• Welcome to this forum . We are a worldwide group with a common interest in Birmingham and its history. While here, please follow a few simple rules. We ask that you respect other members, thank those who have helped you and please keep your contributions on-topic with the thread.

    We do hope you enjoy your visit. BHF Admin Team

Educating children about the canals

Alberta

Super Moderator
Staff member
We took the dogs to Hatton locks this morning, it was very busy with lots of visitors and more boats than I have ever seen on the canal.
There was coach trip of primary school children from Leamington, they were being taken in small groups to various areas including the workshops.
One group was on the bridge, and the guide was explaining how people working the canals used lock gates to get a boat to go downhill in the water, 2 boats came through side by side and a loud 'Ooh' went up when they began to go down with the water level.
What a lovely way to teach children about history of the region by taking them out to show them how things happened.
 

Bob Davis

Bob Davis
We took the dogs to Hatton locks this morning, it was very busy with lots of visitors and more boats than I have ever seen on the canal.
There was coach trip of primary school children from Leamington, they were being taken in small groups to various areas including the workshops.
One group was on the bridge, and the guide was explaining how people working the canals used lock gates to get a boat to go downhill in the water, 2 boats came through side by side and a loud 'Ooh' went up when they began to go down with the water level.
What a lovely way to teach children about history of the region by taking them out to show them how things happened.
When you are on the canal and opening and closing the lock gates, the children love to help and it is amazing how safety conscious they are, they think it is great fun to push the gate arm, although one who followed us up Tardebigge finished up riding on it (holding on of course)

Bob
 

Heartland

master brummie
There are tremendous opportunities for education on Britains Canals and Railways. it is not only the locks but there are the engineering structures such as the aqueducts, bridges and the tunnels.

Near Birmingham important engineering structures include:

Bearley Aqueduct (iron) Engine Aqueduct (iron), Galton Bridge (iron), Stewarts Aqueduct (stone). Tame Aqueduct (Salford Bridge (stone & brick), Wootten Wawen Aqueduct (iron) and Yarningale Aqueduct and lots more.
 

Radiorails

master brummie
There is also the Guillotine gate stop at Kings Norton, the split bridges, barrel roofed cottages all of which are unique to the Stratford and an impressive aqueduct at Shirley. However the Stratford was where I spent many hours towpath cycling so I am a little biased. :D
 

Radiorails

master brummie
How times change. Many, many years ago the canals were not often spoken of, except by those who worked upon them and rod and line fishermen. In fact they were often seen in an unfavourable light.
 

Heartland

master brummie
There was an element of security that had to be observed. Canals were working waterways and access was restricted to a few places in Birmingham. Whilst boat crews had access to the waterway,there was a concern to ensure that the towpath did not become a public thoroughfare. So the boats were protected somewhat from theft and the infrastructure from vandalism.

The waterway, itself was not always clean and it suffered pollution from the gas works, factories and mills. It was very different to today.
 

Radiorails

master brummie
In the past, in the days of working boats, many people used the towpaths to get back to their boats or as a short cut. Many never got to their destination having fallen in and drowned. The luckier ones were able to swim I guess.
(Those with access to newspaper clippings may provide a tale or two).
But those misfortunes are still part of today's world.
The following is from the Canal & River Trust web site. It refers to recent times and pleasure users.
On all inland waterways (canals, rivers, docks, marinas, quarries, reservoirs), there were 366 accidental drownings involving alcohol and/or drugs in the United Kingdom between 2012-2016. That’s an average of 73 per year. 177 of these were intoxicated walkers and 42% of these people were 17-29 years old.
*All statistics are provided by the Royal Life Saving Society UK
 

Morturn

Super Moderator
I did recall the days when the canals around Birmingham were well out of bounds, “No trespassing” signs everywhere. All the access points had doors and were locked. As kids we were always being kicked off the canals in the town, but it was not so bad around Witton and Perry Barr.
 

