What's happening ? (May 2002)

It has been some time since these pages have been updated, not that its actually been quiet on the canal front, with so many of the Millennium lottery schemes coming to fruition. In future, we hope to have this page updated on a quarterly basis, to tie in with the issue of the TAG Newsletter. Besides a summary of the major recent news items, there might be the odd morsel from our ramblings round the country's lesser known canals which feature heavily in the Newsletter, and may hopefully encourage a few more subscriptions (the application form can be downloaded from the home page).

*****************************

In May 2000 we welcomed with only very minor reservations, BW's plans for the Rochdale Canal in Castleton where the M62 motorway crosses. A realigned canal would use the existing farm access tunnel, which also accommodates the diverted towpath, and because of the restricted width through the culvert the towpath would be retractable for those odd occasions when broad-beam craft were passing through.

Something similar might have been appropriate for the A627(M) crossing of the canal a bit further north near Rochdale itself. A planning application was lodged to convert the existing roundabout at the bottom of the motorway slip-road to a traffic-light controlled crossroads, which was deemed to simplify the job of getting the canal back through under the road. Had the canal gone through a roundabout, there would have been two very short tunnels, with the centre of the roundabout opened out; a viable scheme in which to include a through towpath. With a crossroads, there was inevitably going to be a long tunnel, which equally inevitably brings murmurs of personal safety, muggers and the like. Sure enough the planning application included no provision for a through towpath, with the existing tortuous diversion via Gorrells Way and Edinburgh Way being the preferred option for the towpath. We objected to this aspect of the application, but our objection was defeated and there will be an ugly box culvert to stare through, and an unnecessary detour.

*****************************

Another seemingly short-sighted piece of restoration, this time on the northern Ashby Canal. The canal is navigable south of Snarestone, but the northern few miles through Measham and Moira succumbed to mining subsidence amongst other things and were abandoned. A local authority-led partnership is restoring the top few miles - the first site being at Moira Furnace a year or so back, and more recently a new bridge and lock at Donisthorpe - the lock being the first ever lock on the canal, forced on the restorers by the aforementioned subsidence in that part of the National Forest to be known as Conkers Discovery Centre.

The lock is immediately next to the bridge, and despite having all the room in the world for the bridge culvert to accommodate a towpath alongside the canal, the towpath user has instead been forced to cross what will become an increasingly busy road. The road will be busy because it serves two tourist attractions, Moira Furnace and Conkers, both of which are linked by the canal towpath, via this very road crossing. Amazingly the scheme of which this is a part has just won a town planning award - I can think of few schemes which have shown so little indication of any planning having gone into them. Conkers or Bonkers ??

*****************************

On a much more positive note, the Lichfield & Hatherton Canals Restoration Trust had an open day on the eastern section of the Lichfield Canal in April, involving a four mile walk along many sections of usually inaccessible canal route. Expecting 600 people at most (which I think was double the number last time such an event was held), they lost track somewhere round the 1,000 mark, and my own estimate of 1,200 seems to be on the conservative side too. Good weather helped, but most of the credit goes down to the incredible publicity which the event, and the restoration scheme in general, was given in the preceding months.

The photograph below shows Lock 25 on Tamworth Road, about halfway along the walk (and a week earlier, which is why there's no-one there !) which is the showpiece restoration site in Lichfield itself, the subject of a grant by the Local Heritage Initiative and executed by volunteers from the Trust and Waterway Recovery Group.

******************************

The weekend of July 13th/14th sees a massive series of towpath sponsored walks, under the banner Walk on Water (www.walkonwater.info). Jointly run by Burdens (an engineering distribution company) and its charitable foundation, BW and the Waterways Trust with the aim of raising at least £150,000, to be shared equally between disabled access to inland waterways in the UK, and a new school in Burkino Faso, West Africa. TAG Secretary, Andy Screen, has gamely volunteered for one of the longer walks - 2 days and 40 miles along the Thames Path from Reading to Oxford (sponsors welcomed !)

******************************

Down in South Wales we were extremely glad to see the restoration of a public right of way along the route of the Neath Canal at Ynysbwllog. The canal crossed the River Neath on an aqueduct until said aqueduct was swept away by floods in 1964. The towpath which followed the canal over the aqueduct was a right of way, and whatever the future of the canal held, there was a legal responsibility on the local authority to reinstate the right of way. 38 years later and we now have a footbridge restoring the link; let's hope we don't have to wait another 38 years for the aqueduct.

*****************************

The inquiry into the heavily contested Footpath Creation Order to create a formal link between the towpath of the Macclesfield Canal and Public Footpath Odd Rode No 24 by Little Moreton Hall near Congleton was adjourned on a technicality at the end of March. The Order became necessary when the landowner who had previously allowed a permissive "link" where the footpath crosses the canal at Bridge 86 decided to close off the link. Our thanks to all TAG members who heeded our request to lodge their support for the Order.

*****************************





Finally, as threatened, some snippets from the latest Newsletter No 53. Boldly going where many towpath walkers wouldn't dream of going, this quarter's selection of walks include the Glamorganshire Canal from Merthyr Tydfil to Abercynon, the Donnington Wood Canal in Shropshire and the Melton Mowbray Navigation, as well as a slightly more "established" waterside ramble along the River Don on the Five Weirs Walk in Sheffield.

As the name of the last of these walks might suggest, the river isn't navigable here so the walk can hardly be described as a towpath but we're prepared to diversify our interests a bit ! The picture on the left shows Sanderson's Weir in full spate.
 
 

The Melton Mowbray Navigation was the venue for the Northern Canals Association's March meeting and afforded a good opportunity for an in-depth look at this little-known (albeit geographically central) waterway. Although the towpath is at best intermittent, the plentiful lock remains are well worth seeking out, and the infilled last quarter of a mile in Melton town itself, passing close by the church, seems to be crying out for a restoration scheme.

The picture on the right shows one of two surviving double-arched bridges typical of the canal - this one is at Eye Kettleby just south west of Melton, and the other is at Syston alongside the modern A46 bridge, and close to where the navigation meets the Grand Union Canal. The first lock (counting from Melton) is just above the bridge at Eye Kettleby and is in the best condition of all those remaining - it seems to be the first serious restoration target for the Melton & Oakham Waterways Society

******************************

If anyone has any other snippets that may be of interest either for the Newsletter, or for this site, please get in touch with me at andyscreen@towpath.org.uk

Home page