Old) Pathfinder 809/SJ 84/94 Stoke-on-Trent
Parking & start: Etruria Industrial Museum car park B5046 Etruria Vale Road SJ873469 what3words: simple.humans.super
The walk will be short in distance but long in interest! We
shall be looking at:
CRT’s work on the staircase flight
the Caldon canal through Hanley Park, where
Stoke-on-Trent City Council is close to completing a multi-million pounds
the Trent & Mersey canal and the site of the
1986 National Garden Festival
Etruria Bone Mill*
This is an area where steel making and pottery
production, notably where Josiah Wedgwood built his home and first major works,
have influenced and shaped the landscape. There’s mystery and intrigue around
The area boasts one of North Staffordshire’s
finest proper pubs – The Holy Inadequate
– and it’s a great place en-route for a pint and a pie.
* We shall be having a guided tour of the Mill, £4
per head, in the afternoon. The volunteers there would appreciate knowing the
number to be expected so please advise
us by Monday 27 January if you expect to be coming.
The route is generally good but, as always, stout
The original intention had been to walk the stretch of the
Chesterfield Canal from Retford to Clayworth, however, shortly before the walk
was scheduled it was decided to finish after lunch at the Gate Inn, Clarborough
as it was thought that the towpath from Clarborough to Clayworth might prove to
be a bit tricky in the reduced length of daylight once the clocks had gone
A very select band of walkers met at the Gate Inn, Clarborough and transferred in one car to travel to the Churchgate Visitor Car Park in Retford. It started to rain as we pulled into the car park so we all climbed into full waterproof gear before making our way into Kings Park. Once in the park we walked along side the River Idle and as we neared the canal we crossed the river on a footbridge and had a good view of the three arch aqueduct which carries the canal over the river. We then continued a further short distance through the park to join the canal at Inkerman footbridge.
Once on the towpath we turned left and proceeded in the direction of Retford Town Lock. In a short distance on the canal side opposite we saw a former warehouse which still bears the name Fletcher and Sons in faded letters. It turned out that the couple who converted the building into a private house were friends of Dave and Izzie’s who had visited the property before conversion had started.
We then crossed the three arched aquaduct over the River
Idle we had first viewed from Kings Park. The next noticeable feature we
encountered was Retford Town lock which is the first narrow lock on the canal
since the navigation left the River Trent at West Stockwith.
Just below the lock and just beside the towpath we came across The Bay Tree Cafe Bar, since we had by then already been walking for almost twenty minutes and it was extremely wet we thought we would set what we believe may be a IWPS/BBHT walks precedent by stopping for a morning hot drinks, snacks and a temporary dry. Teas, coffees and toasted tea cakes were ordered and thoroughly enjoyed.
The shelter offered by The Bay Tree allowed an extract from
James Roffery’s excellent book on the Chesterfield Canal to be consulted. The
cafe is situated on what was originally the Corporation Wharf and the book
recounts the story of how, in the late 19th century, the Manchester, Sheffield
and Lincolnshire Railway Company erected gates across the towpath, to prevent
pilfering from its warehouse on the wharf, and kept them locked. Retford
Corporation brought an injunction for obstruction against the railway company
and a legal wrangle began; the Corporation claiming the towpath had always
previously been open and the railway claiming they had always had the right to
refuse access. The Corporation produced evidence that the local baptists had
regularly held open-air baptisms near Town lock. Apparently those being
baptised were totally immersed in the canal, after which they were taken into
the lock keeper’s cottage to get dry and have a hot drink. The Corporation won
the case and the towpath has remained open ever since but apparently according
to Roffery “The open-air baptisms were brought to an end by boatmen, who
expressed their annoyance if they were delayed in language that did not suit
After we departed The Bay Tree we found, close by, one of the excellent information boards we had spotted previously along the towpath. This board included an explanation of how it was largely thanks to the actions of the Reverend Seth Ellis Stevenson that the final route of the Chesterfield Canal came through Retford. The original route planned for the canal in 1768, did not include Retford but instead it was to go to Bawtry. However, when Seth Ellis Stevenson learnt of the plans he began to work hard to bring the canal to Retford including, writing a promotional pamphlet, visiting influential land owners, talking to engineers and after many public meeting the route of the canal via Retford was agreed in June 1770.
