Thursday 10 January 2013

Wyrley and Essington - Ogley flight

Wyrley and Essington Canal
Ogley Flight
January 2013

Other posts in this series:

I suppose by rights I should call this the Lichfield Canal but it was never known as that whilst it was operating so I think I will stick with Ogley Locks. 

Lichfield Canal map as produced by Ed Sharkey and Associates in their 2000 environmental report

In reality, this was the eastern extremity of the 1797 Wyrley and Essington Canal. The Wolverhampton level had been maintained for nearly 20 miles and this was the exit down from the Birmingham plateau to the Trent and Mersey, seven miles and 30 locks distant. 

For a full history of this stretch you could do worse than visit the website of the Lichfield and Hatherton Canals Retroration Trust, or LHCRT for short. And therein lies my dilemma - is this or isnt it an abandoned canal, and therefore should it be included in my lost canals series?

I have pondered this long and hard and, you guessed it, came to a compromise!

To all intents and purposes the western end of this canal remains well and truly abandoned  since 1954 (give or take the odd £0.5m aqueduct). So my plan is to explore this route through to the point where the LHCRT have started to undertake ground work, which is effectively on the western edge of Lichfield - but I reserve my right to change my mind!

That's not to say that the restoration area isn't exciting. Far from it, I am a life member of the trust and am wildly enthusiastic about the progress being made. But an exploration of these partially restored three miles will have to wait for another day.

As for the four miles of abandoned canal, access isn't easy. There is no public right of way along the towpath but the line is crossed by a myriad of bridges, so it has to be a case of bridge hopping and gaining access wherever possible. This approach is far from satisfactory and I am sure it leaves many residual elements undiscovered, but its the best that can be achieved at the present time. 

I hope you enjoy my exploration - at least you wont have to endure the stench of sinking knee deep in rotting potatoes - but that is later in the account.

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