Thursday, 30 July 2015

Lapal Canal - Leasowes

Lapal Canal
July 2015

Tracking down the western portal of the Lapal Tunnel is very tricky All trace has been covered but the maps suggest it exited just west of Lapal Lane South, close to the fishponds of St Marys Abbey. 

Fishpond dams with manhole cover

There is a footpath from Lapal Lane to the fishponds which offers a great view of the remains of St Mary's. There appears to be a vent / manhole cover in one pf the fishpond dams which clearly is not medieval and may be a tunnel vent inserted after closure.

Canal at Mucklow Hill

The canal swung north at this point and crossed what is now the A456 just below the  Black Horse Pub, an old boatman's pub.

From here the canal track becomes obvious heading north just to the west of Cloister Drive with the towpath turned into a cinder footpath. The canal bed is full of weed cut clearly visible as it contours round the hill eventually reaching a narrows which was reconstructed in the 1990's. 

Then suddenly the canal is in water as it crosses Leasowes Park on one of the biggest embankments have ever seen. I had been wondering where all the tunnel spoil went and I guess the embankment offers a likely solution to its absence from the fields around the western end.

The canal is largely empty over the embankment with just a foot or so of rainwater offering a canal like appearance but it offers a great circular walk right up to Mucklow Hill and then back again on the other side, the path flanked by the remains of a minature railway track with amazing views over the trees surrounding Breaches Pool in Leasowes Park. A spectacular sight even in the pouring rain!

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Lapal Canal - Selly Oak to the Lapal Tunnel

Lapal Canal
Selly Oak Park to the Lapal Tunnel
July 2015

It has to be said that the exploration of the BCN's lost canals can often lead me to the dark and dingy back end of the Black Country but this walk turns out to be quite a delight, jumping from public park yo open space and linked by  a nearly continous thread of an long lost canal. If ever there is a route worth walking its this one.

Footpath on the Lapal Canal Route

You dont need fancy maps apart from something to help you find the locations of the two tunnel portals which are not immediately apparent.

The route out of Selly Oak Park is clear with the canal infilled but its bed remains as a path which proceeds in a straight line alongside Reservoir Road as far as Bourn Brook and then alongside Swinford Road to the now buried portal at California.

Somery Lane Bridge

Along the way the track runs under a tunnel of trees. Mostly its a pleasant walk but here and there it lapses into a tip with burnt matresses and abandoned motorcycles in the verges. 

At the California end the lad starts to rise and the canal used to run in a deep cutting. Today Somery Lane Bridge remains the cutting filled to the brim and the line beyond built on by an industrial site.

Beyond Somery Lane

At  the very end, where the tunnel dug under the hill, the portal was buried long ago. Today the entrance area is public open ground, built on a landfill site with just the stubs of old ventilation pipes to show its boundaries. There is just one telltale built fragment remaining - a wall which was a bridge parapet over the tunnel portal which isn't recognisable as such unless you know what to look for.

Bridge parapet over tunnel entrance

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Lapal Canal - Selly Oak

Lapal Canal
Selly Oak
July 2015

At last, after a long break I have been back on the trail of the lonesome canal.

The prospect of "family church" was not an enticing so in spite of a very suspect weather forecast I was up and out by 6.30am, initially visiting Kings Norton to pick up a bagful of Himalayan Balsam flowers to try out their potential for a jelly, a vinegar and a cordial and then on to take a look at what is now referred to as the Lapal Canal.

Hamalayan Balsam in Kings Norton Park

Now lets get this right. What I am actually talking about is the abandoned section between Hawne Basin and Selly Oak which includes and infamous Lapal Tunnel with its tendency to collapse.Technically this is part of the Dudley No 2 Canal that went all the way to Blowers Green where it met up with the Dudley No1 Canal but the Lapal Canal has a nice ring to it..

Junction with the Dudley No2 Canal

This six mile stretch is the last significant chunk of the abandoned BCN which I have yet to explore and afterwards there is just an assortment of odds and ends so this was something of a landmark walk.

I started at the Selly Oak end, parking at the Park and Ride but as an alternative there is a good car park in front of the Scout Hut in Selly Oak Park. This starting point offers a good vantage point to view the old canal junction where the Dudley No2 joined the Worcester Birmingham Canal, now visible as just a rise in the towpath.

Harborne Lane Bridge in Selly Oak

The canal route behind the new Homebase store is not accessible but its route emerges beneath the new Harborne Lane bridge which was built with a navigable channel beneath. 
However, the canal route become much more apparent as it enters Selly Oak Park. 

Selly Oak Park Bridge

There has been a lot of time spent of this section, through to the extant Selly Oak Park Bridge which still stands astride a dry channel.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Canals of Amsterdam

Canals of Amsterdam
July 2015

Last week saw me off on another continental jaunt which included both Brussels and Amsterdam.

Brussels was nice enough but it has nothing like the appeal of Amsterdam, with its intricate network of canals radiating out from the city centre in a series of ever widening arcs.

I had never visited the city before and was immediately seduced by its old world charms.

Having arrived on the Thalys (high speed train) I entered via the central station and decided to walk to the hotel, a couple of miles away just outside the fourth canal. This walk gave me an opportunity to find my bearings and get a feel for a cross section of the city.

Of course, there was the small matter of business to attend to but lets not dwell on that!

On my second evening I wandered over the road from The Park Hotel, minding out for the pink pavements which are the province of the bicycles which throng the city. I bought a ticket on The Blue Boat Cruise company and, for just over £10, I secured a seat at the stern of the boat and watched the old town slip bye  on a balmy summer evening.

By sitting outside I did get come good images on the i-pad, but had to forgo the commentary so I didn't pick up much of the local history. Never mind, having whetted my appetite it means there is a reason to return to this wonderful city.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

I've got that sinking feeling.....

Subsidence in Walsall Wood
July 2015

Before you leap to the wrong conclusions - neither of our boats is in imminent danger of sinking.... I hope! True, I have replaced the packing in the stuffing box today so a tragedy could follow but overheating from over tightening is a more likely outcome.

No, today's post is about subsidence of the Daw End Canal as it passes through Walsall Wood, less than a mile from our home.

The Daw End Branch canal ran over a very good coal measure so naturally enough them mined the stuff out and in time the surrounding land settles several feet as the workings collapsed. The mines were last worked over 100 years ago and the general view is that if subsidence is to occur it will stop after 40 years.

The canal neat our house therefore suffered severe subsidence and had to have its banks built up repeatedly and even today the channel, with its silt, is over 6 feet deep. Raising the banks is ok, but it bridges are a problem. In areas prone to subsidence the old hump backed bridges were replaced with flat topped ones, which could be jacked up as an when necessary.

There is one bridge which particularly catches my eye every time I pass under it - Black Cock Bridge.

This venerable old iron span has been lifted on at least one occasion and its walls have built in jacking points to cater for any future movement. If you look closely al the walls lower down you can see a row of old jacking holes which have been bricked up and who knows if there and now underground / under water.

The other tell tale evidence of subsidence are the rope rollers which should go from ground level to the bridge span. Instead they are half buried which indicated that the last lifting was after horse drawn traffic switched to diesel in the 1930's.

Finally, if looked at from a distance you can see the pipe which accompanies the road has been cranked up to give headroom and shows just how much lifting was needed.