The Packet Inn was the terminus for the weekly packet boat
from Clayworth that brought villagers and their produce to Retford Market. The
Grove Mill building was originally used as a malthouse but was converted to a
flour mill around 1900. The canal provided fuel for the boilers, the grain and
then took the finished flour to West Stockwith for onward transport.
In 1978 British Waterways were carrying out dredging work close to the mill when a chain was dredged from the bed of the canal and attached to the chain was the wooden lid of a culvert. The water in the canal between Retford Town Lock and the Whitsunday Pie Lock poured out leaving several boats high and dry. The incident received wide coverage in the media and caused some embarrassment to British Waterways who became known as the organisation ‘Who Had Pulled the Plug Out”
Whitsunday Pie Lock is the last wide lock on the journey up the canal from West Stockwith and is possible the most well known lock on the canal because of its unusual name. There are various theories regarding the origin of the name including a neighbouring farmer’s wife baking a huge pie on Whitsunday to celebrate either the completion of the lock or the end of a long stoppage but more recent research has shown the name existed before the lock was built.
Bridge 61 Bone Mill bridge has a slightly flattened and
distorted shape to its arch but we were puzzled by the additional courses of
brick which had been added to the parapets on both sides of the bridge.
The Gate Inn was the end of our short walk where we were very pleased to meet up with Ian Edgar who had joined us for a pleasant lunch and interesting discussions on canal walks and the people who go on them.
Many thanks to Mark and Ruth for organising the walk and for writing this article.
THE CHESTERFIELD CANAL SATURDAY 2nd November 2019 10 a.m. start
Firstly, we must apologise to all those recipients of the “Walks Programme 2019” who were for the past 9 months have been eagerly awaiting details of the advertised November walk on the Thames, Berks & Andover but unfortunately this was a cruel hoax perpetrated by Jan & Vern because in December of last year Ruth and Mark had, as usual, no flippin’ idea where they were going to walk, however, we have now decided that what you walkers want, what you really, really want is a walk on the Chesterfield Canal from Retford to Clayworth so that is precisely what we are offering. The total distance of this walk is approximately 6 miles with the lunch stop pretty much at half distance at The Gate Inn, Clarborough. We will meet at 10.00 at the Retford and Worksop Boat Club in Clayworth (see map attached), who have kindly agreed to allow us to use their car park and we will then take the minimum number of cars necessary to convey the group to the Churchgate Visitor Car Park* in Retford. *Note: This is a pay and display car park and the charge for the maximum stay of over 4 hours is £3.50, the machines only accept cash and no change is given. So those drivers unlucky enough to draw the short straws and drive group members from Clayworth to Retford are strongly advised to extract cash contributions from their passengers for the parking charges prior to allowing them to leave their vehicles (Information on the location of the car park will be available on the day). When we have all regrouped in the Churchgate Visitor Car Park we will make our way through Kings Park to join the canal at Inkerman footbridge where we turn left onto the towpath and proceed towards Retford Town Lock and eventually to Clayworth. When we did our recce walk in early September the majority of the towpath surface was reasonable but unfortunately the last couple of miles to Clayworth was the most uneven stretch so stout footwear / wellies are strongly recommended as are sticks for those that use them. Lunch is at the Gate Inn. If you are joining us and wish to eat at the Gate Inn please ring us for menu choices, we need to have your menu choices by Saturday 19th October. Otherwise email or ring by Friday 1st November.
Email: email@example.com or phone: 0114 2661353, if there are any last minute panics on the day then we should be contactable on our mobiles Mark: 07380925599 and Ruth: 07804217597.
Our weekend started with an interesting illustrated talk on
the Friday evening by the Lancaster Canal Trust about the history of the canal
and the restoration.
Running from Preston to Kendal, by 1797 the Lancaster Canal
was operating as far as Tewitfield. Work started north of Tewitfield in 1813
and reached Kendal in 1819. This was much needed in Kendal and was of immediate
benefit to the town which thrived from then on.
Known as the ‘Black and White Canal’ because coal was brought in and
limestone taken out, a passenger service also ran between Preston and
Kendal – the boats managed an amazing 10
mph – loyal customers using it even after the advent of the railways.
