Tuesday 3rd September 2013
This flabby gut of mine isn’t gonna disappear of its own accord, so today I donned the lycra shorts and headed out on the bike along the local canal towpaths. I never tire of walking or cycling beside our local waterways – We’re so lucky to have them, but so many local people either know nothing of them, or think they’re still the dirty, smelly dumping grounds that they undoubtably were in the 1970’s and 1980’s. My route took me along the Wyrley & Essington, Walsall, Wednesbury, BCN Mainline, Titford, Birmingham & Fazeley, Tame Valley and Rushall canals, with a little road cycling between Oldbury and Edgbaston, as the Titford Canal is a dead end. Rather than describe the route here is a link to the GPS track recorded by my Garmin :
Overview of my route. Click on the image to view Detailed map & Stats ….
After the unfortunate demise of my beloved Canon G12 I only have the camera on my iPhone with me on my cycle rides nowadays, as I’m not gonna expose my precious 5D dSLR and lenses to the bumpy surfaces of the local towpaths.
Anyway, these are the shots I took during the day. They’re not perfect – the iPhone camera is hardly a world-beater – but they’re OK . . . .
<<< Click on any photo to view its location in Panoramio >>>
My day started out on the Wyrley & Essington canal as far as Birchills Junction, where I joined the Walsall Canal :
Hungry Swans on The Walsall Canal at Darlaston
Ocker Hill Tunnel Branch, Now Disused
Cast Iron Bridges at Tame Valley Junction
I took a slight detour at Great Bridge to check out the route of the now disused Balls Hill Branch Canal. The canal is completely gone now, but pointers to where it was once located remain :
Bagnall Street. This was once the location of a bridge over the Balls Hill Branch canal. Just out of shot to the left is the Miners Arms Pub.
Miners Arms Pub, Bagnall street. This pub once sat beside the towpath of the Balls Hill Branch canal.
Standing where the canal was once located. The wall appears to be a lot older than the houses behind it.
This strip of wasteland is the only real remaining sign of what was once a busy, bustling canal.
Between Bagnall Street and the Walsall canal, under the Black Country New Road, lie these disused railway lines . . .
Back on the Walsall canal I noticed the quaint Latin plaque on Hempole Bridge :
Latin plaque on Hempole Bridge. Thats 1825 in old money
Hempole Bridge, Walsall Canal
Moored Narrowboat at Ryder’s Green Locks, Walsall Canal
The short stretch of canal above the Ryder’s Green locks – between Ryder’s Green Junction and Pudding Green Junction – is actually a stretch of the Wednesbury Old canal, which is always confusing. At Pudding Green Junction I joined the BCN mainline heading southeast towards Birmingham :
Pudding Green Junction, BCN Mainline. The Wednesbury Old canal branches off under the cast iron bridge in the centre of the photo.
BCN Mainline at Bromford, looking back towards Pudding Green Junction.
Bromford Stop Island – presumably tolls were collected here. Bromford Junction can be seen in the distance.
At Bromford Junction I took to the old branch (Wolverhampton level) of the BCN canal, in order to gain access to the Titford canal. A flight of 3 locks raises the canal 20 feet up to Spon Lane junction, and the old canal actually passes over the newer main BCN canal on the Stewart Aqueduct. Its a strange sight to behold here – 2 canals, a railway and the busy M5 motorway, all stacked on top of one another :
BCN Wolverhampton level beneath the M5, Spon Lane Junction
M5 supports reflected in the calm water of the BCN Wolverhampton Level.
Stewart aqueduct. A busy railway line and the M5 both straddle the canals.
The more recent BCN Mainline passes under the Wolverhampton level at Stewart Aqueduct.
Following the Wolverhampton level towards Oldbury (which is a strange experience, as the canal is located directly underneath the M5 motorway) the junction with the Titford canal was soon reached. The Titford canal, a dead end, acted as a feeder for the BCN. It steadily climbs 38 feet up a flight of 5 locks and terminates at the very pretty Titford Pools.
The Titford Canal is rarely used nowadays. Consequently some pounds between locks can be barely in water at times.
Langley Maltings. Apparently these buildings were owned by Wolverhampton & Dudley breweries from 1944-2007, and were destroyed by fire in 2009.
Uncle Ben’s Bridge. Can’t help but think of rice when I pass beneath this sign . . . .
At Titford pools it was back to road cycling. I wanted to head into Birmingham city centre, but I took a higgledy-piggledy route, as I rarely follow a map. I cycled up onto the high ground of Warley woods, just to check out the views, then made my way to Edgbaston Reservoir.
Map of the layout of Warley Woods.
Warley Water Tower. 236m above sea level, so I’m informed. I can well believe it – getting up here on the bike was a struggle . . . .
Birmingham’s BT Tower, seen from the dam wall of Edgbaston Reservoir. The Icknield Port loop of the BCN canal can be seen at the bottom of the photo.
After the “Rezza” it was back onto the BCN and into the city centre.
St. Vincent Street Bridge, BCN canal. Oozells Street loop can be seen leading off to the right, beneath the right hand bridge arch.
Ooozells Street Loop, BCN Canal
Ooozells Street Loop, BCN Canal
Ooozells Street Loop, BCN Canal
Birmingham’s new Library and Sealife Centre, Reflected in the BCN Mainline canal . . .
Old Turn Junction. The Birmingham & Fazeley canal leads off to the left. To the right, beyond the island, The BCN canal continues to Gas Street.
Cambridge Wharf. From here the Birmingham & Fazeley canal descends 81 feet, through the 13 Farmer’s Bridge locks, passing almost directly beneath the BT Tower.
Heading NorthEast out of the City the canal (now the Birmingham & Fazeley) drops steadily, via the Farmer’s Bridge and Aston locks. I soon found myself under the M6 at Salford Junction, where I headed NorthWest on the Tame Valley canal. The Tame Valley Cut is a real gem – surprisingly rural. One can soon forget that the heart of The industrial Midlands is within touching distance.
The Tame Valley Canal heads Northwest from Salford Junction. This stretch of “cut” is remarkably rural . . . .
A solitary Heron on the bank of the Tame Valley Canal. I spotted dozens of these lovely fellas today . . .
At Rushall Junction all that remained of my day on the towpath was a short run along the Rushall canal as far as Sutton Road, where I left the canal for the pathways of Walsall Arboretum, then the busy roads back home.
Rushall Junction. The Tame Valley canal continues left, out of shot, while the Rushall canal forks right, under the footbridge.
No.4 Lock, Rushall canal.
A great day. I returned home quite knackered – anyone who thinks that canal towpaths are flat & level should take a trip along the canals I’ve mentioned – those locks are hard work . . . . .
Selfie, taken in the lift mirror. Felt quite tired at the end of today’s ride – those locks (and Warley Hill) were hard work ! !