Sunday, 10 April 2011

Walking the canals around Fradley Junction, Staffs

Continuing to research a number of local walks, I headed this week to Fradley Junction. Just north of Lichfield this marks the point where the Trent and Mersey Canal meets the Coventry Canal. There are a number of recommended routes, four of these are set out on the official Walks leaflet also available online. I leave the choice of route to the individual - we opted for that which took in Alrewas (pronounced so it rhymes with 'walrus') and the village of Fradley - each has a flavour of its own.

Around the junction itself are six posts where, at the touch of a button, information on the history of the place is readily available. One thing which did catch my eye was found at one of these posts above the basin where the two canals meet and below the upper lock. Here we see the ingenuity of the engineers and the rivalry between the respective canal owners.

Each segment of a canal contains a certain amount of water. As boats pass through the locks the water can only flow downhill, streams and reservoirs are managed to provide water to top up the loss, while when the brow of a hill is crossed and no natural water source is available, the topmost stretch has water pumped up to replace the loss. All this takes ingenuity and not a little expense, hence the water was a precious commodity and when each stretch was owned by a different company it made sense to ensure the water they had strived so hard to utilise stayed under their control.

On the Trent and Mersey there is a lock above the basin where the Coventry and Trent and Mersey meet. Above this lock a leet takes the excess water deposited from the upper lock and runs it down alongside the canal, under the car park of the White Swan public house, through a reservoir and back into the Trent and Mersey below the bottom lock. Hence all that can be lost to the Coventry canal is the water from the one lock.

Our walk of 4.5 miles can be split into four distinct and fairly equal sections. Firstly the tow path along the Trent and Mersey takes us as far as the River Trent, the surrounding land is farmland and thus open and is very flat. Next came the outskirts of Alrewas and pastureland with a couple of stiles to negotiate. A series of fields negotiated brings us to Fradley and the third stage where the grass beneath our feet is replaced by less pleasant man-made surface. Lastly another tow path, this time the Coventry Canal sheltered by well-established hedgerows on both sides - that on the far bank allows only occasional glimpses of the remaining hangars of the World War II airfield, now an industrial estate.

No comments:

Post a Comment