In 1941/42 the LMS railway, who owned the canal, closed the
top half mile of the canal in Kendal , the LMS tried to close the remainder but
as the canal still served the gas works in Kendal this failed. However this supply was transferred to road
in 1944 and commercial traffic ceased in 1947. The canal officially closed in
1955. It had always suffered leakage due to the underlying limestone and due to
the leakage it was drained north of Stainton with the two miles into Kendal
being filled in. A section at Burton was also drained with a pipe taking water
down to Tewitfield.
The Lancaster Canal Trust formed in 1963 with the aim of
preventing the northern extension of the M6 closing the navigation north of
Carnforth. When this failed the aim of the society became to re-open the canal
between Tewitsfield and Kendal. The M6 cuts across the canal at 3 points but it
is possible to take the canal underneath, one could be done as a bore but the
other two would need excavating and piling, this would have to be done one lane
at a time. This would be a multi million pound project.
Saturday’s walk started in Holme. Holme is one of a number of places along the Lancaster Canal where coal was once brought by canal barge to a wharf and then converted to coke for use locally. The Coke ovens are now in a garden on the offside of the canal and the owner allowed the group into his garden to view these early beehive shaped ovens.
From Holme it was a pleasant mornings walk to Crooklands. This section of the canal is in water, running through open countryside although the M6 inevitably runs close by. After stopping at Crooklands for lunch David Gibson, secretary of the LCT, joined us as guide for the afternoon. At Crooklands Wakefield Wharf served the gunpowder factory C.W.H. Wakefield and Co. at nearby Gatebeck, a small horse drawn tramway was built to link the factory with the wharf and thence to Milnthorpe Station. From here the canal continues through pleasant countryside for another couple of miles to Stainton aqueduct.
Unfortunately, the towing path here is closed as CRT are still working on the aqueduct which was damaged in the floods of 2015 (hopefully this will soon be reopened) and the group had to detour via the road. However Mark and I had an unscheduled detour and were at least able to view the aqueduct from the river below.
Soon after this we reached the ‘first furlong’, running between bridges 172 and 173, where the society are currently lining the canal with a sandwich of geotextile and a high grade pond liner in between, covered in concrete blocks as a physical barrier to damage from above and to hold the liner in place against groundwater pressure. As can be seen the volunteers are having some problems with water getting underneath at the moment.
The canal ran out as we reached Well Head Lane, this farm road runs under the A590 which cuts across the line of the canal. David explained that as this is a little used road mainly used by farm vehicles they are looking at the possibility of the canal using the bridge or sharing the access under the bridge, but both options are unlikely to be practical.
Passing under the A590 we regained the towpath and were soon
at Hincaster tunnel. The 378 yard long tunnel is a Scheduled Ancient Monument,
the first ten yards at each end and the underwater section are all built of
limestone, the rest is lined with approximately 4 million locally made bricks.
The engineers were loath to use brick, believing that the structure wouldn’t be
strong enough, it was pointed out that brick had been used successfully in
tunnels further south and the tunnel became the first major brick-built civil
engineering project north of the Mersey at that time.
Inside the tunnel you can still see the fixings for a chain or rope – allowing boats to be pulled through as an alternative to legging. To the left of the tunnel is the horse path with an impressive series of horse tunnels, two at this end and one at the far end, presumably to give farm access over them.
Continuing towards Sedgewick, it’s possible to follow the line of the canal for a good part of the way but part of the canal has been lost to farmland and a detour has to be made. Sedgewick Aqueduct proved to be a bit far for Saturday’s walk but we visited it later, it’s a fine example of a skew aqueduct, extensive repairs having been carried out by WRG and local volunteers in 1991. This is also a Scheduled Ancient Monument, it was one of five road aqueducts built on the canal – there are also 12 aqueducts built over rivers and streams, all but one still survive.
On Sunday morning we met our guide for the morning, John Bateson of the Kendal Civic Society and former Mayor of Kendal, on Natland Beck Mill Road on the outskirts of Kendal. Natland Beck Mill Road forms the border between two councils, going into Kendal the canal is owned by Kendal town council, but going out of Kendal there are several land owners including councils and farmers, inevitably making things more complicated. The canal is currently regarded as a pathway and there are plans to improve this. Going into Kendal there have been ideas about restoring an isolated length but funding and upkeep is a problem. We joined the canal at Natland Mill Beck Bridge admiring the unique rope handrail that had been installed by the civic society.
