The Restoration of Tamworth Road- Part 4

This story is compiled from reports on this website and in Cut Both Ways Magazine to give an insight into the work involved and the tremendous efforts of many volunteers. Some of them are named, apologies to countless others who are not mentioned - this is a mere snapshot.


To Cricket Lane and Beyond

The new year saw the start of a new project at Tamworth Road, that of establishing a towpath where there wasn't one before from the Millennium Bridge at the tail of lock 25 all the way through to Cricket Lane. The existing walkway from lock 24 to Cricket Lane was just a muddy track over the infilled portion of that bit of the canal. Unfortunately the actual canal along this length is unlikely to be restored for some years until the proposed development of the adjacent field to housing is finalized. The new towpath now follows the hedge hard up against this field and won't be disturbed until the new lowered canal bed is constructed.

To construct this towpath, after the hedge had been trimmed back, the top soil was skimmed off, a strip approximately 4" deep by 4'6" wide. A weed resistant membrane was then laid and on top of that 2"-3" hardcore was compacted. A finishing layer of crushed limestone, also of approximately 2"-3" has been laid and compacted. The finished path has been well received by all who walk it. particularly by the occasional wheel chair user. 


Hugh and the lads lay a new towpath alongside Lock 24.  


Towpath approaching Cricket Lane.  21st Jan 2017.


The Cricket Lane entrance to Borrowcop Locks Canal Park.


The tow path has now been extended to the other side of Cricket Lane by about 100 yards

Plans for Pound 25

This pound is fairly dry but it has a section of the dreaded big pipe running the full length of it, and this pipe has water constantly flowing through it. It is going to be incredibly difficult to work around it. The lock gate at lock 24 will have to be removed. An access ramp has to be established through lock 24. The lock gates at lock 25 will also need to be removed where there are remedial works to the cill in that lock to be done. The sides of the pound base will be concreted leaving a center section which will be put into clay. Much the same as previously in pound 27, but with the clay now in the center and not adjacent to the wall. The aim is to erect a small dam at the mouth of lock 25 so that there is a foot or so of water in this pound. 

More on that later...


Pound 25 / Lock 24.

 The 'Narrows'  and up to the A51

Work beyond the narrows beyond Pound 27, leading up to the A51 tunnel, which began last November continued as weather permitted.

By February 2017  the wet weather was still causing us problems where the muddy waterlogged canal base refuses to dry up. Hence the only work done down that end has been done by the 'brickies'. After they have laid three or four courses of bricks our lads have concreted between them and the redundant 'big pipe' sections, that shore up the towpath there. A very strong waterproof wall is the result. However this task is rapidly coming to a conclusion. At that point in time we can back-fill behind this wall and the towpath with soil which will look nice when it matures in the summer months to come. (A little job for the 'Green Team' there maybe?).

March - April  Progress still blighted by water in the base of the canal which refuses to dry up. Fortunately the brickies have been able to continue with their work. The top rows of bricks are marching steadily toward the finishing line. Back filling between these finished bricks and the towpath has begun and we can now see what it will look like as a finished job.  


We have been able to resume work just beyond the narrows towards the A51. We had been held up because a large pool of water refused to drain away. With the good weather in April and early May it dried up sufficiently for us to resume work within it. The 'brickies' are still going along nicely finishing off the top few bricks of the wall along the towpath side. 

A great volume of soil has been removed from the other side of the canal channel where we have uncovered a line of gabions." What's a gabion"? you may well ask. It's a wire cage, usually made of rust resistant steel, it measures about a 1 meter cube, size depends on where and for what it is intended, which when in it's position is filled with rocks. The finished item is very heavy and stable and makes a good wall. A concrete base will be laid adjacent to these gabions and a wall, constructed similar to the towpath side, built.  

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Feb 19th 2017    


Brickwork by 'Rick the Brick' and Barry Parkes with trainee Peter. 
March 12th 2017     


May 16th 2017     Photos: Christine Howles

July - Concrete and bricks

During July we have seen great strides towards completing the concreting. We took delivery of another couple of loads of concrete from a 'mix it on site' source in July. On one day we broke all records for the amount of concrete laid. A full load of over 11.0 cubic meters of concrete were delivered early on the Wednesday morning and by lunchtime it was all laid and tamped. A good volunteer turnout and benign weather was in our favour. This delivery left us with nearly all the concrete base between the walls completed. With the brickies now given plenty of space down there, good progress on the construction of the wall has been achieved. All the concrete blocks have now been laid and the laying of the blue engineering bricks, that are used on the top half of the wall, is progressing relentlessly. The brickwork is now the limiting factor on the completion of the work in this area. 

Until the brickwork is well progressed from the narrows towards the A51 we will be unable to move the earth access ramp back from within the narrows to alongside the opposite wall. We need to do this (move the earth ramp) to enable us to complete the concrete behind the new wall, fill the gap between the concrete slabs in the base of the canal with puddled clay, seal the canal end adjacent to the A51 to make the whole area water tight, dig out to the narrows stop planks, and lay the last few bricks to complete the wall.

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July 9th 2017     Photos: Christine Howles

August  - The base is complete

All the concreting of the canal base has been completed. The only concreting left to be done down there is the back filling between the wall, as it is being built, and the original gabions. And, of course we are in the hands of the 'brickies' as to it's progress. Even so, as I write this, I can report that the wall is almost complete save the top two courses where bull-nosed bricks will be used to finish off the job.

