Thursday, 22 July 2010

Fens Branch Canal - eastern section

Fens Branch Canal
Eastern section
July 2010

My trip to Stourbridge to clear Pennywort from the Fens Branch offered an opportunity to take a look at this previously unexplored bit of the BCN.

Himley Colliery wharf

Anticipating a trip or two to the area I had already bought a copy of The Godfrey Edition of the 1901 OS Map covering Brockmoor, which provides some great historical perspective.

My last post covered the section from Brockmoor Junction with the Stourbridge Extension Canal to the now demolished Brockmoor Bridge, but there is more to look at on the other side of the Pensnett Road, a lot more.

Fens Branch terminus basin

The thing to remember about this canal is that it was built to serve the coal industry and there are no less than 14 pits within a one mile radius. A look at the 1902 map reveals a myriad of tailings criss crossed by a network of disused tramways - all leading down to a huge canal basin. This is like a narrow canal on anabolic steroids, it's really broad with an extra wide section at the very start pressing into the pithead of Himley Colliery.

Grove pool

This big basin remains in water, connected to the rest of the canal by a narrow pipe and frequented by fishermen. It's the presence of water that takes me to the final interesting feature of this abandoned waterway. The Fens Branch leads to Grove Pool, a big reservoir built as a canal feeder. The canal ends beneath the high earthen ramparts of the dam holding back the waters of this lake. Sure, its not as deep as it once was, the overflow runs out about 15 feet below its old top, but its still a big expanse of water and provides a steady trickle of water into the Fens Branch, which is what keeps it in water and nearly weed free.

If you look at a  contemporary map you will see two more lakes above Grove Pool, but these are modern affectations created out of the sunken remains of Himley Colliery,  so have no place in this post!

So that brings us to the end of the diminutive Fens Branch Canal, short but satisfyingly in water. More importantly, this serves as a bridgehead to a whole new area for exploration, so maybe I will give Tipton a break for a while and take a closer looks at the lost waterways  to the west of the Dudley / Netherton tunnels.

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