Huddersfield Canal Walk Saturday 3rd August

Walk on the Huddersfield Canal West 10 a.m. start

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.

The Allotment Cafe

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 by Saturday 27th July. Otherwise email or ring by Friday 2nd August.      07443834997

Hope to see you there.

June Walk: The Bradley Branch and surroundings

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.

Contrast of the old and new at Glass House Bridge—the further end of the factory site is also earmarked for housing
Looking in the opposite direction, the canal is completely lined with new houses  

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.

A coot’s nest at the bottom of the parapet of the blocked off loop with an unusually large brood of chicks. The BCN is becoming a haven for wildlife  

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.

The factories across the road from the Bradley workshops which stand on the line of the canal  

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.

Bradley top lock then………… ………..and now

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.

The buried bridge
One of the three bottom locks with safety rails  

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.

Looking for makers names on the capping stones  

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.

Heading down the Walsall Canal The start of the Gospel Oak Branch

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.

Dave Pearson talking to the group


We have had the first working party of the year on the 19th May 2019. It was an amazing success with twelve new volunteers enlisting to help. Fantastic to see a family come along and children getting involved.

The next working party will be Sunday 16th June from 10am til 1pm and every third Sunday of each month, If the weather is good we can light a BBQ.

Bradley Canal Walk Saturday 1st June

Walk majoring on the Bradley Branch Canal                        10.30am start

OS Landranger 139     Explorer 219 (Wolverhampton & Dudley) (Old Pathfinder 912 Wolverhampton (South) (SO 89/99) Godfrey Edition maps 62.16 (Bilston), 67.04 (Bradley), 68.01 (Wednesbury)

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.

Lunch will be taken at 1.00pm at the Gospel Oak, 1 Bilston Road, Tipton see

It’s a big Marston’s pub with a large seating capacity, inside and out. Range of ales by Marston’s and Banks, ciders & lagers.

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.

Regardless of 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.

The Nutbrook Canal Walk 6th April 2019

Another Benjamin Outram canal, the Nutbrook, which fully opened in 1796, was an independent branch of the Erewash built by local businessmen to 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.

Walking through lock 5

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.

Little Hallam Bridge, now culverted, with modern house beyond
Little Hallam Bridge, the large building to the right of the bridge was the company’s 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.

The weir in the Nut Brook, in the foreground is the canal feed, the weir beyond fed the Ironworks
Beyond this point the canal is fully 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.

Inspecting the unusual sluices at lock 3

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.

The canal suddenly stops
The site of Stanton Ironworks

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 buffer stop

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.

The narrowed railway bridge
Nearing the end of the Northern section

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

The Nutbrook Canal Walk 6th April 2019

The Nutbrook Canal was a branch off the Erewash Canal; apparently it was never officially abandoned however, most of it was closed by 1895 but despite this there is still a surprising amount to be seen including a navigable looking stretch and several lock remains. 

Running mainly parallel to the canal line is a Sustrans route mainly on the course of long abandoned railway lines (there were many in the Erewash valley) and today’s walk is basically a figure of eight using both these routes.  The full length is some 6-7 miles but there are opportunities to cut it shorter at some points, even to just do the morning as we will pass the cars after lunch.  We have managed to get Mick Golds to accompany us and share his extensive local knowledge of the area.

Meet at Straw’s Bridge car park on the north side of the A609 west of Ilkeston at 10.00am. Post code is apparently DE7 5FG but we haven’t tested it to see if Sat Navs work with it! Otherwise SK454418 should work and the car park is marked on OS maps.

Lunch will be at the Bulls Head, Little Hallam Hill, Ilkeston – yes, it’s uphill to the pub!  There’s the usual pub fare including “2 meals for £10”. The landlord requests orders in advance please which will much help proceedings!

Please let Dave and Izzie know if you’ll be walking. Food orders please by 30th March.  01636 708781, 07733 655279. Email is probably best for bookings

New members: Eating at the pub isn’t compulsory! Some prefer to bring sandwiches, please feel free to do whatever suits you..

