The Restoration of Darnford Lane

Darnford Lane

Our site at Darnford Lane actually comprises two sites joined together. The further part is some 250 yards of original canal, some of which had been levelled, leading to the partly demolished Lock 29. This was purchased in 1995 by Lichfield District Council, financed by a Derelict Land Grant and licensed to the Trust. The nearer part is about 400 yards long and purchased by the Trust in 1994, financed by a loan from The Inland Waterways Association (IWA).

The Trust engaged contractors to excavate a new channel along "our" part, joining into the original line with a new winding hole below Lock 29 which is derelict. The new channel continues at the level below the lock to pass under Darnford Lane without the humpback bridge demolished many years ago. A new lock will be sited on the other side of the road.


Darnford lane - location of new crossing.   Vew along the canal bed to the north-east. in 2012.


WRG Canal Camp installing syphon culvert for Darnford Brook in 1996.

Photo: Phil Sharpe

This is the location of a historic iron culvert installed to take the Darnford Brook beneath the canal at this point.   The iron culvert sections were removed and taken to the British Waterways Museum in Gloucester.

In 1996, aided by finance from the Manifold Trust and labour from Waterway Recovery Group (WRG), a new concrete inverted siphon culvert was installed to take the Darnford Brook under the canal. Sections of the old cast iron culvert (which was fully silted up) were removed and donated to the Waterways Museum at Gloucester.

Vehicle access is now available beyond the brook, which has allowed us to erect a lift bridge. The purpose of the bridge is to transfer the original towpath over to the Lichfield side avoiding the abandoned lock and new "nature reserve" where deciduous trees have been planted. Over 250 metres of sponsored piling have been installed at this site and a 50 metre trial section has been lined with bentonite matting and re-watered experimentally. Land on both sides of the canal has now been made into golf courses, so we are very fortunate to have gained possession of this strip when we did. 


A new lift bridge was installed in 1997 by the Trust which allows the towpath to cross over from the south side of the canal to the north side.

Photo: Phil Sharpe 

Darnford Lane c. 2000?


Piling at Darnford. Approx 400 metre of sponsored piling has been installed by Waterway Recovery Group. Every alternate pile has been sponsored by someone.

Photo: Jan Horton


First water in the canal.  Waterway Recovery Group Navvies Anonymous abstracting water into a trial section at Darnford with the completed lift bridge in the distance.


Darnford Lane channel reconstruction & grading in 2000.

Photo: Phil Sharpe

2003 - Conservation Awards

Mike Battisson, the Trust's Environmental Officer and his team have been attempting to introduce native British bluebells in the broadleaf copse established by Trust members near to the Darnford Lane lift bridge (See CBW 36 - Other Reports). This recovery programme was submitted to the West Midlands Wildlife Trust for consideration for an award.

The good news is: we won it!


View from Darnford Lane looking down towards the lift bridge from near Darnford Moors.      (Photo by Bobbie Battisson, July 2003)

Mike's planting of trees and wild flowers at the Darnford Lane site, together with the Trust's policy of protecting wildlife in the area, landed us the West Midlands Wildlife Trusts Conservation Award, Community Category for 2003. These awards are sponsored by npower and seek to reward and publicise examples of good practise in nature conservation. Apart from the accolade, recognised by a very handsome plaque, the prize also carries a cheque for £100 (perhaps to buy more wild flower seed).


Graham Peak of West Midlands Wildlife Trusts and Liz Gater of npower present Mike Battisson with his award.

(Photo courtesy of nPower)

2004 - Darnford Brook floods the canal

On August 10th 2004, after several days of heavy rain, the Darnford Brook at Lichfield flooded, causing a breach in the embankment along the canal. The normally dry canal channel quickly filled with water from the brook, giving us a preview of what will one day be the Lichfield Canal.

Volunteers from the Trust managed to plug the breach with 60 tonnes of clay and the water quickly drained away.


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2005 - Carry on Campers


Canal campers reinstating the path at Darnford Lane with brick rubble and sand in 2005  (Photo by Phil Sharpe)

2013 - Darnford Lane Challenge

At short notice an approach from The National Challenge in the Midlands resulted in a coach-load of late-teenage volunteers and their leaders arriving to clear the overgrowth at the entrance to the canal land off Darnford Lane, Lichfield. Full of enthusiasm, and many unaccustomed to country ways, the gang learned to use basic hand tools to cut back the weeds and brambles, making short work of Mother Nature’s steady encroachment. This was the end of a summer which took the youngsters through a range of community projects involving fund-raising, promotional studies, and practical activity.


To be continued...

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