Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Shropshire Canal - Stirchley

Shropshire Canal
March 2012

Although the Shropshire Canal was largely replaced by the later railway as it made its way south to the Severn, the further you travel from the modern Telford the more watery remains there are to be found. Some obvious and some less so.

Stirchley Ironworks  Bridge over line of Shropshire Canal

To start with we have a large loop to explore, wandering a couple of hundred yards to the west as the canal skirts the reservoirs. These reservoirs are on a level with the canal and fed the waterway, and continue to do so to the present day. No sooner has the line moved off the modern Silkin Way than it is in water, first in the undergrowth but then as it passes the first reservoir the bed squeezes through the foundations of a collapsed bridge and on into open water.

 Stirchley Loop

Foundations of bridge at Stirchley Pools

The towpath sits on a narrow strand of land between the canal and the Stirchley Pools Reservoir, a pretty spot which is carefully maintained as a nature reserve. This clear stretch of canal is haunting and as you walk under the shade of the trees you almost expect to meet a horse plodding the other way  towing a string of loaded tub boats.

Stirchley Pools section

Stirchley Station

All too soon this enduring stretch of canal slides back into the railway bed, all traces are lost at it passes through the recently rebuilt Stirchley Station an on into the cutting which is the opened out remains of the 281 yard Stirchley Canal Tunnel. I you need confirmation about the provenance of the tunnel's location, climb out of the cutting and you will find Tunnel Cottages. But that's not all, a careful inspection of the west wall of the cutting reveals the unmistakable curve of the old canal tunnel as it was carved out of solid rock spanning 10ft at the waterline.

Site of Stirchley Tunnel with remains of rock archway

The track bed was cut into the base of the old canal tunnel so as you progress on to the site of the 2.75 mile 1792 Horseferry Branch watch your levels. 

As far as I can tell, the mainline veered east less than 100 yards beyond the tunnel's southern portal, running  beneath the houses built on the northern side of Chapmans Close and then hugging the contour as it swings south again on its way to the top of the Windmill Incline. This section of the mainline is completely lost under a modern housing estate with no lasting remains north of the A419 Queensway, itself the line of a former railway.

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