The Restoration of Tamworth Road


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The Tamworth Road section in 1883 .  From the 6-inch to 1 mile Ordinance Survey Map of Staffordshire LVIII.NE

The Tamworth Road section consists of three lock sections adjacent to the A51 Tamworth Road in Lichfield. Owned by Lichfield City Council, the original licence to the Trust was extended in 2006 to a 50-year Lease.


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. In the early days the Work Party assembled one Sunday per month often assisted by other groups. By 2015 this had increased to typically 100-200 man-hours per week by our own regular volunteers.



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Volunteers defining the boundary at Tamworth Road in 1995.


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Lock 25 area at Tamworth Road in 1997.   Photos: Bob Williams.

 

A New Millennium


2000 - Millenium Lock 25

With the co-operation of The Darwin Walk Trust and the Lichfield District Council (the planning authority), the Trust was permitted to excavate and refurbish these locks. Locks 25 and 26, which had been partly demolished, have both been largely rebuilt apart from removal of the land drain, a considerable achievement by our volunteers. On completion of Lock 25, a ceremony was held when the Burgomaster of Limburg (Lichfield's twin town in Germany) assisted by the Mayor of Lichfield and the Chairman of Lichfield District Council named it "Millennium Lock". 

In 2001 a Local Heritage Initiative grant enabled us to rebuild a 50-metre section of the towpath wall above Lock 25.

Rebuilding, surfacing and landscaping the towpath at Tamworth Road has been funded by a Local Heritage Initiative Grant awarded by the Countryside Agency.

The future of Lock 24, which was excavated for exploration, has been considered. Having assessed its condition and taken measurements, it was decided to fill it in and carry out low level landscaping. A set of old lock gates donated by British Waterways has been installed for the time being. This has improved the appearance of the area and ensured a good through route for walkers. The infill will also conserve the brickwork and limit the need for maintenance work. In due time the future of Lock 24 will be determined when there is a clearer idea on how the canal will achieve a crossing of Cricket Lane

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Millenium Lock (lock 25) is now complete.(Pipe is land water which will be useful when the time comes to re-water this section) 

Towpath Wall  "Local Heritage Initiative Grant"

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"Time capsule" being placed behind 2000 brick in lock 26

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Coping stone being retrieved whilst excavating lock 26

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Rebuilding wing wall of lock 26


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Detail of the weir cill, apron and culvert adjacent to Lock 24   Dec 19th 2000


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Archaeology work being done on weir of lock 24.  Dec 19th 2000

Click here for details of the archaeological study

2001 - Waterway Recovery Group October Camp

The WRG Work Camp Project October 20-27th involved surfacing and landscaping the new towpath at Tamworth Road. This now completes this section of towpath which has been funded by a Local Heritage Initiative Grant of £7300 awarded by the Countryside Agency.

Joanne "Smudge" Smith led the WRG camp of about 16 volunteers. They all got stuck into the job on the Sunday, levelling the towpath and laying dumper loads of crushed stone. They got soaked on the Sunday, but the skies brightened up and the rest of the week at Lichfield was superb.

They all worked so hard and enthusiastically, moving in total 4 lorry loads (64 tonnes in all) of crushed stone. WRG also put in an interpretation board, a bench and planted a new section of hedge alongside the Millennium Lock to transform what seemed like a building site into a wonderful mini Towpath Trail. Many thanks to all volunteers. 

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2003 - Inspecting Progress


After the AGM on April 23rd  David Suchet joined members visiting the restoration sites at Tamworth Road. He is seen here chatting to foreman Peter Matthews about progress at Lock 26.

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Photo by  Bob Mullarkey

Lock 26 and beyond

During the summer of 2003 major progress was made at Lock 26. The towpath ramp was levelled and gravelled and the new quadrant wall backfilled. The bricklaying on the bywash apron was completed using new size engineering bricks to fit.  A further 25 foot length of the towpath wall was stripped back to its foundations and a start made on rebuilding it. Beyond here the wall has no proper foundation and the generous loan of an excavator and driver by Chasetown Civil Engineering in September enabled us to expose its remains  right down to the A38. The digger enabled us to  level the towpath, excavate some more of the bed and build up a further section of the offside bank.

We also purchased a 20’ container for storage and sited it by Lock 25 where will be working for the forseeable future, thickening up the structure, finishing the quadrant, cutting a ladder recess, landscaping and much more.

October 10th 2003 saw the opening of the M6 Toll aqueduct
- more on that here.


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Uncovering the remains of the towpath wall beyond Lock 26
Photo Phil Sharpe

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Simon and son, Bob, Michael, Keith, Peter, and Barry contemplating filling the new 20’ container by Lock 25.    Photo Phil Sharpe


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Completed bottom quadrant wall on Lock 26.   Photo Bob Williams

2004 - Finding the edge

Work at Tamworth Road has now progressed to the next stage and excavations have been started to dig out the channel between Locks 25 and 24. The weekend of 5th/6th June saw two Waterway Recovery Groups, London WRG and Essex WRG, joining forces to dig out the channel and also make more improvements to Locks 25 and 26. It's amazing what you find when you start digging!

