Dartmouth Branch Canal
Part of the Ridgeagre Branch network of canals, BCN
Having consulted Eric Richardson's Guide and Google Earth, I set off in high hopes of finding some quality remains of this canal, which headed off to the north for nearly a mile from the end of the Ridgeacre Branch.
Sadly, my search was largely in vain as the line has had acres of residential houses built on both ends during the six decades that have elapsed since it's closure.
Having made one exploration of the area I was aware that the intital section crossing Denbeigh Drive was gone, with the line buried beneath Salop Close. But Google Earth suggested that the canal track might still be found as it skirted the old Hateley Heath School (now an adult education centre) and the adjoining playing fields found at the foot of a high embankment. The historical maps of the area tell us that these playing fields occupy the site of Coppice Ciolliery, abandoned in the 1800's, and the higher ground occupied by the canal formed part the curving swiathe of Coles Farm Collieries.
Path of Dartmouth Branch through school grounds
In the event the only visible section was the length which ran through the school grounds and then a short distinctively 'canalish' line, squeezing across some waste ground just before Coles Lane.
Dartmouth Branch approaching Coles Lane
And Coles Lane is where the trail went cold. The old maps tell us that the canal followed a line now occupied by Leacroft Grove, complete with three side arms before passing under Witton Lane. Whilst the location of this crossing can be established, there are no visible remains and the final three hundred yards built to reach the Crookhay Iron and Steelworks and the adjacent Crookhay Colliery, now open ground by Moorlands Primary School. The terminus area contained no less than three sizeable basins but sadly all traces of them have gone, covered by Schofield Avenue and James Watt St.
End of the Dartmouth Branch trail in Leacroft Grove
So, the Dartmouth Branch Canal turns out to be a bit of a damp squib from a canal hunters perspective. However, as the surrounding mines and foundries had largely been and gone by the turn of the 20th century, this shouldn't be a surprise. If fact, the mining in the area was so extensive that the Hilltop area has sunk by an estimated 20 feet, with disasterous effects on the canal's integrity. But if any of you guys can find some remains at the Balls Hill end please let me know (with photographic evidence).
Whilst this route may have had it's limitations, I did end up very close to Balls Hill Basin, which represented the eastern end of the nearby Wednesbury Old Canal, and the start of my next lost canal exploration.
But that is another day's story...