Waggon completed

We finally have a complete waggon after Brian Greaves, the floating blacksmith who has been at the basin during Christmas and the New Year,  forged and installed the gate. We are extremely pleased with the result.

A true story of life in Bugsworth in the early 1900’s

BBHT have a supply of the wonderfully written story of a life spent in Bugsworth (pre Buxworth) from early 1900 left to us by the author Hannah Rose Swindell.

The title ‘EXCEPT THE LORD BUILD THE HOUSE’ appears to be a misnomer for it is not in any way religion related.  Names of villagers come thick and fast as does the way of life which has now long since gone.

The book can be bought at the Bugsworth Basin shop or from Ian Edgar MBE, at Top Lock House, Lime Kiln Lane, Marple, SK6 6BX. (0161 427 7402). Cost £5.00 plus P & P if applicable.

All proceeds go in to BBHT for the upkeep and continued restoration of the Basin.




Summer – Autumn 2018

Last Saturday brought some more unusual visitors to the basin as two steam engines came down from the First world War commemoration that was taking place in the village.

But the summer months saw far fewer boats than usual visiting the basin. In May CRT re-opened Marple locks having completed the works on lock 15, however restrictions and then closure soon came again with lock 11 failing. With the Peak Forest canal effectively cut in half and boats unable to do the popular Cheshire ring  in particular this impacted on the number of boats visiting  Bugsworth.

As the hot dry summer progressed and the grass at the basin turned brown the feeder reservoirs dropped drastically.

                           July – pretty empty with the grass turning brown

On 13th August Bosley locks were shut through lack of water, cutting off the summit level from the rest of the canal system. At the same time, with no feed coming in from the Black Brook, all boats were advised to move out and CRT put stop planks in at the basin to help maintain level in the summit pound and we waited to see if the level of the basin would drop—or rather, how much it would drop.

Initially the level did drop 8” but fairly soon the weather cooled and rain showers kept topping up the basin.  However, after Pablo lined the lower basin arm stop planks with plastic the level of the arm dropped drastically.

Sealing the stop planks on the lower basin arm

3 leaks in the arm were soon apparent, unfortunately we also found that water was leaking into the arm through one of the walls, probably running from the wide. This was referred to CRT who have investigated and we await developments.

The basin was re-opened a few weeks ago after heavy rain raised the level of the Black Brook and started feeding into the basin again.

During the summer, as usual, work centered around keeping the basin tidy.

Work has now turned to tidying up where needed and construction of the new accessible picnic benches, planters and seats.

         Cleaning up the cobbles down to the middle basin


                                     Cutting old lock beams into planks for the first picnic table

Having cut some of our stock of redundant lock gate beams into planks the first picnic bench is now well under way. This will be the easy access picnic table, which we hope to have in place early next year.

50 Years on

On 14 September 1968, the Inland Waterways Protection Society received permission from British Waterways to commence restoration of Bugsworth Basin. The IWPS, a splinter group of the IWA, had been formed 10 years earlier, they had visited and reviewed several class C waterways including the Stratford on Avon, Dearne and Dove, Chesterfield, Pocklington, Macclesfield and of course the Peak Forest where they ‘found’ Bugsworth Basin.

                                                    Bugsworth Basin in 1966                                                                  

The main aims of the IWPS became the restoration and operation of the Basin. Initially led by the indomitable Bessie Bunker, she believed that as the canals had been built by hand, they should be restored by hand. Ian Edgar took over in 1974, thankfully he didn’t share this philosophy or we might still be digging today!

Prior to closure in 1927, for over a hundred years Bugsworth Basin had been a thriving inland port, the largest and busiest on the narrow canal system and the only one to survive intact. Linked to limestone and gritstone quarries by the 6 mile long Peak Forest Tramway it was a large industrial complex with    warehouses, limekilns, wagn tipplers, cranes and a stone crusher.