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Is this the remains of one tree or three? Waterway Recovery Group wrestle with a knotty problem!

Photos by Bob & Sue Williams 

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The mid-August Canal Camp had a full attendance of 20 volunteers and made impressive progress rebuilding the pound wall.

Loose brickwork was removed and replaced, mountains of brick-cleaning and repointing carried out, also on the entrance to Lock 24. Extensive use was made of lime mortar for the first time.


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WRG campers building the block wall for the Lock 25 thrust block in August 2004

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The offside pound wall takes shape during the canal camp in August 2004

Photos Phil Sharpe 


2005 - Lock 24 takes shape

We were supported by visits from WRG BITM in April and Newbury WPG in May. On Lock 24 we completed rebuilding the offside landing stage. the retaining walls and the steps up to ground level. rebuilt the roadside boundary wall and back-filled and landscaped the area. On the towpath side the landing stage paving was finished and the ground cut back to a safe slope and grass seeded. The remaining section of the wing wall. bywash outfall and the gap in the towpath wall were excavated, cleaned off for rebuilding and re-pointed, and then deepened concrete footings were shuttered and cast over the residual brickwork of the towpath wall.

At Lock 25 another 6 cubic metres of readymix concrete had to be barrowed the length of the lockside on the BITM weekend to fill in the towpath side bottom gate thrust block and lay a platform for future quadrant paving. Re-bricking the ladder recess continued, the towpath slope alongside the quadrant was levelled and the slope alongside the retaining wall has been landscaped.

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Bob, Keith and Simon and Simon landscaping the offside wall at Lock 24
Photo Phil Sharpe

In March 2005, and with her permission,  major excavation work began in Mrs. Attwood's garden. The towpath wall has been uncovered down to where it has been demolished above Lock 26. The offside tail wall below Lock 25 was excavated and the large sycamore tree root removed after considerable effort to disentangle it from the wall, although it still brought a substantial amount of brickwork and ironwork out with it. At the other end of the garden old fencing and a small leylandi tree were removed to enable excavation of the Lock 26 bywash weir and wing wall.

Several coping stones and large numbers of old bricks have been recovered from the excavations and transported to the storage area above Lock 25 for cleaning and reuse, and some of the original stone and brick copings from the demolished bridge have also been found. All the spoil has again been dumpered down to a temporary spoil bank near the A38. where it can be used in future to build up the banks across the end of Mr. Moody's field. Below Lock 26 spoil which had spread over the boundary with the field along the middle section of the offside bank has also been pulled back by a few feet to reinstate a straight boundary line.

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WRG BITM barrowing readymix concrete into Lock 25 thrust block in April 2005
Photo Phil Sharpe

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Uncovering the towpath wall through Mrs. Attwood’s garden
Photo Phil Sharpe


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Clive, Barry and  Bob with completed offside landscaping at Lock 24 in spring 2005.  Photo Phil Sharpe

2006 - Work Party Report

In early April we continued laying the capping bricks on the rebuilt section of the towpath wall in the garden, removed the earth ramp and excavated the foundation trench in preparation for rebuilding the gap in the wall where the deep pit containing the lock coping stones had been. The KESCRG weekend at the start of the Canal Camp laid concrete blinding in the towpath wall trench, and continued the bricklaying and completed the concreting for the top wing walls of Lock 26. A short section of towpath which was subsiding into the old collapsed bywash tunnel at the tail of Lock 24 was excavated and consolidated in preparation for resuming the excavation of the lock chamber, which was a major task for the Camp at Easter.

July was exceptionally hot and not conducive to hard physical labour, but work still continued each weekend. Bricklaying was completed on the roadside wall and, after vegetation clearance, the big job of installing shuttering boards along the 60 metre length to retain the backing concrete was also accomplished. In the garden, we finished the bricklaying on the back wall section for the towpath gap reinstatement, whilst good progress was made with brick cleaning to supply the front wall, and moving them to the site. Maintenance continued with strimming and weeding, repairs to the strimmer and mixer, and fitting extension feet to a platform for use as a temporary towpath bridge.

Through the autumn, Tamworth Road continued to claim attention with brickwork being the major focus. Concrete back-filling the off-side wall of pound 25 revealed that the poor state of some lower courses could not take the stress put on them. Fortunately, the downfall of a short section only hurt everyone’s pride but valuable lessons were learnt by studying the cause and debating the best means of correction, guided by Roy Sutton for IWA. 