The canal corridor still exists a good way through Kendal, the towpath being tarmacked and the canal itself infilled and grassed over, you can see how easy it would be to restore and make a feature of this section.
However where the A65 crossed the canal the bridge has been infilled and buried, which is another obstacle for restoration. The next bridge, before the canal becomes a bit more industrial, is a change bridge, the only turnover bridge in Cumbria. After this is the site of the former gasworks. The tarmacked towing path continues but the canal corridor becomes less well defined. Yet another impressive bridge follows, the original stone bridge having been extended for road widening with riveted wrought iron.
At the end of the canal there are railings on the left through which is a recycling centre. This is the site of the canal basin.
The basin ran parallel to Canal Head North, there were warehouses, wharves, stabling and workers cottages. The map below also shows an ironworks at the end of the basin.
The canal ticket office remains on Canal Head North, as does the canal manager’s house across the road from the head of navigation.
This was the end of the canal walking for the weekend and we headed off to the Windermere Steamboat Museum. The group spent a very enjoyable time in the museum, the highlight being the trip on the steam launch, Osprey. Built in 1902 in Bowness, Osprey has always sailed on Windermere, although at times she has been fitted with diesel engines the museum converted her back to steam fitting a Sissons Steam Compound engine, with its obviously polished but sadly unused Windermere kettle.
This was a very informative, interesting and enjoyable weekend and I know several walkers have expressed a wish to return and explore more of the canal. Many thanks to Pauline for her organisation of the weekend and to all those Pauline arranged to speak/act as guides.
Next time out:
Saturday 2nd November. The Chesterfield Canal (Retford to Clayworth)
There will be an illustrated talk by the Lancaster Canal Trust about the restoration of the canal, in the dining room of the Cross Keys Hotel at Milnthorpe – grid ref: SD 497815, postcode LA7 7AD. The car park is round the back, dining room at the front. The hotel are letting us have the room free of charge in return for us buying drinks. We will be having a collection for the society.
Meet at Holme Square next to the Spar shop – postcode LA6 1PS, grid ref: SD 524 789. We will start with a guided tour of the coke ovens on the canal at Holme by Geoff Pegg, the Archivist for the Holme and District Local History Society, after which we’ll walk to Crooklands (3½ miles). This is an attractive, rural stretch of canal in water with the odd diversion, which should be very pleasant if the weather plays ball!
The lunch stop will be at Crooklands with the choice of either taking your own sandwiches or eating at the Crooklands Hotel.
If you wish to pre-order a meal at the hotel please give your order to Pauline (details at end)
In the afternoon a member of the canal society will join us to walk the unrestored section of the canal towards Sedgewick, which includes ‘the first furlong’, Stainton Aqueduct and Stainton Tunnel. There is a convenient bus to take us back to Holme.
We return to the Cross Keys at Milnthorpe. Arrive from 7pm to eat at 7.30. Again food orders to Pauline please.
Sunday 10 a.m.
During the morning the final mile of the canal into Kendal will be explored with John Bateson of the Kendal Civic Society (past mayor of Kendal). He is extremely knowledgeable and this should be an interesting morning. Details of parking and meeting place will be given on Saturday.
At midday we will head to Weatherspoon’s for lunch (or sandwiches if preferred)
The second of our Huddersfield Canal walks, this time we tackled the west side starting at Portland Basin and finishing at Standedge tunnel. Portland Basin is the junction of the Ashton and Peak Forest Canals and site of the big dig of 1972 which some of our walkers were involved in. Now a very attractive site, Portland Basin Industrial Museum, in the rebuilt nineteenth century Ashton Canal Warehouse with working boats outside, dominates.
Although the Huddersfield Narrow is often thought of as starting at Portland basin, the Ashton continues for almost half a mile towards Stalybridge to the start of the Huddersfield. Only a few minutes up the canal is the Asda tunnel. Built on the site of a cotton mill Asda was built over the canal, the tunnel that goes under it has no towing path so it is necessary to divert up to Cavendish Street where the imposing Cavendish Mill has been converted into flats. After crossing this very busy main road and walking through Asda car park we regained the towing path where a railway viaduct passes overhead. In 1845, 15 navvies were killed here when several arches of the viaduct collapsed. A short way from here the Huddersfield Narrow starts at Whitelands Bridge where a horse tunnel leads to lock 1W.
