• BCRS

Bradley Canal Restoration Update.

by Denis Pike


This article is being given from a personal point of view rather than a factual up-to-date briefing.

Some canal restorations have clearly defined reasons for existing. Like the Droitwich Canals restoration was always to connect Droitwich to the Severn andcreate the mid Worcestershire Cruising Ring. The Cotswold Canals will link the Severn and the Thames. Bradley though is not so straightforward and will need a lot of promotion for major investment.

Over twenty years ago I was employed by a landscaping company that would carry out various projects for local authorities. One work provider happened to be British Waterways. They needed sub-contractors to carry out various jobs that were over and above the scope of BW direct labour. There was a lot of funding back then from local councils, and charitable money too for towpath upgrades etc.

The Black Country canals particularly were an area we were contracted to carry out various tasks. This suited me down to the ground because I was developing an increasing interest. I could work on the Droitwich Canals at the weekend and then Black Country canals in the week in order to earn a crust.

Whenever possible I would stop the work truck, take a peek over the canal bridge and try to work out which canal this was and where it went to etc.

One day, I passed over another bridge and stopped the truck. I happened to be on the Gospel Oak Road (between Bilston and Wednesbury). Strangely enough I could see what I knew was a derelict canal. A brick structure in the distance was obviously an abandoned lock. On the opposite side of the road though there was nothing. The line was filled in and now public green open space. A great sin had been committed I thought.

A few years later I began to work directly for Waterways. Bankstaff we were called. I actually got paid for working directly on the canal. A dream had come true for me.

One of my occasional tasks was to drive the seven and a half tonne HIAB lorry to collect a top-end lock gate from a place called Bradley workshops. (Bottom end gates needed a far bigger lorry.) Bradley is just south of Bilston and it is now one of only two workshops in the whole country that construct lockgates. I found that the workshops were actually sited on the canal and gates could actually be loaded aboard a boat for delivery and installation. They were too distant for W&B locks though. Bradley is also the site of 3 pumps that lift water from old mine workings into the canal in times of shortage and really dry weather. They are only used when Chasewater is running empty as electricity for pumping is jolly expensive.

The canal now ends at the workshops but I found out later that the dead arm would have connected to the abandoned lock(s) that I mentioned earlier. From thethird lock in the flight it is a simple straight flat stretch down to the Walsall canal.

About three years ago I had heard that moves were afoot to restore the whole section of the Bradley joining the two ends again and restoring navigation. Covid has obviously had a negative impact but over the last winter work has proceeded. Work parties are taking place every fortnight throughout the winter. Bradley Canal Restoration Society, together with other elements of BCNS, have cleared many overhanging branches from the sides of the Moorcroft Junction end. This remains in water though it is too shallow for anything other than canoes.

Altogether though, a satisfying start towards a restoration that I have waited over twenty years for. I look forward to more drastic improvements beforetoo long.

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