One of the most exciting projects I have been involved with of late is the possible restoration of the Bradley Canal. This is a curious little canal that once linked between the Wolverhampton and Walsall Canals. In common with many of the Black Country’s minor navigations a mile of it was filled in, so now only a blind branch runs to Bilston from the Wolverhampton Canal, and there’s a short overgrown section adjacent to Moorcroft Wood on the Walsall Canal end.
I was first introduced to this little bit of forgotten waterway perhaps eight or nine years ago, and I naively thought how it would be good to see it brought back into use. I didn’t dig very deep and it seemed that there were many more high profile canal restorations clamouring for attention. Not least of these is the Lichfield to Hatherton Canal – if you have driven along the M6 Toll (or beside it on the A5) you may have seen the ‘canal bridge to nowhere’ east of Brownhills. Unconnected on either side, Britain’s shortest section of canal is just this bridge over the toll road, patiently waiting for the new cut to arrive.
But with Bradley, for a host of reasons: navigation, regeneration, the relatively modest scale and, not least, the putting a wetland wildlife corridor back into the urban landscape, there are signs that the Bradley Canal may be on the way back. Over the next few months the West Midlands Waterway Partnership with the Inland Waterways Association and the Wildlife Trust will be commissioning a feasibility study as the first step towards a full restoration.