Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Walsall Canal, A CanalScape-BCN inspection cruise with Dean Davies from BW aboard.

Boat drafted to pull 3ft 3” underway.

The 21st of May saw 109 leave Walsall town wharf at 11.45AM, our destination was Birmingham.

Immediately entering the Pleck area the vast amount of household waste dumped in bin liners started to amaze us, it was next best to boating through a cess pit. Not only was this just rubbish, but also food waste deposited over walls, over bridges and even over the back wall of a mosque.
Worrying too was the sighting of 5 dead dogs in a short stretch as we headed towards James Bridge, the dog sizes would be a possible by product of dog fighting. Such were my concerns on this stretch that post the cruise I have made the knowledge of our finds available to Walsall council who are going to monitor this area and if necessary investigate the rubbish contents. Going down the weedhatch here was very unpleasant.

We continued onto Spinks bridge alongside the former copper works site, here we grounded and were halted for some 40 minutes on solid concrete laying in the bridgehole. Although we called the “hit squad” we managed to free ourselves and they stood down, this bridge must be cleared of debris for safe passage.

Darlaston and the environs through much more rubbish at us, numerous prop clearances and trips into the hatch. Whatever cleanups have achieved here in the recent past, nothings now shows any change. Moxley was a bumpy ride, again with much debris, however we managed a act of rescue at Moorcroft, where we untangled a duck from fishing line (see picture).

The depressing trip continued through the “revamped” section at Wednesbury, sadly here, every towpath light, fixture and fitting has been wrecked and there’s graffiti everywhere.

Ryders Green locks are neat and tidy and we thought well kept, everything was fine until we grounded under Asda’s footbridge, we were on a very solid object and we stayed that way for some hour or so, much flushing down the flight eventually freed the boat.

Leaving the top of the flight we proceeded through Greets Green to Pudding Green Jcn encountering on the way much debris and more weedhatch requirements, even on the main line we picked up badly just before Smethwick stop, in that case very thick wire requiring a hacksaw!

So what is a summary of the Walsall? It is a deep canal, however the debris and rubbish is the severe problem. There also seems to be a strong antisocial attitude to the navigation in the Pleck area of Walsall. Is there much to see today? To be frank, very little, the canal doesn’t have much to offer at all other than a through route. Spinks Bridge is a serious hazard and I would advise any deep drafted boat to be very aware of this location.

If Walsall basin is to be the new “Brindley Place” then its approaches need serious consideration as to the attitude of the local population, the same should be said for Sandwell’s section too, this IS a neglected and overlooked asset.

Sunday 30th May, CanalScape quick cruise round the city! Amazed to see a new resteraunt on the Oozels st loop, looking very inviting but with NO moorings!! Is this progress?


Anonymous said...

wont be going there anytime soon then

Captain Ahab said...

We took Wand'ring Bark along the Walall Canal about 18 months ago. Even at 24 inches we had touble but more with the filth than the bottom. As you say - there is little to see and I am not in a hurry to return>

psychoSnail said...

Hello, I appreciate your writing. The Walsall Canal runs for seven miles from Ryders Green Junction to Walsall Town Wharf. Once on the cusp of being lost forever the arm has been refurbished to include mooring facilities for visitors; an innovative new art gallery is at the end of the arm and a noted arboretum lies nearby. Good day!!~ Jessica T.

Anonymous said...

I have to say this makes me feel so very sad. I now live in Banbury but I was born in Woodgreen, Wednesbury and brought up in Pleck until I was 18. My family were local and I remember the place as being extremely industrial and polluted. As children in the 1960's we spent hours walking along the tow path from Pleck to James Bridge and beyond. The water was the colour of mustard and filthy with rubbish then and the odd dead dog was sometimes seen but never like as described here. I remember one of the tow path bridges being wooden and full of holes... how we never fell in, I don't know. It was depressing then but it was our home and apart from the possibility of falling in, we felt pretty safe from being approached by anyone harmful. I really had hoped that regeneration work would clean up the area especially now the copper works has gone but I have just been reading Steve Haywood's book c2011 and he found the same at Spinks bridge too. My maiden name is Spinks so this depresses me even more! I think there is a culture of neglect and an opportunity for crime around the canal there. When I was a child I rarely saw a boat and I expect the lack of canal traffic leaves the canal open to the dregs of society now the manufacturing industry with its workforce has gone. Anyway, there have been a few years in between now so maybe something has been done... I doubt it though!

Andrew Tidy said...

To be fair to the Walsall Canal it mad benefited from a lot of clean up action in recent years and most of the heavy obstructions have gone. Of course, given the area it attracts quite a bit of light filth each winter but from a boaters point of view it is navigable if somewhat shallow in places. The explorer cruises and the challenge al least endure that, when added to the unstructured traffic it carries over 200 movements each year which stirs up the navigation channel. The surrounding remain as ininviting as ever !

Anonymous said...

... perhaps more canal traffic through these isolated places will naturally deter criminals and once more people are moving along the canal, this may generate more interest in clean-up work, helping to kick-start a more sustainable situation.

Andrew Tidy said...

I think that is very true. The explorer cruises and the challenge help a lot and there are a few more intrepid individuals these days. It's petfectly navigable but best avoided in sunny weekend afternoons!

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know what condition the tow paths are in?