Bradley beginnings

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Canal Boat - - Restoration -

Open­ing up a short and ob­scure aban­doned Black Coun­try canal could cre­ate use­ful through routes, tick lo­cal au­thor­i­ties’ boxes and just maybe hap­pen quite quickly

Which re­stored canal will be the next one to re­open? A ‘big project’ like the Cotswold or Ch­ester­field? Maybe, but they’d need to at­tract some really ma­jor fund­ing. Or is it more likely to be on one of the smaller schemes – like the Wendover or the Driffield – where a lot of the work has al­ready been done, and a sin­gle Lottery grant just might make things really hap­pen?

Or might the next com­plete re­open­ing in­volve restor­ing the Bradley Canal from the end of the Wed­nes­bury Oak Loop through to the Wal­sall Canal?

If you know the area you may be think­ing “Martin’s fi­nally taken leave of his senses”. A one-and-a-bit mile largely filled-in chan­nel in ex-in­dus­trial Black Coun­try (where canals were still clos­ing in the 1990s), link­ing a lit­tle-used dead end to a canal once de­scribed by a wa­ter­ways guide as ‘like stand­ing in a dust­bin’, is ‘the next one to re­open’?

Well as it hap­pens, quite apart from the much less dust­bin-like state of the Wal­sall to­day, open­ing this link could ac­tu­ally im­prove prospects for canals at both ends. The Wed­nes­bury Oak Loop would be­come part of a through route – and not just any through route. In com­bi­na­tion with the Tame Val­ley and parts of the Wal­sall and BCN Main Line, it would form the new short­est route across the BCN from Sal­ford Junc­tion to Wolver­hamp­ton. So even boaters whose at­ti­tude to the BCN is to get through it as fast as pos­si­ble would ben­e­fit: re­open­ing it could be pop­u­lar with BCN-lovers and BCN-haters alike! And it’s only a lit­tle over a mile long.

But what would open­ing it in­volve? That’s been the sub­ject of a study com­mis­sioned by the Canal & River Trust’s West Mid­lands Part­ner­ship from wa­ter­ways and plan­ning con­sul­tants Moss Nay­lor Young – and they’ve just re­ported back that it’s en­tirely fea­si­ble.

A large part of the re­port de­scribes the route, the prob­lems and the op­tions for deal­ing with them – start­ing at Bradley, where the Wed­nes­bury Oak Loop comes to a dead end by the CRT Bradley lock gate work­shops. So we’ll start there, and fol­low the route. You can do the same: it’s mostly walk­a­ble.

As its name sug­gests, the Wed­nes­bury Oak Loop was one of the loops of the orig­i­nal 1772 Birm­ing­ham Main Line that were cut off when the route was straight­ened in the 1830s (in this case via the new Cose­ley Tun­nel). Orig­i­nally, the Loop con­tin­ued be­yond Bradley to re­join the later route near Tip­ton.

The first sec­tion of the route pro­posed for restora­tion (which the re­port refers to for brevity as the Bradley Canal, even though it was built as four dif­fer­ent lengths) is a con­tin­u­a­tion of the old loop – and straight away it

hits its first

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