                                                   Middle basin                       

                                    Upper basin with warehouse and tramway wagons

By 1968 it was silted up and overgrown. Of the many buildings only part of the warehouse in the middle arm (locally known as the monastery garden) and the base of the stone crusher remained, along with some of the limekilns and setts from the tramway. The stone from many of the structures had been taken and used elsewhere.

Alongside the re-excavation of the canal, there were many stone retaining walls to repair and the horse bridge to re-build. Stone had to be sourced and brought back to the Basin, this coming from various locations including Chinley railway station, Broken Banks Farm and Rose and Crown Farm.

                   Volunteers at work on the Lower Basin

                          Walls in need of re-building in the Upper Basin

Various hurdles were overcome – the proposal of turning the basin into a marina, thus ruining the historical site, was followed by the major threat of the A6 bypass being built through the basin. Ancient Monument status was applied for and granted protecting the basin and forcing the bypass to be diverted around it.

A major problem was leaks (the river course was altered during construction of the basin and as this area is built up on glacial drift it is quite unstable). The basin was opened and closed again twice before finally re-opening in 2005 after a large part of the bottom of the channel was lined with concrete.

                Boats finally return to the basin in 2005

The role of the volunteers now changed to management, maintenance and providing information and interpretation of the site for the many visitors. The name was changed in 2014 to the more appropriate Bugsworth Basin Heritage Trust.

When Bugsworth Basin was an industrial area there was hardly a tree to be seen, now there are an abundance of plants and wildlife around the Basin. In 2016 the Peak  Forest Canal from Marple aqueduct to Bugsworth gained Green Flag status. Our wildlife volunteer monitors wildlife around the basin, she is also creating an interactive display for children and planning wildlife watches.

The downside of all the trees that now populate the area is that their roots damage the infrastructure, so keeping walls and the limekilns free of trees takes up a lot of volunteer time. Access in some places can be quite tricky and sometimes specialist equipment is needed. However some jobs are too big for the Trust and we then have to call on CRT, with whom we have a good relationship. So when large trees were cut down last year volunteers cleared the debris and when CRT installed a new feed in the middle basin arm to provide more water for the Peak Forest Canal BBHT sourced and planted new indigenous trees and bushes on the disturbed land.

Re-planting disturbed land with indiginous trees and shrubs

A safety harness is needed to cut back trees on the retaining wall

Leaks are still a constant concern, the lower basin arm wasn’t included in the 2005 scheme and has to be stanked off.  Holes which appear alongside the arms regularly have to be plugged with clay.

On the historical side the trust installed a heritage trail around the basin, with interpretive panels and a diorama showing the basin in its heyday. The utilities building was constructed and what was originally intended to be an office became a small shop. Ideally, we would have a building with exhibitions of the history and restoration of the Basin, along with a shop and café. Over the years proposals have been put forward to rebuild one of the warehouses for this purpose, unfortunately this turned out to be too complex. Another idea was for a new building on land at the bottom of the roadway where the containers housing the workshop, equipment and mess room are. British Waterways wouldn’t allow this due to the close proximity of the high retaining wall which separates the Basin from the Black Brook that runs alongside.

Reluctantly the Trust had to shelve the idea of a permanent integrated building and make the most of ‘container city’. One was turned into an exhibition space, another has recently been fitted out as a cinema room which will have a running display of historic images of the working basin including some glass plates, the Restoration by volunteers and a CRT film of canals in general. As CRT now have a welcome station at the basin this will key in with their activities. The exteriors have been painted and timelines attached along with a panel of artwork, based around the basin, produced by pupils of Buxworth Primary School.

Timeline and cinema room in ‘container city’

Using redundant balance beams volunteers are making benches and planters, which will be filled with edible plants, for the area alongside.

Being unable to rebuild any permanent historical structures attention has turned to removable artefacts/structures. Recently installed on original tramway lines in the lower basin is a replica Peak Forest Tramway wagon which has been constructed by our volunteers. Following the success of this, further projects are in the pipeline, subject to the necessary approvals.

Visitors to the Basin are full of praise for the restoration and on-going work of the volunteers, as one visitor wrote in the book ‘Fantastic, wonderful what you have achieved here’