Sunday, 3 July 2011

The Lapal Canal

No I hadn't heard of it either, not until a recent walk took me south of Halesowen. The final leg saw me cross back across the busy A456 and follow the public footpath towards Leasowes Park. The Leasowes was landscaped in the middle of the eighteenth century by William Shenstone when most gardens were laid out in formal regular lines and shapes. Shenstone's clever work highlighted the surrounding countryside by affording excellent views.

Within a quarter of a mile this forms the tow path of the Lapal Canal, although it is another quarter of a mile before more than a drop of water is seen. There is no doubting the cutting still exists, the unbroken swathe of the broad leaves of water iris also shows it does not dry out. Built some two hundred years ago it connected Halesowen to the extensive network centred on Birmingham and required the construction of a sixty feet high earth embankment, at the time the highest in the world, which today affords excellent views over the pool as the walker will soon see.

Mucklows Hill was an obstacle to the canal builders and, in the true spirit of the time, they tunnelled right through it to emerge at Selly Oak. This was a distance of over two miles, making it the fourth longest canal tunnel in the land. Protests at this proposed tunnel were quite amazing for the time when an impressive thirteen thousand individuals wrote opposing it. Disused and in need of repair the tunnel collapsed in 1917 and in 1960 an accident caused the waters to burst through the banks and flood factories below Mucklows Hill. Today it is still closed and, while there are moves to reopen the canal and take advantage of the major growth leisure industry in the country, the tunnel seems destined to remain closed forever with plans to take the canal up to the level of Woodgate Valley.

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