Immediately after lock 1W is Whitelands tunnel. This was originally 150 yards long, but was opened out in the 1850’s leaving a cutting with three bridges, the top one appears to be part of the original tunnel.
The stretch of canal from Ashton to Stalybridge was at one time lined with Mills, now many are gone or derelict. This very industrial area is being reclaimed by nature and we were pleased to see a variety of wildlife.
Our first stop was at Stakes aqueduct (also known as Stalybridge Aqueduct and Tame Aqueduct). The origin 4 arch stone structure was destroyed in the floods of 1799 when Tunnel End reservoir partially collapsed; it was replaced by a cast iron trough with a separate stone hump back bridge alongside carrying the towpath. This is grade II listed and can claim to be the worlds oldest working navigable iron aqueduct. The trough was assembled from flanged cast iron plates and was reinforced in 1875 due to concern about it’s strength. On the offside, wrought iron trusses were fitted and connected to a support beam mid span, the other end of this beam is supported from the hump back bridge by a tie rod and spreader plate.
We were now approaching Staley Wharf and Carolyn Street in Stalybridge, head of navigation until 2001. Stalybridge centre was one of the last sections of the canal to be restored, work starting in 2000. There had been an idea previously to divert the canal around Stalybridge using the River Tame. Armentieres square , the site of lock 6, was a car park and Stalybridge Sport centre had been built across the line of the canal and lock 5. However the sports centre was demolished in March 2000 and it was decided to reinstate the original line of the canal.
A new bridge had to be constructed under Carolyn Street, with lock 4 immediately beyond. Here a new lock had to be constructed slightly to the south of the original as a garage site extended over part of the lock.
Much of lock 5 was found to be intact, it had been infilled to make a small car park at the rear of the indoor sports centre, even an original sluice paddle gate had survived being buried for 30 years. Beyond here the canal had been infilled to the level of Back Melbourne Street and this had to be excavated and a new bridge built. Next is Melbourne Street Bridge, an original bridge which had been infilled, here the infill was removed and a new concrete channel laid. Immediately beyond this a new bridge was constructed leading to Armentieres Square and the new lock 6W.
We continued through Stalybridge, past Tesco to lock 7 where we left the canal to reclaim the cars and drive to the Allotment Café at Mossley. Previously the Flying Teapot this is a hidden gem producing delicious food, some of which is grown on site, and was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone. It is also conveniently next to Woodend Mill, a great place to start the afternoon walk.
Built circa 1830-40 Woodend Mill is a near complete example of a first generation integrated cotton mill site, where both weaving and spinning processes took place, previously the two processes had been done on separate sites. Beyond here the canal becomes rural, quite a contrast to the morning’s walk.
After crossing the restored Royal George Aqueduct we passed the Royal George Mills. Built in 1786 the Mills had latterly specialised in producing taper hammer and technical felt but closed in 1999 and were converted into an attractive housing complex.
A pub now stands on the site of the next mill, Frenches Mill. By perusing old maps and a painting of the mills we worked out that the marina at the side of the pub is on the site of the old mill dam.
Approaching Uppermill High Street Bridge, which leads to lock 21, had to be lengthened because of road widening. This is another bridge with no towpath so walkers have to cross the main road to regain the canal. Uppermill was the first section of the canal to be restored, rejuvenation of the canal and town went hand in hand and it is now a very popular tourist destination. At the far end of the town the impressive Saddleworth Viaduct crosses the canal. Beneath this the canal crosses the River Tame on Old Sag aqueduct. This developed a sag soon after construction. During restoration it was relined with a lightweight concrete channel to make it safe but the sag was left untouched.
Next is Wool Road Basin with it’s transhipment warehouse (now the home of the Huddersfield Canal Society) that served the woollen mill behind (now converted to housing). Passing under the new road bridge and excavated Wool Road bridge we climbed Diggle locks, stopping after lock 28 to find the unusual pedestrian tunnel that was built under the canal to allow mill workers to cross from their cottages on the south side of the canal. The tunnel has a 90 degree turn in it giving very little light at the corner. With stone underfoot this can make it quite treacherous and due to the rain prior to the walk it was unfortunately deemed unsafe to explore on the day.
