- Power Station Gates -
I get underway with a ride on the number 40 bus from Wolverhampton to Reedswood, where I alight by the Alma for a stroll through Reedswood Park. It's hard for me to imagine how this area used to be dominated by the cooling towers of the former power station but I do come across the old gates and railings on Reedswood Lane. I then continue down into Walsall via Birchills, pausing for photos of the New Inns and Walsall Central Police Station.
- Walsall Wood Colliery Memorial -
My next move sees me catching the number 10A bus from Walsall towards Brownhills West but I hop off on Coppice Road in order to reflect on more bygone industrial heritage. The first shaft of the local colliery was sunk in 1874 and the final activities here ceased in 1964, although a memorial pithead can now be seen on the modern-day playing fields. Whilst in the area I also have a look at Oak Park, the home ground of Walsall Wood Football Club, along with the adjacent leisure centre.
- Black Cock Bridge -
Time for a nibble at some canals then as I join the Daw End Branch at Black Cock Bridge. The line continues quietly by Clayhanger to meet the Wyrley & Essington at Catshill Junction.
- Ogley Junction -
Keeping with my towpath theme, I decide to investigate the northern reaches of the 'Curly Wyrley' past Brownhills and up towards Chasewater. I'd never been beyond Anchor Bridge before so I was very much looking forward to uncovering new sections of the canal. Ogley Junction is particularly fascinating as the site where the former Wyrley & Essington main line once continued ahead through Ogley Locks towards Lichfield; that particular stretch of canal was abandoned in the 1950's although efforts are being made to restore it. My walk therefore has to continue along the Anglesey Branch, an offshoot of the network that connects with the feeder reservoir at Chasewater. Middleton Bridge (Chase Road), Freeth Bridge (Watling Street) and Burntwood Road Bridge all ensure I'm am kept very much occupied.
- Anglesey Basin -
The limit of navigation is Anglesey Basin, a somewhat unheralded location ensconced in the shadows of Chasewater Dam. It's actually quite a bleak spot in the windchill of a bitterly cold March afternoon, and the water's edge is bounded by a simple white fence with little else in terms of facilities.
- Chasewater Innovation Centre -
When I visited Chasewater as a kid, I remember there being a rather dated amusements arcade and mini funfair but the place has since been transformed into a Forest of Mercia Innovation Centre hosting exhibitions and conferences. The reservoir itself is still used for leisure purposes with sailing and water skiing remaining popular pursuits, albeit not in the gusty weather being experienced today.
- Chasetown Park -
Before I engage in a walk around the reservoir, I nip into nearby Chasetown to find myself some lunch. Chasetown High Street was rather quiet this time around but is home to a number of small independent shops whilst local pubs include the Uxbridge Arms, the Junction, the Crown and the Miner's Rest. I eat my lunch in the environs of Chasetown Park where some well-placed trees shield me from the wind as I sit by the war memorial and bowling green.
- Church Street Halt -
My circumnavigation of Chasewater reservoir gives me chance to take a look at the Chasewater Railway, a little heritage line that skirts the water's edge. The railway has developed impressively over recent years and one notable achievement has been the extension of the line to Church Street Station, a simple little halt platform next to Burntwood Rugby Club.
- Chasewater Heaths -
If Church Street Halt is still primitively basic, the next station along is a better reflection of the advances the railway has made since the year 2000. Chasewater Heaths is a really nice location with a well-appointed main building (housing a cafe) alongside a vintage signal box and characterful platforms.
- Norton Lakeside -
From Chasewater Heaths I venture across the Country Park, saying hello to a walking group as I make my way to Norton Lakeside. This is another halt stop without much embellishment but there are some scenic views to be had looking out across the water.
- Brownhills West Station -
I round off my tour with a stroll along Chasewater's western shore, buffeted by the wind as I reach Brownhills West. The station here is a delight to explore with tea rooms, engine shed, a ticket office and a railway-themed shop. Even though it wasn't an operating day it was a pleasure to have acquainted myself with the Chasewater Railway and I hope the venture goes from strength to strength. For me though, Brownhills West roundabout beckons with the prospect of a bus ride back into Walsall and the chance to get out of the cold. Another great day's exploring in the bank!