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Black Country Society Walk around the canal network from Dudley Port. 12th June 2024

Report by Dave Galley, Photographs by Graham Beckley

It's too good to be true that so far this year we have enjoyed good weather on our walks. For this walk we started from Dudley Port Railway Station. It was not too far to our first stop to look at the progress or lack of it being made on the Metro from Wednesbury to Brierley Hill using the track bed of the old Low level railway line that used to pass through Dudley. We climbed up onto Thomas Telford's New line canal from Wolverhampton to Birmingham. Keith (Hodgkin) the leader for this walk told us Puppy Green the name of the first aqueduct we crossed got its name from the locality where it was situated and had since disappeared from the modern-day maps.

Then not too far to our second aqueduct the Ryland aqueduct and straight ahead parallel with the railway to the Gower Junction, below us was the Sheepwash Country park but hidden from view by the leaves on the trees. Keith's suggestion was that gaps making viewpoints should be opened up as so many land marks are disappearing into the urban forest. We come to two iron bridges cast at Toll End Works, we use one to change side and continue along on the right-hand side tow path along here Keith introduces us to Samuel Barnett the owner of a blue brick works and marl hole and tells us about the breech in the canal that happened on the 9' of September 1899 resulting in the draining of the canal and filling the marl hole. Fortunately, there was no loss of life but Samuel was sued by the canal company for excavating too close to the embankment but Sam counter claimed that it was their fault for not maintaining the embankment properly and won the case.

Any road up, when the clay extraction was completed the marl hole was used as a dumping ground for phosphorus and other waste chemicals of dubious origin and still remains fenced off today.

We branch off along the Gower Branch canal which takes us up the Brades Hall locks and the only staircase lock on the BCN network. Keith pointed out to us that the recently erected finger posts call it mistakenly Brades Hill. Before we reach the locks, we get glimpses of the Shri Venkateswara Temple which no doubt the Black Country Society will visit one day. The locks raise the canal from the Birmingham level on the new line to the Wolverhampton level on the old line which we now follow northwards until we reach the Tividale Aqueduct where we look down upon two original canal cottages on our left and the portal of the Netherton Tunnel on our right. Water dropping from the higher canal into the lower one below used to power a generator to provide electric lights in the tunnel. We descend to the lower level behind the cottages and rejoin the new line to return to our starting point exiting the canal at the Ryland Aqueduct and negotiate the hazard of the road works to reach our cars.

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