Refreshments were now calling and we hastened to Grandpa Greene’s Ice cream parlour next to lock 31 for a welcome break before the short walk to Standedge tunnel.
We had seen just 3 boats moving on a sunny day in August, it is a shame that so many boaters are put off cruising this beautiful canal because of the number of locks, but it was great to see the large number of people walking and enjoying the open areas alongside the canal.
Many thanks to those who turned out early to ease a fairly complicated day of car shuffling!
As everyone enjoyed the walk on the Huddersfield East so much last year we decided we should finish off the Huddersfield this year with the west side. The group last walked this in 2001, the year it re-opened. We weren’t on that walk as we were struggling over with the boat, facing dry pounds, faulty lock gear and a delay at the tunnel due to a sunken boat. Things have improved somewhat since then and although we have boated it several times since it has been surprising how many features we found when walking that we’d completely missed from the boat.
We’ll be following a similar pattern to last year, a short walk on the more industrial bit in the morning from Portland Basin to Stalybridge, a short car journey to the lunch stop at Mossley and a longer walk from Mossley into the hills in the afternoon to tunnel end, with the possibility of a couple of ice-cream stops on the way.
We will meet in Huddersfield Road car park at Stalybridge. On the B6175, close to the canal and just off the A6018, Ashton the Stalybridge road (map attached). OS ref 968987. For Sat navs SK15 2QA appears to cover that end of Huddersfield Road.
From here we will take a minimum number of cars to the start of the walk at Portland Basin on the Ashton Canal. The mornings walk includes the Asda tunnel (toilets at Asda), Whitelands ‘tunnel’, the oldest navigable cast iron aqueduct and of course Stalybridge where major restoration took place. We will then drive to Mossley for lunch. We have booked lunch at the allotment café which is next to Woodend Mill on the canal and serves excellent food.
There is the option of a pint at the Roaches Inn which is 10 minutes walk up the canal.
We rejoin the canal at
Woodend Mill for the very pleasant walk past
Royal George, Uppermill, Wool Road transhipment warehouse and
Saddleworth Viaduct to Diggle locks and tunnel end where we will have a couple
of cars in place to run drivers back to Mossley.
If you are joining us and wish to eat at the café please contact Jan & Vern with your menu choices bySaturday 27th July. Otherwise email or ring by Friday 2nd August.
This walk was dedicated to the memory of Ian McKim Thompson MBChB, a much missed friend of the BCN and BBHT.
What is now the Bradley branch was originally part of Brindley’s Main Line (now called ‘The Old Main Line’) of 1772. When the line was straightened with the building of Coseley Tunnel it became the Bradley arm and a new section was also built with 9 locks taking it down to the Walsall Canal. It is currently navigable as far as the Bradley workshops, from there it is a restoration project. Dave Pearson, the local IWA branch deputy chairman and BCNS representative kindly accompanied us on the walk, explaining the restoration along the way.
Before heading for the canal Paul and Kathy presented us all with a map of the canals/lost canals in the area which helped immensely in understanding all the loops and arms, some of which can still be seen, and interesting details of the walk. They also set the challenge of finding as many different makers marks on clay capping stones as possible (with prizes).
We joined the Bradley Canal at Glasshouse Bridge, part way along the navigable section of the canal. A few years ago it was a struggle to boat here because of weed growth. Much work has now been done to improve it, dredging (including lifting out a flattened, but complete Ford Escort), clearing the banks, installing Nicospan on the offside and seeding with wildflowers behind it to create an attractive bank and improving the towpath. Mooring rings are also planned to be installed. In the heyday of the canals this whole area was full of industry—Paul had counted 12 iron works and 128 coal mines and shafts! There is now much new housing and redevelopment in the area.
After passing under Pot House bridge, a blanked off section of canal can be seen ahead, this was the original line of the canal, a loop which served Wilkinsons Ironworks, which was subsequently straightened. Beyond this section Bradley Pumping Engine stood. This pumped water from local mines into the canal, electric pumps still do this, a mutually beneficial agreement with the successors of the NCB.
