The Tame Valley Canal

I last navigated the Tame Vally Canal and Perry Barr Locks in 1971 (my first ever canal holiday). This was in the days when the Tame Valley was catagorised as a "remainder waterway" - BWB would only do such maintenance as to keep the waterway safe - if all the paddles packed up and it became un-navigable, no money was available to reinstate the right of navigation. In fact, it was obvious that boats up the Tame Valley at the time were as rare as rocking horse droppings - because having moored in the deep cutting below Scott Bridge overnight, I was approached by a policeman when I was up on the bridge the following morning who was responding to a 999 call made "because there was a boat on the canal!!!

What a contrast now, thirty years on. There is still a fair amount of flotsam and jetsam on the canal but the channel is deep, and the canalside wooded and, again, remote. We made good progress once we had descended Rushall Locks. Still not a lot of boat traffic but we encountered BWB crews working at two points - one on the embankment approaching the M5 aquaduct sealing a leak, and one under the M6 bridge dredging.

Perry Barr locks (a flight of 13) takes the canal down from the Wolverhampton level to Salford Junction. Again, the locks are well maintained, not a blade of grass out of place, and the general air of tidiness is once again a good indication of the positive strides being taken now by BWB to maintain the canal heritage. Paddle gear is all of the traditional rack and pinion style - no syrup cans here!

The top lock is dominated by this huge lock-keepers house. Perhaps it was home to someone more important when the canal was cut.

Further down the flight the trees close in again, obscuring the many residential properties which line the canal. Are we really this close to Birmingham?

Like the top lock, the bottom lock at Perry Barr is alongside this fairly imposing canalside building of a similar design.


Gerry Cork - October 2001
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