With autumn approaching my thoughts have started to turn to my wintertime hobby of lost canal hunting. In fact I had a bit of time on my hands at the weekend and spent a lot of it exploring some of the lost backwaters of the northern BCN.
My latest expedition included the Sandhill Arm, The Slough Arm and The Lord Hay's Arm all of which yielded a surprising haul of interesting remnants. This has given me a lot of material to publish as the days draw in, and then there is the record of my kayak expedition of the Driffield Navigation back in August. So, if you like my Abandoned Canal posts you are in for a feast over the coming month.
Cannock Extension Canal taken from Richard Chester- Brown's "The Other 60 Miles"
Just to get you in the mood here is a one off post about the Cannock Extension Canal. The current head of navigation is at Norton Canes Boatbuilders where the canal comes to a very abrupt end at the A5 or Watling Street. Just across the road the track continues for a few hundred yards till it too runs out overlooking the very recent M6 Toll motorway. Well that where I left it for ages till I had another look on Google Earth and realised that a bit of exploration could reveal a few traces.
Conduit Road - taken from the site of Foredrove Bridge
My starting point was Conduit Road, an unremarkable industrial estate which carries the name of the Colliery which used to occupy this area. A walk back over Betty's Lane brought me to the top of a tree lined embankment, and the filled remains of the Cannock Extension Canal. Of course, all the road crossings have changed since the line was surveyed by Richard Chester-Browne 30 years ago but Betty's Lane would appear to be the site of Foredrove Bridge, with the colliery arm now replaced with Conduit Road.
Industrial bricks used to build the edge of the canal and towpath
Walking back along the canal the towpath appears to be in very good shape, considering the apparent lack of traffic along what is effectively a dead end. But scratch the surface and the reason becomes apparent - a pavement of blue engineering bricks and a clear channel edging.
Remains of New Road Bridge
A bit further along there are the parapets of New Road Bridge, straddling a waterless channel. This is a truly surreal site for a bridge over the canal - which sits on top of a 50 foot embankment. But after stopping to reflect on this for a moment all becomes clear. The area has been subjected to massive opencast mining and all this activity has stripped the ground away. What you see now looks nothing like it did in the 1950's.
Now a wooded walk
The tree lined embankment continues for a few hundred yards and then it comes to a full stop, Norton Green Bridge having sat somewhere in mid air above the M6 Toll.
Norton Green Bridge was out there - somewhere...
Going the other way from Conduit Road the canal veered round to the west, passing through Norton Green. I feel sure that if I knew where to look this area has some more elements to reveal, one road is even called Lock Keepers Close (not that there was a lock anywhere nearby) but I couldn't find them.
So there you have it, a few hundred yards of embankment, some brick edging, a bit of a bridge and a new road on an old line. Not a lot, but more than I expected with the tantalising prospect of something more in the future. Don't bother to search between Norton Green and Churchbridge - that really has been scrubbed out and there is nothing about the contemporary landscape which even vaguely resembles what existed before, except maybe a tantalising little oblong shaped ornamental pond at Churchbridge which just so happens to be the old pound below lock one. For a better Idea about about the scene at Rumer Hill Junction look here.