CRUISE GUIDE: DUDLEY RING
Combine the heart of Wolverhampton and the rural Staff & Worcs on this cruising circuit
A cruising circuit of contrasts takes us through the heart of Wolverhampton, past the Black Country’s remaining industries, and through lovely wooded countryside on the Staffs & Worcs Canal
There are several popular cruising rings involving the West Midlands’ waterways: the Stourport Ring; the Avon Ring; the new Worcestershire Ring created when the Droitwich Canals reopened. But we’re going to follow a less well-known circuit: a route up the Stourbridge and Dudley Canals, followed by part of the Birmingham Canal Navigations Main Line through Wolverhampton. Then finally we take the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal southwards from Aldersley Junction back to where we started at Stourton Junction.
Our route begins on the Stourbridge Canal, opened in 1779 and then extended by the Dudley Canal to join the Birmingham Canal via Dudley Tunnel. This was completed in 1792 and opened a short-cut from Birmingham to the River Severn via the Staffs & Worcs Canal. It also connected mines in the Dudley coalfield to the thriving glass industry around Stourbridge. The Stourbridge and Dudley canals were once known as ‘The Back of the Map’ by the working boatmen, and being one of the less well-used routes in the West Midlands the Stourbridge Canal eventually fell into disuse during the 1950s. However it was restored and reopened in May 1967 after an enthusiastic campaign led by the Staffs & Worcs Canal Society.
The journey begins at Stourton Junction where the Stourbridge and Staffs
& Worcs canals meet in wooded surroundings near the settlement of Stewponey, the name of a former canalside pub.
After negotiating four beautifully situated locks at Stourton, the canal follows an easterly course for two miles in wooded countryside. It is hard to believe you are on the doorstep of the Black Country with all its housing and industry.
Civilisation returns at Wordsley Junction where the main line connects with the mile long Stourbridge Town Arm. We continue along the main line climbing a flight of locks popularly known as the ‘Stourbridge Sixteen’. Two of them are so close together that they almost (but not quite) form a staircase pair, like the better-known Bratch (see later). Alongside this flight is the Redhouse Cone preserved by the former Stuart Crystal glass-making factory and is now a glassworks museum (see inset). By Lock 12 you will see Dadford’s Shed, a former transhipment warehouse now used by a boatyard.
Refreshments can be obtained at The Dock which is an off-licence and shop adjacent to the canal.
Turn sharp right at the top of the locks to continue on the main line. The tempting waterway directly ahead is the short Fens Branch built as a navigable feeder that now leads to nature reserves and ponds.
The Stourbridge Canal continues for two miles following a winding course through the built-up industrial areas of
Cobb’s engine house overlooks Netherton Tunnel