Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Ridgeacre Revisited

A return to the Ridgeacre Branch Canal
January 2010

My last visit to the Ridgeacre Branch Canal in West Bromwich was left with some unfinished business.


Ridgeacre Branch Canal, covered in ice


Whilst I thought that I had cylcled the length of the disconnected section, subsequent examinations of the maps and discussions with other bloggers interested in the area revealed the possibility of  finding the remains of three further arms, which radiated out from the far end of the Ridgeacre.

Eric Richardson's records suggested that the course of the Halford Branch ran off to the south, curling round to a parallel track to serve mines in the area. This arm spawned the Jesson's Branch which struck off south west for about 400 yards. Then there is the longer Dartmouth Branch, running due north for nearly a mile from the Ridgeacre to the Crookhay Ironworks and Colliery at Hill Top.


Ridgeagre Branch Canal, Junction with Halford Arm

A careful inspection using Google Earth clearly reveals sections of the line, sometimes in the shape of waste land and at other times overlaid with modern road layouts.

Armed this this information, carefully applied to a modern A-Z, I set forth one wintry morning with the aim of seeing what, if anything remains. In the event I was delighted to discover remains in all locations, although not in the form of brick structures. Whilst these remote outposts of the BCN network are now barely visible, I will be publishing what I did find over the next few days:

Halford Branch Canal from Ridgeacre Junction to Church Lane
Halford Branch from Church Lane to terminus nr Bank St
Jesson's Branch  Canal
Dartmouth Branch Canal
But for good measure, this entry contains a few images of the end of the watered section of the Ridgeacre (or maybe I should say 'iced') plus the dry line which extends for a further couple of hundred yards atop a spoil heap thrown up from Coppice Colliery.


Ridgeacre Canal terminus

I hope you enjoy this trip into utter obscurity.

15 comments:

Halfie said...

That 1885 map is fascinating, and much clearer than I would have thought for a map of that age. Is there more of it, available on the internet?

Captain Ahab said...

Halfie
I knew you would be impressed by the map! Its actually a small extract from a reprinted series called The Godfrey Edition, who have published over a thousand 15 inch to the mile old OS maps from the turn of the century, including most of Birmingham. Canal hunters paradise!
These items are priced at a very modest £2.25 each. The trick is to work out which ones you need. THis extract of from West Bromwich North number 68.06
If you are interested I have put a link to the distributors website in the map legend. Her name is Karen and she is really helpful.
I was so blown away by the maps that I have ordered a whole bunch, and have drafted a review of the Mr Godfrey behind them which is scheduled to be posted on 22nd Jan. Yes - my posts are stacked up that far in advance!

Halfie said...

Yes, the map is impressive, and so is the fact you've got posts in line for so far ahead! I've sent Karen an enquiry about how I'm to know which maps to get.

Meanwhile, carry on with the good work!

Anonymous said...

Fascinating stuff - when we did the BCN marathon challenge last year the Ridgeacre 'stub' (as it was called in the directions) was closed because the water at the far end was apparently polluted and in very poor condition.

Now that you've whetted our appetite let's hope that the branch is open this year (and that the BCN Society organise another marathon challenge).

Sue, Indigo Dream

Captain Ahab said...

Halfie
I have sent you an e-mail on the subject.

Captain Ahab said...

Sue
When I was down there in October the mid way reed narrows was down to three or four feet in width, but someone had forced a passage as evidenced by the shopping trolly reef by the bridge!
The silt in the mis section has rendered the far and a virtual stagnant lagoon and whilst I dont want to lose it, I am not terribly excited about trying it again this spring.
Am mulling over the BCN Challenge. I will be on the BCN two weeks earlier and my natural crew isnt very keen.

Anonymous said...

We had a great time on the challenge last year so we can recommend it. But if your crew's not keen, well, 24-hours in a confined narrowboat within the confines of the city......... :-)

We're not sure whether the challenge is happening - we keep checking the BCN Society website and it's a 'watch this space'. I don't blame them - it's a big thing to organise. Our summer cruising plans will depend on whether we're going to Brum or not!

May bump into you on the navigations anyway - that would be good....

Sue, Indigo Dream

Captain Ahab said...

Sue
I see that there is a date pencilled in and I am so tempted.
I have shied away from the northern section (harden) at weekends after a case of stoning - did you get much bother last time you did it?
Andy

Mark said...

As always, Andy, great stuff. There are actually other sources of excellent maps online for free. I have managed to map numerous old arms and basins on Google Earth using a variety of them. I spent ages putting together a post for my own blog on the subject but after a blown up PC a few months ago, I am going to have to go back to square one with it. I had mapped canals, old roads, mines, steel mills, factories...all gone. Still, I loved doing it.
Thanks for continuing this series of posts on the lost canals of the BCN!

Mark said...

On the subject of the BCN Challenge, I was on last year's as well (on the second-placed boat) and at the prize ceremony in June, everyone was saying that it had been a huge success and was definitely going to happen. I am keen to crew on another competitive boat again if Tawny Owl doesn't take part in 2010. My own boat won't be in the area.

Captain Ahab said...

Mark
It is a surprisingly fascinating subject, and loads more productive than watching endless repeats on Dave!
If you are ever in the area we could go and explore a line together.
Andy

Captain Ahab said...

Mark
Now there is an idea.
If I enter I would want to have a real crack at playing the game (I even like beating the kids at Monopoly).
If you are loking for a boat and I am looking for a crew, and the Challenge is run in 2010 - that sounds like the start of a plan.
Lets see if the date is confirmed.
Andy

Captain Ahab said...

Grey Wolf
I know where you mean - short of Buffet Island and its amazing chocolate fountain!
I never knew there was a boaters school in the area.
I will eventually get round to buying an old map of that area and see if I can spot it.
Thanks for letting me know.
Andy

Anonymous said...

Hi Captain, it sounds as if you might be putting a crew together for the BCN Challenge - we might take on a crew this year and do more locks - there are so many strategies....

Anyway, we had one stone, no damage, from kids roughly 6 years old from their back garden - grrr. Otherwise it was fine - I've had worse on the Grand Union in London.

I wouldn't want to spoil it for you but I did a 'real time' blog of last year's challenge if you want a read http://indigodream.wordpress.com/bcn-marathon-challenge-2009-index/

ps. don't read it for tips on how to win - we were nowhere near!

Sue, Indigo Dream

Captain Ahab said...

Sue
Your live blog post was my inspiration!
Andy