The gap between the canal's concrete base on the tow-path side and that on the other side has been excavated to about half a meter in depth. Into this trench some puddle clay has been laid. The puddle clay needs to be laid in three layers of about six inches with much compacting between each layer to establish a leak proof infill.

To date only the first layer has been done from end to end. In fact we need just the right amount of rain to make this job easy. Too dry and the clay becomes rock hard and won't stick between he layers. Too much rain and we will find ourselves trying to work in a large puddle with clay sticking to just about everything. Puddle clay is also being used to seal off the A51 end of these works and hopefully with sufficient rainfall the whole area will eventually retain a good depth of water.


August 24th and the base is complete. At the far end of here the tunnel under the A51 will begin.


October  - and now we want it to rain!

The finishing touches to the area between the narrows and the A51 were successfully completed The area is now finished and all we need is a deluge of rain to get some water in it. Until this is the case we won't know if there are any leaks or not. Two or three weekends ago we made an attempt to pump water from the winding hole into it, not very successfully, The pump was having an off day, it kept getting clogged up with blanket weed among'st other problems. We managed to get about 4" transferred across but sadly this drained away over the following week. The clay base had dried out leaving large cracks in it which could have been the source of the water loss. We'll try again.


The Narrows, closed and sealed. 


Brickwork completed.  


October 21st 2017 - Testing for leaks

Take a break - sit and enjoy the view...

 360 degree photo by Christine Howles from a new bench made and installed by Tony Cadwallader.

  Pound 25, Lock 25 and Lock 24

January - February 2017

A start was made in pound 25 for future concreting of the base and how best to work around the big pipe. The dreaded mud is again holding us back, although steady progress has been made with the concreting of the base. On a very windy day, with the wind in the right direction, we had a large fire, within the pound, of all the brash and branches collected as a result of our working along the Heritage Towpath Trail from lock 25 through to Cricket Lane. The fire smoldered on for nearly a week until more heavy rain doused it totally.

March - April 

Much work is need in lock 25 to restore it to working condition. The cill was badly damaged when the big pipe was initially laid. This needs rebuilding, the hinge area for the single lock gate needs reinstating and much repair work is required throughout. Eventually, earthworks and concreting will finish when we reach the Cricket Lane end of the redundant lock 24 where the big pipe will discharge directly into the lock and feed a pound 25 that will have water in it to about knee high. 


Work begins in Pound 25


Entrance to Lock 25 with more of the 'Big Pipe'

Bypassing the Big Pipe

In preparation for the removal of the big pipe, it is necessary to provide an alternative route for the steady stream of water flowing through it into lock 25. There was a temporary pipe that used to run from lock 25 passed Mrs Attwoods garden and into lock 26. It was brown in colour (faded) and about 6" in diameter. This had been in store since its removal and now we have reused it, saving the Trust a fair bit of money in doing so  We have laid it in a trench alongside the pound 25 big pipe. It will be fed into the big pipe pipe just short of lock 24 and the water will be diverted into this pipe all the way to lock 25. Having done this the pound 25 big pipe can come out. Concreting can then continue unimpeded. 

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Laying the 6" plastic bypass pipe

Lock 24 is cleared

The original Lock 24 will be redundant. It will resited on the other side of Cricket Lane to avoid a hump-back bridge over Cricket Lane. A huge amount of soil out of the now redundant lock 24 has been removed to an area just short of Cricket lane where a grab lorry can access it and take it to Summerhill. Pound 25 has seen more progress during September with more of the concrete base laid and redundant concrete in the mouth of lock 25 has been broken up and removed. 

All things now, regarding pound 25 and lock 24, revolve around the removal of the 'big pipe'. We are at a stage where the pipe prevents us from progressing the concrete base,  and in lock 24 where this pipe stops us from completing the task of emptying the lock of all the soil. (It's in the way there as well).

October  -  A large volume of soil had been removed to the Fossway site leaving us space to continue emptying lock 24. This has now been achieved. It appears that the invert (the bottom) of the lock had not been damaged when the 'big pipe' was installed. Good news indeed. All the concreting in pound 25 is done and the only task left is in lock 25 where the new oak cill beam awaits to be installed. 



Clearing Lock 24

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One more task to complete in lock 24 - replace missing bricks within the lock walls and along the top layers of these walls.

Assessing Gallows Wharf

Towards the end of September we started to assess the work needed to re-establish the famous Gallows Wharf. Tony G. has been down by the London Road bridge with his digger locating the original line of the canal and uncovering the remains of it's original brick walls. A lot of work needs to be done down there and problems with its remoteness from our Tamworth Road base may cause us difficulties. We shall see.

Gallows wharf is just behind the Shell Garage on the corner of Tamworth Road and London Road, close to the site of the Lichfield Gallows. Originally erected in 1532, the last people were hung there on 1st June 1810. Three men had been charged with passing on forged coins and banknotes, known as the act of 'uttering', receiving their punishment. 

Read more in the Heritage Towpath Trail 

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Starting to investigate the Gallow's Wharf area.

 "A natural wildlife corridor..."


Photo by Christine Howles   June 2017

To be continued...

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