Radiorails

master brummie
I was more fortunate in that the Northern Stratford was my usual haunt. hardly used since the outbreak of WW2 it was still, more or less with difficulty in some places, still navigable. Few, if any, restrictions.
The southern section was more or less derelict but not officially abandoned. The approx. 25 mile present day route is open and passes through some of the best scenery in the Midland.
I hope visits by schools and other interested parties keep the memories and traditions of the line alive. There are unusual things - some unique - connected with canals to be seen on The Stratford.
 

Bob Davis

Bob Davis
I was more fortunate in that the Northern Stratford was my usual haunt. hardly used since the outbreak of WW2 it was still, more or less with difficulty in some places, still navigable. Few, if any, restrictions.
The southern section was more or less derelict but not officially abandoned. The approx. 25 mile present day route is open and passes through some of the best scenery in the Midland.
I hope visits by schools and other interested parties keep the memories and traditions of the line alive. There are unusual things - some unique - connected with canals to be seen on The Stratford.
It is one of the prettiest canals, serviced by some superb pubs.

Bob
 

guilbert53

master brummie
I was more fortunate in that the Northern Stratford was my usual haunt.
The southern section was more or less derelict but not officially abandoned.
About 20 years ago I attended a 10 week evening class about the history of the canal network given by one of the men who had helped save the Stratford Upon Avon canal from abandonment.

He told the story about how in the 1950s the canal was chock full of weeds and other plant life, and how the locks were damaged and unusable. It was almost impossible to get a boat up and down it (the best you could manage was a canoe).

He told the story of how one of the canal bridges was damaged and needed to be repaired or replaced.

The council did not want to bother to build an arched bridge over the canal but wanted to build a "flat" bridge which would of course have meant the canal could never be used again as boats would not fit under the bridge.

So the council put in a request to "abandon" the canal.

(In the past every new canal that was built had to have a "bill" through parliament to allow people to raise money to build the canal. So this meant before you could close (or "abandon") a canal another bill had to go through parliament to close or abandon the canal.

When local canal enthusiasts heard the canal was gong to be abandoned they began to clear some of the canal and repair some of the locks. This was local enthusiasts doing it at weekends and in their spare time and long before canals became a haven for pleasure activities.

Eventually they managed to get the National Trust to take over the part of the canal (Southern part) and provide funding for work to be done.

The enthusiasts even managed to get the Governor of Winson Green prison to allow prisoners to come and work on helping to reopen the canal (after carefully checking they had all handed back their tools at the end of the day!!).

Back then the canal basin at Stratford Upon Avon was much bigger (coal and other "dirty" goods were delivered to that canal basin and the locals hated that area as it was so dirty and unpleasant).

So some canal land was sold to the RSC and the current RSC theatre in Stratford was built on the site of the old canal basins.

The canal was fully restored and reopened in 1964 when Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother came to open the canal.

So we now have this wonderful canal and we all ought to say a big thank you to the men and women (and children?) who gave up their time in the 1950s and 1960s to work on the canal.

If they had not done that we could well have lost the canal for ever.

To see the canal in action go to Kingswood Junction where the Stratford Upon Avon canal meets the Grand Union canal.

It is always a hive of activity with boats going up and down both canals and also criss crossing over between the two canals.

More on Stratford Upon Avon canal here


More on Kingswood Junction here:

 
Last edited:

Heartland

master brummie
The story of the Stratford upon Canal restoration did owe that transformation to a group of dedicated people and that dedication also led to the restoration of the Upper Avon Navigation between Stratford and Evesham.

However the battle for the Stratford was begun by Tom Rolt who took his boat along the Northern Stratford, when the GWR was still responsible for the canal. The Southern Stratford was effectively not used at that time. It was at Lifford Lift Bridge the canal was blocked. The bridge was permeantly laid flat across the canal, but Rolt had the GWR raise the "roadway" so that his boat could pass.

So began a long struggle for canal restoration.

The Stratford canal had a complicated history with the first part opening from Kings Norton to Hockley Heath as a barge waterway. It was extended, as a narrow boat canal, through Lapworth to join the Warwick & Birmingham Canal and then later was carried on south through Wootten Wawen and Wilmcote to the Avon. On that section were some important engineering features including split bridges and cast iron aqueducts, which still remain.

