Tuesday 27 September 2011

Cannock Extension Canal

Cannock Extension Canal
September 2011

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"]

Conduit Basin immediately before closure

The corner at Conduit Colliery

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.

Hednesford Basin

Badgers Bridge 

Between Kingswood Bridge and Rumer Hill Junction

Coppice Colliery Basin at Heath Hayes 

Hawkes Green Lane Aqueduct

 Watling St Bridge

Conduit Basin

 Remains of Norton Green Bridge

Norton Spring Branch

 Rumer Hill Junction


Pete said...

I likethe photo of the blue brick edging. All that history tucked away under a laayer of foliage.

Thanks for posting.



Craig Humphries said...

Hi there. I have to thank you for your excellent, inspiring site...the abandoned canals section particularly. Thought you may be interested to know re the Cannock Extension Canal...there is,a little bit more to see beyond Bettys Lane. If you look at google earth about half mile northwest of Bettys Lane, you'll see a tree lined segment of derelict canal running alongside Castlefort and Washbrook Lane. This Peters out by the site of Badgers Bridge. A visit confirmed it is indeed the old canal...although fenced off after a,few yards you can clearly see the dip of the canal bed and a bit of brick bank. Also on Washbrook Ln itself after Badgers Br, there's a blue brick embankmenk wall...which I suspect is possibly connected with the CEC. Best wishes, Craig

Craig Humphries said...

...and there's more! After my last post on your excellent site, I google earthed further west along the course of the Cannock Extension. To the south of Hickling Rd and east of Cley Rd between Norton Canes and Cannock is a line of trees which tie in with the course of the old canal. I estimate this to be the approximate location of Kingswood Bridge. Sure enough, a trip proved fruitful. There is,a stile off Cley Rd and then where the barb wire fence ends you can access what is clearly part of an embankment. There are Utopia bricks here and there and at the far end a brick foundation for what may well be Kingswood Bridge. I am convinced this is the last part of this canal to still have visible remains despite the open cast mining carried on hereabouts. After this I walked on to Hednesford along the modern Roads, alas as expected nothing of the old canal presented itself to me. But its ghost was ever present! Cheers!

Andy Tidy said...

I drove past the area on Sunday on the way to fix the boat and remembered your find - and resolved to take another look. In the end I ran out of time but as you have found even I really must visit again. I knew there was more out there waiting for me....

Craig said...

Hi again Andy
Trying to follow the course of the Hatherton branch and Churchbridge locks...you know the ornamental pond that was part of the locks in Bridgtown, which street is it on? I can't see a pinpointer on the google map link you see.
Many thanks

Andy Tidy said...

Its the oblong pond to the east of orbital way - just to the east of Reliant Parts World as marked on Google Earth:


Unknown said...

Hi, I live in Lower Road Hednesford. When I first moved there in 1982 I remember seeing remains of the old Hednesford canal basin. I wish I had taken more interest then but I had a family to bring up. I was inspired by your site to find remains of the Cannock extension canal and Have explored the area south of Bettys Lane with great interest. I read the comment by Craig regarding the brick foundation off Cley Road. I found the style he mentioned and scrambled up the embankment which was very overgrown and thorny in places but found no sign of any bricks. Any help in pinpointing them would be very welcome. David

Craig H said...

Hi, regards Mr Evans' query, the few bricks I came across off Cley Lane were to the far east of the emabankment ie the bit nearest Cley Lane itself where the embankment starts lowering to road level before petering out. I reckon they must be part of an old bridge or overflow weir.Do you remember this stretch at all in the 80's ? Cheers

Anonymous said...

Been out this morning to look at hawks green and the remains along A460 eastern way. Between falcon point and the tip island there is what remins of the canal that went up to the Basin at lower road. I found blue bricks that I though could be from the housing development next door. Near the tip island end I found a part of a brick edging that has been dis-lodged and then a section about 4 feet long that has been excavated. I always knew it was the canal along side the road. J

Anonymous said...

Hi there. I have a couple photos of the old canal basin they dug up earlier this summer at the bottom of my estates, Heath hayes/ Hawks green. A460. I can mail them to you if interested? The old rail way line also cuts through our estate to the old Hednesford basin i believe. Roger.

Andy Tidy said...

That would be lovely. Thanks. I will send you my address by e-mail if you contact me on andrew.tidy@sky.com

Anonymous said...

A copy of the photos would be much appreciated. David Evans

Mr. P said...

Nice to see a picture of the aqueduct in Hawkes Green Lane. Does anybody know when this was demolished? I remember that the empty canal could be seen from the A5190 around 1970. Does anybody know when the A5190 canal and railway bridges were removed? The picture of the 'Watling Street' bridge, is in fact 'Hemlocks Bridge' (see the 'Lichfield and Hatherton Canal Trust' website), photograph by Tony Jukes, on the 21st October 1962 'Last trip'

Anonymous said...

Your photo of Hawks Green Aquaduct was taken by me . I would be interested to know how you got it.

Unknown said...

Excellent read. I regularly ride my MTB around the area and follow the canal and other paths a lot. Such a great ghiv of info. Wish my grandad still alive as he worked at Norton sidings and the pits locally he would have filled your missing parts to the tee. Good luck and carry on the great work

Craig wootton

Andy Tidy said...

Re comment 10.9.18 - after al this time I a not sure. It will have been on the internet somewhere - quite probably the Norton Canes history site. I find my photos popping up all over the place - the joys of the internet!