The Wednesbury Oak Loop is the name given to what was once a long meandering loop of the Birmingham Canal Navigations (BCN) Main Line leaving the current Main Line at Deepfields Junction and re-joining at Bloomfield Junction, near Factory Junction. This is sometimes known as the Bradley Arm.
The loop was severed many years ago with only the section between Deepfields Junction and Bradley Workshops remaining. It was kept open to allow access to Bradley Workshops, where lock gates are manufactured, and to maintain the water supply from the pumps at Bradley to supply the rest of the BCN.
My previous blog post explained the proposals to turn this into a through navigation by reopening abandoned waterways under the name of Bradley Canal.
The Wednesbury Oak Loop can be cruised, and the towpath is in good condition and can be walked throughout, making a through walk including the route of the proposed Bradley Canal possible. The whole route is shown in my Bradley Canal map and can be downloaded in both Acrobat (pdf) and Memory-Map (qct) formats and, like all the maps for restoration projects, the Bradley Canal maps are free to download.
I’ve made the photos from my recent walk into a virtual cruise, including the through route so you can click through the next buttons to complete your virtual cruise from the comfort of your chair. Just choose your starting point
The Lapal Canal is the name now associated with the restoration of the Dudley No 2 Canal using an alternative route in places.
The Dudley No 2 Canal once ran from Parkhead Junction , where it meets the Dudley No 1 Canal, to Selly Oak Junction where it met the Worcester & Birmingham Canal. It opened in 1798 and carried significant traffic once the Worcester & Birmingham Canal was completed in 1802.
The route included Lapal Tunnel, some 3461 metres (3785 yards) long, the second longest canal tunnel at the time, just 20m (22 yards) shorter than Sapperton Tunnel on the Thames & Severn Canal. The tunnel suffered many collapses, mostly caused by mining subsidence, and was abandoned after a major collapse in 1917.
The section of the Dudley No 2 Canal to the east of the abandoned tunnel remained navigable to a brick works at California until 1953 when it was drained and filled in. To the the west of tunnel the navigation was effectively terminated at Hawne Basin, with a short length beyond being used for moorings.
In 1990 the Lapal Canal Trust was formed to support the restoration of the Dudley No 2 Canal, or Lapal Canal as the restoration section was becoming know.
In 1997, Dudley Council restored a section of the canal at Leasowes (not far from Hawne Basin).
A study, commissioned from Atkins in 2007, confirmed that re-opening Lapal Tunnel was not practicable and recommended an alternative route using locks to take the canal over the top of the hill instead of through it.
In 2013, planning permission was granted for development of a site alongside the Worcester & Birmingham Canal at Selly Oak which would block the line of the Lapal Canal and prevent restoration. Fortunately, after considerable pressure from the public, the plans included provision for reinstatement of the canal, on a new alignment a little further south. The developers will make provision for the canal but it’s not clear if they will finish construction and and open the route without additional external funding. The development is expected to finish in 2017.
In late 2015 the next 100 metres of canal after the Selly Oak development was dug out and will become connected to the Worcester & Birmingham Canal by the new channel through the development, probably during 2017.
There are no more active plans for completing the Lapal Canal, although there is much local enthusiasm.
You can view a virtual cruise along the canal, just choose your starting point and click the “Next” links:-
On the way back from seeing progress with repainting our boat in the autumn I took up an invitation to visit Willow Wren Training. They are excavating the arm at their training centre which had been filled in many years ago. The short arm they had previously excavated had been stopped off, the fish removed, and the water pumped out.
Looking the other way, the excavation is progressing. The original walls have been found and it’s not known exactly how far the arm used to go, although old plans suggest there’s a little further to go. Careful digging will eventually reveal the end.
A public footpath crossed the arm on the level before the excavation started and the right of way has been maintained by providing a new footbridge.
Here’s Steve & Izzie Vaughan wondering how long the arm will be when the excavation reaches the end.
The style of the bridge looked familiar and Steve reminded me where I had seen it before.
It was on the Chesterfield Canal, near Staveley Basin, as Constitution Hill Bridge 11 on the open section from Chesterfield.
With Willow Wren’s bridge having six pairs of panels and Constitution Hill Bridge having four pairs of panels it looked like Willow Wren had the larger bridge, until I remembered another bridge.
On the section of the Chesterfield Canal which is still to be restored, where some work has already been undertaken, stands Renishaw Foundry Footbridge 18B. This also has six pairs of panels, the same as Willow Wren Training’s bridge, so it looks like a draw.
My February map updates included an increase in the routes covered, with the addition of a map covering the Hollinwood Canal and the Stockport Canal.
Some might consider these to be called the Hollinwood Branch Canal and the Stockport Branch Canal and both to be branches of the Ashton Canal, but I’m using the shorter name they are gradually becoming known by.
The map includes the Fairbottom Branch of the Hollinwood Canal, and the Werneth Branch Canal, a stand alone canal, despite the “Branch” in the title which is often mistaken for a branch of the Hollinwood Canal.
Restoration of most of the Hollinwood Canal looks possible, excluding the most northern section after the motorway, but a link to the Rochdale Canal looks possible instead.
Restoration of the Stockport Canal might be possible for the northern half of the route but the southern part (within Stockport) looks unlikely as the route is blocked by too many developments and, regrettably, some of these seem very recent.
While cycling along the Leigh Branch of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal recently to check my map data I encountered new signs, intended for cyclists.
This was the first sign I found, at Leigh.
I was intrigued by the precision of the timings shown on the signs, with Wigan shown as 59 minutes rather than 60 minutes, or 1 hour. As it takes 10-15 minutes to cycle across Wigan this must be to a very precise location, but where?
Later I found this sign at Wigan, at the junction between the Leigh Branch and the main line of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal.
Leigh is 54 minutes and Wigan town centre is 6 minutes, a total of 60 minutes cycling, so where did the 59 minutes come from, was it to one end of the pier?
It was early yesterday morning when I arrived in Wigan by train. I was on the way to help Geoff and Mags on Seyella come down the Wigan Flight.
I paused to say hello to Jan on Waiouru as I walked past on the way to the top of the Wigan Flight.
Meg spotted my arrival at the top of the flight as she waited patiently outside Seyella.
It was a lovely day once the sun had come out and Wigan Top Lock looked very welcoming.
There were no boats within the flight so I lifted one top paddle on the locks near the top of the flight so they would be full by the time we came down. Geoff went ahead to open the gate and see the boat in safely as Mags steered Seyella and I shut the paddles and gates behind.
Geoff and Mags are used to working together and there was no need to hold the boat on the centre rope as the locks are gentle when emptying.
Jan walked up from Waiouru and met us part way down the flight, providing another pair of hands.
Some of the locks have winding hear to help close the gates.
Jan seems to be having fun – it’s not often that happens on the heavy locks of the Wigan Flight.
Jan left us at the bottom lock of the main flight and I stayed on board to help with the two Poolstock Locks.
I left Meg, Geoff and Mags looking very happy at Poolstock Bottom Lock. It took four and a half hours from top to bottom, including a stop for a brew half way down with four of us working well together – it would have taken Geoff and Mags much longer on their own. The 21 locks in the main Wigan Flight, plus two at Poolstock, are hard work, with some of them being very hard work.
I paused to help Jan with a minor problem as I walked back to the station and caught the train home.