Immediately after Bradley workshop is the major obstacle of restoration. Across a busy road, on the line of the canal stand large factory units owned by CRT. The lease is nearing the end on these so there is the possibility of knocking these down and restoring the original route of the canal. Failing this there is an area of open land to the side which the canal could be diverted through, however this would entail building an embankment which would be very costly.
From the back of the factory the line of the canal runs through what is now an open green area, although it has previously been an area of mining, industrial wasteland and a council tip. It is known to be contaminated, another problem for restoration. Here there had been another loop in the original main line, we followed the later straightened line to the top of the 9 locks which led down to the Walsall Canal.
The top flight of 6 locks can’t be seen but were simply buried and are thought to be in quite good condition, prior to restoration the chambers would have to be dug out, inspected then filled in again to maintain stability whilst awaiting water and lock gates.
Another problem in this area is local resistance to the restoration as some residents have ‘extended’ their gardens into the canal corridor.
After these locks is a partly buried bridge, which carries a busy A road. This has recently been inspected, it is fairly certain that the abutments are still good and the arch may be serviceable. Below the bridge the canal is overgrown but intact, with the bottom three locks intact and culverted.
This final section of the Bradley Arm is tree lined and feels surprisingly rural, it joins the Walsall Canal at Moorcroft Junction. After a bit of clay capping stone inspection by the more competitive members of the group we set off south towards the Gospel Oak branch.
The Gospel Oak branch leaves the Walsall on the offside and is still in water (not navigable) for the first part of it’s length. It is hoped that residential moorings can be provided on this length. A path then follows the approximate line to the branch end through a green corridor. This brought us out close to the Gospel Oak pub where we stopped for an amazingly generous lunch deal.
Happily replete we headed back to the Wednesbury Oak loop and then retraced our steps back to the start of the walk, seven out of the possible eight capping stones having been found along the way.
This is a fascinating area, full of history and we were very fortunate to have two such knowledgeable guides in Paul and Dave. It would be nice to see more boats venturing onto the arm, which with the recent improvements should be an absolute doddle compared to a few years ago. Even better would be to travel down a restored link to the Walsall canal which we hope to see come to fruition. Hopefully this would also lead to improvements along the Walsall canal, which has a surprisingly green and well kept towing path but suffers badly from weed growth in the channel.
Many thanks to Dave for accompanying us for the day and being a font of knowledge and to Paul and Kathy for their organisation and detailed research of the area and making the day so interesting.
The walk takes-in parts of Brindley’s Old Main Line, most of the
Wednesbury Oak Loop/Bradley Branch, a bit of the Walsall Canal and all that’s
left of the Gospel Oak Branch.
This is a six mile circular walk: 3½ miles before lunch, 2½ after lunch. It comprises, roughly-speaking: ⅓ operational canal, ⅓ line lost but obvious, ⅓ line lost and subject to guesswork and/or imagination.
Start 10.30 am
in Bath Street, SO 951962, WV14 0ST:
a straight road on the eastern perimeter of Morrisons supermarket in Black
Country Route, Bilston, WV14 0DZ (the dual-carriageway A463).
Travelling west on the A463 from Oxford Street
Island, there are signs for Brooklands
Sheds & Fencing and Meadwood
Industrial Estate. Turn left immediately before the Morrisons supermarket
building and keep left into Bath Street.
Park here – there are no yellow lines.
Bilston bus station and Bilston Central Metro
station are on the north side of the Black Country Route and easily accessible
to both the town and our start point.
Anyone wanting to come by boat could moor close to
Glasshouse Bridge, the point where we begin our walk on the canal. No doubt C&RT
at Bradley Workshops can advise.
It’s a big Marston’s pub with a large seating
capacity, inside and out. Range of ales by Marston’s and Banks, ciders &
Extensive menu (note, sandwiches on the Lunch Club menu). In order to be as
efficient as possible, the pub will appreciate an advance order. If you are
coming and plan to eat at the pub, please let the Nibletts know your choices before
Saturday 25 May.
whether you wish to order food, if you are planning to come on the walk, please
ring Kathy & Paul Niblett on 01782 641967 (answerphone available), any time
before the 29 May.
Stout shoes etc as usual. We don’t expect mud:
most of the route is on towpath, public footpath or street pavement.