Read a more detailed Work Party report here


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The partly exposed Lock 24 before the Canal Camp in April


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KESCRG dig out the old collapsed bywash tunnel at the tail of Lock 24


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Completing Pound 26 towpath wall   (photos by Bob Williams)

2007/8 -  Borrowcop Locks Canal Park

There’s nothing like the prospect of gaining, or possibly losing a large grant to drive the work force to greater dedication than ever to beat a looming deadline. Through the winter, routine work at Tamworth Road, Lichfield has been subordinated to the Staffordshire Aggregates Levy Grant Scheme project for the Borrowcop Locks Canal Park. Approved as late as October 2007 it had to be completed financially by mid-March. And it was! In just a few weeks, capital expenditure of £36,000 spread over four months provided all the required materials which include a new steel footbridge and 125 metres of new towpath.

Over the first week-end of September, we were very pleased to welcome back Essex Waterway Recovery Group, renowned for their “green” abilities. Through heavy rain they laid 50m2 of turf around the set of large lock stones to enhance the visitor approach to Borrowcop Locks Canal Park: ideal conditions to lay turf. Without having their enthusiasm dampened, they then turned into masons to use cut stone blocks from those donated by Birse Rail when bridge parapets were demolished to widen the West Coast Main Line.

Read a more detailed Work Party report here


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New interpretation board at Tamworth Road   (Photo by Paul Marshall)

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Brian Davis and Barry Parkes building the quadrant wall, 2nd  October 2008   (photos by Bob Williams) 

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Essex wrg brave the rain to turf Borrowcop Locks viewing area 

2008 -  New footbridge is open

The planned civic twinning visits from Lichfield’s twin cities in France and Germany gave the opportunity to organise an official opening ceremony for the new bridge over the tail of Lock 25. The mayor of Limburg officially inaugurated Millennium Lock (25) on the last twinning visit. It was also an occasion we could share with members and with the people of Lichfield by holding an open day.

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The partly exposed Lock 24 before the Canal Camp in April


26th April 2008  M. Gérard Charrié, Deputy Mayor of Sainte Foy lès Lyon (left),  Councillor Mark Warfield, Mayor of Lichfield,  and Bürgermeister Martin Richard, Mayor of Limburg an der Lahn  at the formal  opening of the new footbridge over Lock 25 in the Borrowcop Locks Canal Park.

(Photos Paul Marshall)


2009 - Lock 25 Bywash

Through the summer weeks, good progress has been made in building up the circular drop shaft for the bywash outlet. Interesting detail has been incorporated to make it a distinctive feature of this canal in future. A footpath around it to the best disability access standard will cross a small bridge over the spillway. Passers by ask if we are building a wishing well which could be a novel funding opportunity!

Enquiries are being made as to the possibility of a temporary diversion of some water from the “big pipe” in the bed of the canal to artificially water the new bywash in the short term as an attractive feature and a foretaste of how it will function when the canal is fully restored.  


Read a more detailed Work Party report here


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Part of w.r.g. North West team help build the base to Lock 25 bywash outlet 3rd May 2009 



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Constructing the distinctive drop shaft for Lichfield Canal Lock 25 bywash,  August 2009

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Brian Davis completes the Lock 25 bywash outlet   31st May 2009 

2010 - Bywash is complete and we turn the corner

Work on the stone spillway to lock 25 bywash has progressed well considering the severe weather over Christmas and the first two months of the New Year. We have laid concrete foundations for the new weir end wall, and we have used the blue brick seconds kindly donated to the Trust by Mr. Moody to build up the weir wall which will save on the cost of new bricks. Also we have used donated stone for the weir capping sill, which is now in place.

Good progress has been made by Bob and Keith on building up the ground for the access pathway between the two bridges and around the drop shaft. Adrian joined them to reinstate the floor of pound 25 after its use as a store for so me of the large donated stones.

We have benefited rom several WRG group visits (over 30 on one weekend) and from the return of our friends from Jaguar Land Rover. The latter enjoy a day out of the office and bring a ready expertise to our work which is most welcome. The result has been a rapid extension of the “long wall” from the tail of Lock 26 to the A38 corner where we must install a weir. Thoughts have now turned to the construction of the entirely new Lock 27 as a prelude to lining up the approach for the crossing under A51. This latter will concentrate our minds as major funding will be required to employ contractors to  thrust bore under the A51 and then the A38.


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Some of the w.r.g. North West team help build the bywash to Lock 25, Lichfield,  11th April 2010

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17th March 2010 - Installing Lock 25 drop shaft footbridge and safety railings



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25th April 2010 - Mike Brown, Eric Wood & Mervyn Ainge contemplate the new bywash   (Photo Paul Marshall)

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2010 - The Lichfield Canal turns the corner!


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2010 -  Pound 26 soon to be re-watered.


Continued in Part II


LICHFIELD AND HATHERTON CANALS RESTORATION TRUST

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