Walsall Junction - Horseley Fields
Walsall Branch Canal, Wyrley and Essington Canal
8 miles 7 furlongs
Walking along the eight Walsall Locks you wouldn't think that this was once a very busy section of the BCN . Today the Walsall Branch Canal is fairly grim backwater, opened in 1841 it lifts the canal up to the 473ft Wolverhampton level at Birchills Junction.

At the top lock there is an interesting collection of buildings, a former mission that offered boaters a bath and spiritual enlightenment rather than alcohol and also served as the Birchills Canal Museum before the money ran out. Interestingly, there's also a dovecot, an infrequent sight in this part of the world. Much more common, a collection of shopping trollies, can be observed below Birchills Aqueduct.

At the junction with the Wyrley and Essington Canal, we go left. A right turn would have taken us to the power stations that served Walsall from 1916 to 1982, the original one had all its coal delivered by canal and their cooling towers relied on water from the canal. It would be good to say something nice but even the towpath graffiti is half hearted, although there is a useful map painted under Stokes Bridge. Sneyd Narrows, Wharf and Junction provide some interest on this fairly pleasant section but the rumble of traffic builds as the M6 is approached.

By the time Roughwood Narrows and Bentley Wharf Bridge are reached the road noise has diminished and there's a nature reserve. Adjacent houses engage the canal up to Lane Head Bridge where refreshment can be had at 'The Bridge' or the 'United Kingdom' or both.

At Holly Bank Basin and the Short Heath Branch there is a much more urban feel but then greenery returns and there's really nothing of note, except for the bright red Devils Elbow Bridge, as the canal passes through neat housing on its way to Wednesfield Visitor Moorings and the Dog and Partridge.

Passing the rather odd Trap Makers Bridge, you reach the Bentley Bridge Retail Park at Wednesfield Junction where the Bentley Canal should be. Opened in 1843 and closed in 1961, this canal was built after the W&E amalgamated with the BCN and ran to the Anson Branch of the Walsall Canal. After the junction, housing returns to each side of the canal. The manicured landscape is all very pleasant and there's even some modern art at the disused Heath Town Railway Bridge.

Factories and scrap yards take over up to Lycetts Basin and the Horseley Toll Stop, before going under the railway and on to the Birmingham Main Line at Horseley Fields Junction, a location which will never win any awards from the British Tourist Board. The W&E is a fairly clean, well kept canal but it lacks personality, the Honda Accord of canals. Not having locks doesn't help, parts are pleasantly rural but then for much of the time you are walking through nondescript housing estates.

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