From Camp Hill Bottom Lock cross the rope scarred iron bridge made by Lloyds, Fosters & Company of Wednesbury and turn right. As you head dead straight don’t be alarmed if you encounter knuckle dragging neanderthals wearing blue and white scarves. We are near to Birmingham City’s football ground and their supporters are too far down the evolutionary scale to be anything more than just a nuisance.
With new flats eventually breaking up the industrial monotony, there are adjacent moorings but this is not a tourist hot spot. Traffic on the canal since Catherine de Barnes has been non-existent, a far cry from when the junction canal was the M6 Toll road of its day. As you continue, note that older road bridges have brickwork cut out that allowed fire engines to extract water from the canal during the blitz
. Planes could follow the canals by moonlight and bridge 101 carries shell damage but personally I couldn’t detect it.
Though you are adjacent to the Proof House railway junction where three main line railways meet, surprisingly the area around Garrison Top Lock can be quiet if not pretty. But the reality is that you are boxed in by roads and railways and soon again enveloped in the sights, sounds and smells of industry
. Crashing and banging from a giant scrap yard needs to be heard to be believed as the canal descends through the next four locks. Just after Lock 62 is Park Wharf where Fellows, Morton and Clayton once built boats and the seemingly endless urban activity continues until bridge 108 when the canal straightens along a paint plastered wall but is no longer industrially claustrophobic.
There is however a big paper recycling facility next to the Saltley Narrows on the other side of the parallel River Rea but, once past two gasometers
and across the river, there are actually playing fields and a wildlife pond. Nechells Power Station is now Star City, again with moorings if you fancy a wager in the casino. The complex contains other entertainment such as a 24 screen cinema, ten pin bowling etc.
Just before Salford Junction the canal narrows to a boat width, this is Nechells Shallow or Stop Lock. Presumably the original lock cottage didn’t require protective razor wire. The end of the Grand Union is nigh when it meets the Tame Valley and the Birmingham and Fazeley canals under Spaghetti Junction
, the 19th century dwarfed by the 20th, three canals now carrying pathetically little traffic outnumbered by eighteen intertwined roads carrying 200,000 vehicles every day.
This was a journey inspired by the sweaty ruddy faced man and by Robert Longden’s fabulous canal photographs.
Planning the walk was made a lot easier by:
Mac and Jan from the Castle Bromwich and Amersham Ramblers
Background information came from a range of sources including: http://mkiwa.users.btopenworld.com/route.htm, www.aghs.jimdo.com/transport-history/canal-history/, www.subbrit.org.uk/sb-sites/sites/w/weedon/index.shtml, www.visitwarwick.co.uk/, www.wikipedia.org, www.localhistories.org/warwick.html, www.saltisfordcanal.co.uk/Saltisford_Canal/History_of_the_Canal.html, www.warwickdc.gov.uk/wdc/royalpumprooms, www.brumagem.co.uk/Canals_Birmingham.htm, www.bsatrust.org, www.typhootea.com, www.gunproof.com, www.jquarter.org.uk, www.londoncanals.co.uk, Waterways World, www.chilternwalks.co.uk, www.morechilternwalks.co.uk
Walked, written, photographed by Martyn Loach
All rights reserved, all photographs copyright