LDTA Networking Visit Lichfield and Hatherton Canal Restoration Trust

On 15th August, LDTA members met at the Boat Inn car park located off the busy A461 road. Waiting for everyone to arrive for the visit was not a pleasant experience, with noise and fumes from the constant flow of traffic. It was a wonderful surprise when we were led through trees and brambles and down steps known as ‘Dora’s Descent’. It was as if we had been transported back to a bygone era away from the modern world. Accompanied by Lichfield and Hatherton Canal Restoration Trust (LHCRT) Engineering Director, Peter Buck, and Dora Hancock the Health and Safety Officer for the Trust, partners were given a tour of the Heritage Towpath Trail between the Boat Inn and the Canal aqueduct over the M6 Toll. Work began on the original canal in 1793 and opened in 1797, meaning 7 miles and 30 locks were built in just a few years using only wheelbarrows, shovels and muscle. An old sand wharf had been discovered near the Boat Inn. The wall of the wharf was at first thought to be in a poor condition and was planned to be dismantled and rebuilt, but as volunteers began this process some bricks refused to be moved. Further investigation found that under the top rows of bricks the structure was sound, obviously things were built to last back then.

Renovation on the Summerhill section began 3 years ago, when on New Year’s Day volunteers got to work cutting down trees and clearing scrub. It took 3 hours to walk 1km but the walk back was covered in 20 minutes. Huge progress has been made since resulting in many advantages for the environment. Towpath verges have been filled with sand and soil to make for easy walking.  The Scouts have constructed well designed and properly sited bird boxes providing homes for our feathered friends. Some of the hedges hadn’t been touched for 100 years, LHCRT have succeeded in laying 900 metres of hedge. It is the intention to move a badger sett. Hopefully, the badgers will be happy to co-operate and enjoy their new home. As further improvements are made walkers, cyclists, boaters and visitors will bring business to the district. This project will also provide an opportunity for people to learn about the history and heritage of the area.

Peter, spoke about the exciting plans LHCRT have, including, a brand-new lock enabling the canal to navigate beneath the Walsall Road to avoid a hump back bridge. It is proposed to turn Cranebrook Quarry adjacent to the canal at Summerhill into a Marina with a picnic area close by. As the weather was fine and sunny we walked to the M6 Toll Aqueduct, where there was time for a photo opportunity. The Aqueduct was installed in 2003 during the motorway construction, however, in the future a new deep lock will be required to allow boats to rise from the existing canal channel to connect with the Aqueduct.

In June 2016 actor David Suchet CBE, vice-president of LHCRT, unveiled a refurbished 1840’s Birmingham Canal Navigation boundary post, which had been donated by LDTA member John Crowe. The boundary post had previously been in John’s garden and can now be seen on the Walsall Road, next to the Boat Inn.

 After the tour LDTA members returned to the Boat Inn where a buffet was eaten and enjoyed, whilst sitting in the sunshine. Many thanks to all the volunteers at LHCRT particularly Peter, Dora and Bob Williams for arranging our visit, organising refreshments and controlling the sunshine!

 There are many ways to support the work of the LHCRT, if you are able to volunteer there are numerous opportunities; grounds maintenance, construction, administration and fundraising are just a few, no experience is necessary. If volunteering isn’t for you why not make a donation towards this amazing project, as 100% of the money raised is spent on restoration work.

For more information visit www.lhcrt.org.uk or to make a donation contact Bob Williams on 01543 671427.

Thank you to Robert Ings, Lichfield Photography for sending the above photograph.

 The next LDTA networking meeting will be held on:

 

Wednesday 18th October 2017 @ 2pm

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