Ryders Green - Walsall Town Wharf
Walsall Canal
7 miles
It seems that boaters are generally warned to keep clear of the Walsall Canal as it's too shallow and full of rubbish. The latter is definitely true as I spotted a tractor tyre, various kitchen fittings, a fridge and pallets all floating in the water. On the other hand, the towpath was mainly very good. The canal starts at Ryders Green where its precursor joined the Wednesbury Old Canal in 1786, getting to Walsall in 1799. At the top lock you can take your ease at the Eight Locks pub, before dropping 45ft from the Birmingham to Walsall level.

Great Bridge needn't delay you unduly as you pass the Haines and Danks branch, the first of a series of old branches. After Moor Hill Lane there's Toll End Junction, now a winding hole but once connecting with Tipton Green. At the Lower Ocker Hill branch there's actually some boats and then the Tame Valley Canal leaves arrow straight off to the right. Before Leabrook Road the canal opens out and shakes off its advanced vegetative state but then normal service is resumed when the surrounding factories turn to houses. Crossing the cute Wiggins Mill Footbridge you reach the Gospel Oak Branch and derelict (non-existent) Leabrook Basin. Under the metro bridge and the approach to Willingsworth Hall Bridge is quite pleasant with benches.

The Bradley Branch Canal, which connected with the old main line, is still apparent at Moorcroft Junction and you could almost be out in the country. However you realise the canal is just a narrow oasis as you pass another scrapyard at Holyhead Road Bridge in an area once covered with iron works. Just before and after Barnes Meadow Bridge you pass the barely perceptible Bilston and Willenhall branches, little Black Country towns which were once caught up in the web of canals.

By Porket's Bridge you're probably tiring of the parallel main road that has been adjacent to the canal for some time, the Black Country Route is hard to shake off as the canal continues through fairly boring built up surroundings. Weeping willows finally do replace pylons but the urban landscape returns with a vengeance after Bughole Bridge with great heaps of scrap metal and towering walls..

As the canal swings round towards a railway aquaduct, the blast furnaces of the Darlaston Steel and Iron Company would have been both sides of the canal. Further on you pass the Anson Branch that opened in 1830, connecting with the Bentley Canal, and closed in 1961. After skirting the large James Bridge Cemetery and aquaduct, there's sunbathers, anglers and a fairly open vista before ducking under the M6.

After this point the amount of detritus markedly increases but the journey into Walsall isn't totally unpleasant even with the metallic clanking of nearby factories ringing in your ears. Over the Gas Works branch and you're soon at Walsall Junction where the canal departs through Walsall Locks to the Wyrley and Essington Canal at Birchills. But bearing right to Walsall Town Wharf the atmosphere changes with factories banished in favour of apartments, bars and the new art gallery.

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Wednesbury Old Canal
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