Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Wednesbury Old Canal - Balls Hill Branch

Wednesbury Old Canal - Balls Hill Branch
Brichouse Lane to Golds Green
March 2010

Finally, the weather has lifted a bit and we can get back on the trail of the lost canals of the Black Country.

It seemed fitting to return to the Balls Hill Branch Canal, picking up the route left suspended last October just west of the Ridgeacre Pub. The last exploration was completed without access to historic maps and the trail went cold in a patch of open grassland skirted by Dial Lane.

Canal line at Brickhouse Lane

This time we returned armed with sheet 68.05 of Godfrey's Old Ordnance Survey Maps dating back to 1902, linked to a series of contemporary maps from Google Earth. Without this combination of the old and new we would have had little chance of walking the line at all.

Continuing into industrial site

Starting at what I have dubbed "Tellytubby Green" (on account of the rolling hillocks which were the canal banks) the canal wound south west initially flanking Brickhouse Lane before continuing on behind some factory buildings. The line remains evident as lorry parking these days, emerging at Brickhouse Bridge beside the Beehive Pub.

Beehive Pub - an old boatmans inn

Of all the buildings present at the turn of the century only the pub remains, perched up high above the Black Country Spine Road and devoid of any obvious local clientele. The canal swings clockwise round the Beehive, disappearing into a scrapyard and then round onto the edge of a steep hillside with no obvious means of access.

Balls Hill Branch behind Golds Green Slag Works

We worked our was round the bottom of the escarpment, keeping as close to the line as possible finally joining Bagnall Street which led up the hill past St Pauls Church and a row of terravce houses opposite which both bore construction plaques from the late 1800's confirming them as the same ones shown on the 1902 map. Finally we found the canal line beside the Miners Arms at the top of the hill, and an access route into the strip of open ground we had seen from the satellite images.

Near Golds Green Brickworks

The complete line of the canal remains, albeit infilled, for about a third of a mile. At it's northern end it skirts the old Golds Green Brickworks, whose foundations are currently being dug out, and then on round the back of 1950's housing to a blocked end a couple of hundred yards from the Beehive as the crow flies. This thin strip of land is inaccessible for industrial use and has therefore been retained as an open space used by dog walkers and scramble bike enthusiasts. At the time of our visit neither were in evidence and we had the place to ourselves.

Golds Green Brickworks 2010

The line continues on beyond the Miners Arms, but more of that in my next post.

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