Tuesday 28 July 2015

Lapal Canal - Selly Oak to the Lapal Tunnel

Lapal Canal
Selly Oak Park to the Lapal Tunnel
July 2015

It has to be said that the exploration of the BCN's lost canals can often lead me to the dark and dingy back end of the Black Country but this walk turns out to be quite a delight, jumping from public park yo open space and linked by  a nearly continous thread of an long lost canal. If ever there is a route worth walking its this one.

Footpath on the Lapal Canal Route

You dont need fancy maps apart from something to help you find the locations of the two tunnel portals which are not immediately apparent.

Lapal Canal western end - courtesy of Waterways Routes

The route out of Selly Oak Park is clear with the canal infilled but its bed remains as a path which proceeds in a straight line alongside Reservoir Road as far as Bourn Brook and then alongside Swinford Road to the now buried portal at California.

Somery Lane Bridge

Along the way the track runs under a tunnel of trees. Mostly its a pleasant walk but here and there it lapses into a tip with burnt matresses and abandoned motorcycles in the verges. 

At the California end the lad starts to rise and the canal used to run in a deep cutting. Today Somery Lane Bridge remains the cutting filled to the brim and the line beyond built on by an industrial site.

Beyond Somery Lane

At  the very end, where the tunnel dug under the hill, the portal was buried long ago. Today the entrance area is public open ground, built on a landfill site with just the stubs of old ventilation pipes to show its boundaries. There is just one telltale built fragment remaining - a wall which was a bridge parapet over the tunnel portal which isn't recognisable as such unless you know what to look for.

Bridge parapet over tunnel entrance

  1. Same place in the 1950's


Linda said...

Beautiful photos!

Unknown said...

Thanks for the Lapal canal Selly Oak to Lapal tunnel July 2015 Blog, you always make them interesting and a joy in reading.
The last photo “Bridge parapet over tunnel entrance”, you had me amazed with the stone wall! I lived and played around that area in the late sixties, when the Green and Pleasant land as it is today, was then Birmingham Council refuse dump.
I never gave that wall a second glance, just a part boundary wall constructed in a rustic manner, so the question is how do you know it’s the portal? When all other remaining bridge parapets from Selly Oak end are constructed from engineering bricks? Was there not a brick works by the portal, would they have used local produced bricks?
Thanks for your research, I will have a walk along the Lapal canal from Selly Oak, and will take a closer look at the wall on Barnes Hill Road, just before the road island California area.

Andy Tidy said...

Jeffrey - You are right, its not the tunnel portal which was brick (see the old photo above which should bring back some memories). I am told its the side of a road bridge above the portal. My only evidence if the Website of the Lapal Canal Trust whose historical insights are usually pretty reliable: http://www.lapalcanalproject.co.uk/

Paul (from Waterway Routes) said...

Having recently walked this section of the Lapal Canal with GPS tracking on my maps I don't believe the wall is anything to do with the canal. It is approximately over the line of the tunnel but I don't think that is anything more than coincidence.

The tunnel mouth was about 80 metres away from the road into the grassed area and the water level was about 11 metres lower than the current road level.

The proposed restoration route has a 3-rise staircase raising the canal by 9m and still passing under the road at the roundabout with around 3m clearance. Allowing for the slope in the road that accounts for the 11 metres difference.

If the tunnel was 2m high there is 9m of rock between the tunnel roof and the wall so I don't believe it was anything like a bridge parapet.

It's the wrong side of the road (which has been widened on the original alignment) to act as a retaining wall at the top of an embankment sloping down to the top of the tunnel.

Andy Tidy said...

Paul = I have my reservations as well, and its certainly not the top of the portal wall iteself. If it does date back to the tunnel it would be further back up the hill and maybe over the line, bit not directly connected. I wouldnt have made a connection apart from the Lapal Canal Trust's website..... Andy

Barrie Stanton said...

I think the stone parapet is above the entrance to a horse tramway bridge that ran from a clay pit to the brickworks by the canal. there was another tunnel and tramway under what is now the traffic island at the road junction near by leading to another clay pit. if you look up the 1889/1890 large scale OS map on line you can see the layout.
My brother and I explored the area in the 1950,s and went thru the tunnel. it ran at a slight angle to the canal tunnel. we also took a canoe into the canal tunnel shortly before it was blocked off as far as the first roof fall (very dodgy).

Barrie Stanton said...

I think it is a tramway tunnel parapet. see 1889/1890 large scale OS map.
I explored the area in the 1950's.