The Wednesbury Oak Loop is the name given to what was once a long meandering loop of the Birmingham Canal Navigations (BCN) Main Line leaving the current Main Line at Deepfields Junction and re-joining at Bloomfield Junction, near Factory Junction. This is sometimes known as the Bradley Arm.
The loop was severed many years ago with only the section between Deepfields Junction and Bradley Workshops remaining. It was kept open to allow access to Bradley Workshops, where lock gates are manufactured, and to maintain the water supply from the pumps at Bradley to supply the rest of the BCN.
My previous blog post explained the proposals to turn this into a through navigation by reopening abandoned waterways under the name of Bradley Canal.
The Wednesbury Oak Loop can be cruised, and the towpath is in good condition and can be walked throughout, making a through walk including the route of the proposed Bradley Canal possible. The whole route is shown in my Bradley Canal map and can be downloaded in both Acrobat (pdf) and Memory-Map (qct) formats and, like all the maps for restoration projects, the Bradley Canal maps are free to download.
I’ve made the photos from my recent walk into a virtual cruise, including the through route so you can click through the next buttons to complete your virtual cruise from the comfort of your chair. Just choose your starting point
It’s not possible to walk through Bradley Workshops and the towpath becomes a separate footpath passing behind the workshops so it’s still possible to walk between the main towpath and the main road, and onto the Bradley Canal.
Bradley Workshops, where lock gates are made, are near the end of the Wednesbury Oak Loop. This once formed a complete loop of the Birmingham Canal Navigations (BCN) Old Main Line until it fell into decline and was severed.
There are proposals to re-open the canal ahead, linking through the Rotton Brunt Line and the Bradley Branch to reach the Walsall Canal at Moorcroft Junction. Those waterways are becoming known as the Bradley Canal.
This winding mechanism once allowed a chain to be pulled taught across the canal outside Bradley Workshops to stop boat movements. Possibly more of a deterrent to stop mischievous youths than real theft.
When closed by the chain the space to wind boats is severely limited and full length boats may no be able to wind which is why signs at the previous winding point say this location is only available during workshop opening hours.
The Birmingham Canal Navigations (BCN) are at a higher level than all the joining canals so water must be supplied from reservoirs or by pumping. A pumping station near Bradley Workshops lifts water from underground springs to supply the Wednesbury Oak Canal and, through that canal, the Wolverhampton Level of the BCN.
The fresh water from the springs combined with the limited boat traffic along the canal make for exceptionally clear water where the bottom is visible for most of the length.
Where houses replace old industries which came close to the canal there is nothing to separate the houses from the canal. Where houses are built on what was green space the hedge lines have mostly been retained to separate the building from the canal.