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:-
The St Helens Canal ran from the River Mersey near Warrington to reach the outskirts of St Helens. It’s sometimes known as the Sankey Canal as it used the line of the Sankey Brook in places. The broad locks enabled the barges already in use on the River Mersey to reach the Lancashire Coalfields.
The main line of the St Helens Canal was open by 1757, pre-dating the Bridgewater Canal by at least six years despite many claims that the Bridgewater Canal was the first. Over the next twenty years four branches extended the St Helens Canal to reach the centre of St Helens and an extension of the main line reached Widnes.
The far end of the Ravenhead Branch was filled in over 100 years ago and gradual decline led to official abandonment of the canal in 1963.
Proposals for restoration face many obstacles but progress is already being made with the Linking the Locks project, restoring the line between the locks to the River Mersey at Widnes and Fiddler’s Ferry, with more information on the website of the Sankey Canal Restoration Society.
I hadn’t heard of the Ravenhead Canal until recently. I discovered it while researching the St Helens Canal. The St Helens Canal has a Ravenhead Branch and Googling for that threw up references to the Ravenhead Canal. Initially I thought they were just different names for the same waterway but I soon realised they were different waterways.
The Ravenhead Canal ran about 1.6km (1 mile) to the South West of St Helens, near Thatto Heath. The Ravenhead Canal and the Ravenhead Branch of the St Helens Canal served opposite ends of the Ravenhead Plate Glass Works and the Ravenhead Glass Bottle Works, taking their names from those. Those industries evolved into the famous Pilkington Glass and the World of Glass straddles the canal in St Helens.
The Ravenhead Canal was about 550m (600 yards) long. There is little information about the canal and it seems to have closed so long ago that there is hardly any trace of it on the 1906 Ordnance Survey Maps. The former Alexandra Colliery, positioned roughly where the “R” of Ravenhead is on the map, the coming of the railway in a cutting, and levelling of land for modern housing have all changed the land levels since the canal was closed.
Two photographs, taken to show where the canal crossed the white coloured road in the centre of the map give no clue about the canal’s route.
Looking west along Elm Road. The Ravenhead Canal would probably have crossed the line of the road between the 20 mph signs.
Looking East along Elm Road. The Ravenhead Canal would probably have crossed below road level near the crest of the hill, where the 20 mph signs shown in the previous photo can just be seen. Today the road crosses the railway line at the top of the hill, with the railway running behind the dark fence at the far end of the park on the right.
It’s not clear if Elm Road was there at the same time as the canal, but if it was it would have crossed over (rather than under) the canal which would have been around the level of the grass at the right of the photo. That would mean the houses on the left of the road are on land built up to road level with any trace of the canal well below their foundations.