Friday, 27 July 2012

Hay Head Arm - BCN

Hay Head Arm
Daw End Canal - BCN
July 2012

Whilst I am referring to this as an arm, for a long time this was the busy terminus of the Daw (pronounced Doe) End Canal, a 5.5 mile lockless cut built from the Wyrley and Essington mainline at Catshill Junction in Brownhills in 1800.

Hay Head Arm - Aldridge

The reason this canal was built was to reach the limestone mines at Hay Head, a valuable source of flux for the local Iron industry, and later used as an adhesive ingredient in cement manufacture. 

Hay Head Arm from Longwood Road

A stub of the canal remains navigable, dredged out by some boating enthusiasts in the 1960's and now forms the secure moorings of Longwood Boat Club, one of the few active boats clubs on the BCN. This navigable channel is terminated by Longwood Lane, a wide modern road with a buried drainage pipe replacing Squash Bridge which was destroyed in the 1930's.

Beyond the road there are an extensive network of channels and basins which form the heart on the Hay Head Nature Reserve, established in the late 1990's.

The terminus status was lost in 1847 when the Rushall Canal was built (under protest) connecting the Daw End Canal with the Tame Valley Canal under what is now Junction 7 of the M6.

Silted Hay Head Arm in 2012

Today the nature reserve, and the adjoining Aldridge Airfield site is a popular spot for the locals, walking, cycling, flying model aeroplanes or simply enjoying the wildlife which has colonised the old industrial workings. The first edition OS maps from 1886 suggest that even then the site was inactive but it was certainly abandoned completely in the 1st decade of the 20th century.

Wild Honeysuckle in Hay Head Nature Reserve, Aldridge

Today you can wander around what remains of the old basins on well made footpaths, sniffing the heady aroma of Wild Garlic (April to June), collect Elderflower and Wild Honeysuckle in season and round off the summer with a punnet or two of succulent Blackberries. But mind your step - the area is riddled with old mine shafts which exist to trap the unwary. Maybe its best to stick to the paths!

Parking is best at Aldridge Airport off Bosty Lane as the reserve car parks have been closed due to "antisocial behaviour". If you are curious about the nature of this behaviour an internet search quickly brings you to a site called "Cruising Gays" - nuff said!

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