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There and back again: Saul Junction to Ebley by canoe

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From the A38 roundabout, it's a fairly short walk across to Fromebridge Mill, at least if you're not carrying 30kg of plywood canoe.


The mill is now a pub/restaurant. I stop for a drink and some chips, then slide Too Long down quite a steep bank into the river in front. A couple of people drinking outside help me with it. For some reason I don't take a picture...


A few yards round the corner is the foot of the mill weir. There's a small weir flowing swiftly behind a tree, and a much larger stone-and-concrete one that's dry in these conditions. Scramble out, drag Too Long onto the big flat area at the top, get back in and continue.


(Top of Fromebridge Mill weir)


The river here is a bit smaller than before, flowing mostly through open pastures, shrubby willows dotted along the banks. There's some weed at the edges but it's not in the way much.



First bridge is the A38. It's oppressive, you wouldn't get a narrowboat under here, but not that low.



Some cattle wonder what this peculiar red thing is. The river is a similar width here but getting shallower; occasionally I'm scraping over sandbars.



Then the M5. The canal is to share this bridge, lowered a couple of feet below the river in a concrete trough for headroom. The Environment and Highways Agencies' quibbles about this have been the main source of delay in planning.

In these conditions, I reckon Lark Ascending would probably have scraped under as it is. Similar to Dunn's Bridge, lower than the Droitwich culvert.



Above the M5 the channel keeps narrowing. There's still some depth but the flow is increasingly fast. In some places, low branches almost reach the opposite bank - it's awkward to squeeze the canoe around them when what it really wants to do is snap around and shoot off downstream.


Where Oldbury Brook merges, there's a little section of rapids. Water tumbling over brick-sized stones. I'd wondered if I could paddle up the brook to reach Westfield Lock, but it's far too overgrown. Time for a walk again.

Looking beyond the rapids, the river is flowing quite fast but looks possible to paddle downstream. We'll get back to that...



Across the field, there's a bridge over nothing. There should be a canal underneath but you wouldn't know it.



Nor on the other side - only some scrub. This is the site of Westfield [now John Robinson] Lock, since dug out by the WRGies and others. It'll be a very different view now.



Walking south from here along what was, and will again be, the canal towpath. Shortly after crossing the brook it becomes obvious - the channel has been dug out; it's almost dry and filled with standing reeds but still recognisably a canal. A plaque on the reconstructed spill weir reminds the reader of this.


An empty lock, rebuilt but without gates, some more dry channel, a modern bridge but in more sympathetic style than those before.



The lock on the other side is full of scaffolding and has a blue plastic dam across the top. Presumably for repairs to the walls, but no-one is around to ask.




It's almost 5pm, and a few miles to walk home. Too Long can stay here until the morning.

(to be continued)


Edited by Francis Herne
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On 02/04/2024 at 18:38, Francis Herne said:

Repeat for the second, then a separate beam that's there for no apparent reason.


We added that beam to support the centre post for the stop planks.  The centre post was added to add a bit of support to the centre of the planks as they are 16 feet long and we were using them over an extended period of time.


The lock had a fall of 6 feet or so before the ship canal was built when the level change became a few inches meaning that quite often the top and bottom gates were left wide open.  At some point concrete copings were added to raise the level of the walls a bit so that the lock had to be used and this is can be seen today.  The bottom of the lock is still at the original pre-ship canal level so there is essentially a full lock of water there. 


In the 1990s we sheet piled a dam at the lower end to excavate the chamber (it had been infilled) all the way down to the original bottom which is constructed out of stone blocks.  A concrete plinth was then constructed up to 6 foot below water level which we could then sit stop planks on that along with a socket for the centre post.  At other locks we had used cables to anchor the post but we had a beam lying around which did the job instead.


On 02/04/2024 at 20:00, Francis Herne said:

There's a fairly low gas pipe, then a nice arched bridge in good repair.


The gas pipe as you refer to it is actually part of the countrywide Exolum aviation fuel pipeline.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exolum_Pipeline_System



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