Another Benjamin Outram canal, the Nutbrook, which fully opened in 1796, was an independent branch of the Erewash built by local businessmento carry coal and ironstone.
The 4½ mile long canal ran from the Erewash Canal near Stanton Lock, just north of the point where the M1 crosses the Erewash Canal, to Shipley Wharf near Ilkeston. It was built with 13 broad locks capable of taking Trent barges, in reality though it was mainly used by narrowboats. 2 reservoirs were built near Shipley to supply water for the canal, this supply was also used to feed the boilers at the Ironworks. With short branches off the canal, many linked to tramways to serve the many mineral works in the area.
Even in its heyday this was never a busy canal, with an average of just 9 boat movements per working day. As well as competition from the railways it also suffered from subsidence and leakage and was informally closed in 1896. Just the bottom section from the Erewash to Stanton Ironworks remained in use and Stanton Ironworks eventually became the owners of the canal. The last boat left this section of the canal in 1949.
Given it’s early closure it’s amazing that it’s still possible to walk a good part of it’s length, that some of it is still in water and remains of locks can still be seen.
A very large group of us, including several new members, met approximately halfway along the canal at Straws Bridge (previously Moor’s Bridge), where there is a large public car park next to a lake. With Mick Golds kindly accompanying us as guide we set off to explore the southern section of the canal.
Crossing the A609, we were soon on the line of the canal, here Hunloke’s Arm, which served the ironworks and pits of West Hallam, went off to the right.
Shortly after we encountered locks 6 and 5, one wall of each remains, the footpath runs through lock 5 while there an now a lake to the other side, this didn’t exist when the canal was operating and appears to be an amenity area for the surrounding modern housing estate.
We were soon walking on the towpath with the visible line of the canal on one side and the Nut Brook (which runs close to the canal for much of the length) on the other. The canal goes under the A6096, once Little Hallam Bridge, now culverted with modern houses above, this was originally the site of Bridge House, the company’s very impressive headquarters.
After the remains of lock 4, which is reasonably intact, water started to appear in the canal and we reached a weir in the Nut Brook. This is a later feature built to provide a source of water for the lower part of the canal and Stanton Ironworks after the rest of the canal closed cutting off the water from the reservoirs. From here the canal is properly in water.
A little further on are the abutments of what was once a fine stone bridge, but now has a flat concrete deck. Sow Brook (or Lord Stanhope’s Arm) left the canal on the offside just after this, then the remains of lock 3, which has two rather unusual sluices in a weir at the top.
Then the canal suddenly stopped and we emerged onto a rather desolate area that used to be the huge Stanton Ironworks. This was the part that had been kept open after 1895, the canal had run straight through the Ironworks and included a toll house, 2 locks and 2 bridges but in 1962 was partly filled in and eventually completely obliterated.
We turned at this point and headed back, now following the railway track of the Great Northern Railway.
Lunch had been planned at the Bulls Head at Ilkeston. However, a message came a few days before the walk that the landlord and chef had walked out, understandably causing our organisers something of a panic. However all was well, by Saturday a new landlady was in situ and as there was no chef we were allowed to eat our sandwiches in the pub while enjoying the excellent beer.
After lunch we explored the Northern stretch of the canal. This section is crossed several times by railway lines and we were soon puzzling over a strange affair at the side of the path where pieces of railway line surrounded a clump of trees with what appeared to be a seat in the centre. Mick explained that this was a buffer stop for a siding, with a heavy piece of forged rail holding it together.
The first railway crossing is now a mound that you have to walk over, but the second one, albeit narrowed, is still in situ. There were two more locks to examine on this section and another stretch in water, this time with the type of rough towpath that you expect to encounter on a disused canal.
Emerging from this tree lined section the canal came to an abrupt halt, here a large area of opencast mining has completely obliterated the line of the canal. Ahead there would once have been the last 3 locks and Shipley Wharf. Beyond that Shipley Reservoir is now part of Shipley Country Park and marked on current maps as a lake. We turned again and returned to the car park.
Thanks were given to Mick for imparting his extensive knowledge of the area and making sure we didn’t miss any features, and to Dave and Izzie for providing such a great start to our 2019 programme.
Next time out Saturday 1st June: The Bradley Arm on the BCN