The canal was finally finished in 1816, after the rival Worcester & Birmingham Canal (1815). Both canals had started out as barge width canals, but neither were completed as such. This proved to be a handicap to trade up to Birmingham. Severn and Avon barges travelling to Birmingham would have been beneficial as transhipment of cargoes were avoided and greater loads could have been carried. Yet, such was the way with many navigations. Over time canal improvement schemes came and went and the only effective improvement in this area was the Grand Union Canal in the early 1930's

Trade on the canal included lime from the works near Wilmcote. Coal was the principal traffic, but there was also the traffic destined for the Stratford & Moreton Tramway.

Some the last traffic on the Southern Stratford was related to the gasworks at Stratford
 

Radiorails

master brummie
I was briefly part of an association concerned with the Northern Stratford commencing around 1950 when still at school. A small group bought a flat pontoon type barge, non-powered, which we bow hauled from near Kingswood Junction to The Aqueduct at Shirley. It was a cold day, still some snow underfoot and ice on the canal. It took from 9am until dusk (around 5pm) to complete this journey which included the locks at Lapworth. Not an easy task but we were a young group, pretty fit and of course fired with imagination as what we might eventually achieve. I arrived home somewhat dirty and dishevelled - unusual for me - but curiously no questions at home were asked. Neither did I have to provide any report about why I was not at school on that day, the only day I ever played truant.
 

Pedrocut

Master Barmmie
Heard of lead balloons, but now educated about concrete narrow oats.

...the company of A.H. Guest is perhaps best remembered for its construction of experimental concrete barges during World War One. This type of boat “was typically built during wars when wood and steel were in very short supply.”

In fact A.H. Guest built the oldest surviving concrete narrowboat in the world. This boat, a prototype, was built in 1918 at the end of World War One as a day boat for the Birmingham Canal Navigations (ibid); it has been restored and can be seen at the National Waterways Museum in Gloucester (Plate 1). Another example of one of Guest’s concrete narrowboats is apparently built into the canal wall near Lock No. 13 within the Sixteen Locks Conservation Area in the stretch of the Stourbridge Canal to the north. It would seem that the company continued to operate from the site until the late 20th century, and were extending their premises there in 1988 (Business Report 1988, 28).
 

Morturn

Super Moderator
That looks like one of the ferro concrete barges (FCB) that the Gloucester Museum pulled off that foreshore at Purton with grand plans to restore it. It did not happen, and it was returned to Purton where it is now sunk in the Gloucester Shaprness canal.

There are still a few FCB’s on the foreshore at Purton
 

Pedrocut

Master Barmmie
That looks like one of the ferro concrete barges (FCB) that the Gloucester Museum pulled off that foreshore at Purton with grand plans to restore it. It did not happen, and it was returned to Purton where it is now sunk in the Gloucester Shaprness canal.

There are still a few FCB’s on the foreshore at Purton
I think you may be right. It may be the wrong picture. This is more likely the one...
 

mw0njm.

Brummie Dude
Ok so i`m not very bright but i`m sure someone will enlighten me....How on earth can a bloody great lump of concrete float, especially when laden with cargo?

Whether an object will sink or float in water depends on its density. An object will float if it is less dense than water. An object will sink if it is more dense than water. If an object has a density equal to that of water, it will neither sink nor float. The density of water is 1.00 g/cm3. The apparent density of an object can be changed by either changing the mass of the object, the shape of the object, or both. For a given mass of concrete, the apparent density can be altered by changing the volume it occupies (i.e. volume displaced when placed in water). Concrete can be made to float if it is shaped like a boat. A boat-shaped or hollow object will displace a volume of water greater than the actual volume of solid material in the object. The object is said to be "buoyant" when it floats due to low density. By spreading out the concrete used to make the boat over a larger volume, the apparent density of the boat becomes less than that of water. Hence the boat floats!:grinning::grinning:
 
Top