Campaigning For A Greenway Between Walsall And Lichfield
  
(Pelsall To Brownhills Section)
  
Supported by SUSTRANS, RAILWAY PATHS LTD &
GREENWAYS AND CYCLEROUTES LIMITED


Please show your support by emailing us at
info@backthetrack.org.uk

or like, comment and share us on 'Facebook' and 'Twitter'

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Map of Track

Click on the YELLOW hotspots and then on the photos to go back.

We'd like to acknowledge John Robinson McClean, a pioneer who was so instrumental
in establishing both the South Staffordshire Railway and the Water Pipeline.
( Thank you to Cannock Chase Mining Historical Society for the above link)
McClean and Family
J R McClean, wife Anna M Newsam and their eldest daughter Mary Hall (Minnie) McClean
( Thanks to McClean's relative Nicky Hibbin for the photograph)

News Banner
  
NOVEMBER 2017
  
Photo Shoot
SPOILER ALERT If you don't want a sneaky preview of Brownhills Asphalt & Tarmac's Christmas card don't look at this photo. We met up with Barry and Shaun from BAT who were having a photo shoot but then took time out to chat to us. They are very knowledgeable about the drainage by the park and sports field as they put a lot of the drains in. They've offered to do a survey for us but then had to dash off for an emergency leak (in a pipe I hope) but we'll arrange to meet up under the bridge ASAP.
  
Bridge
 
Bridge
What a difference there is between these two photos. The top one is from November 18th 2017, the one below taken by 'Dawntreader' from August 2009
     
Bridge
  A souvenir of the railway, a rail anchor.
 
Pipe
  
Anchor
  At work on November 13th trying to uncover one source of the water flow, a vintage cast iron pipe which seems to be a bit of a mystery. Does anyone recognise it?
   

OCTOBER 2017
      
Huw
Under the Miner Island in Brownhills, Monday 30th. We had all the 'big guns' with us namely Martyn Brunt, Midlands Land Manager for SUSTRANS and Railway Paths Ltd and Huw Davies, National Cycle Network Director for SUSTRANS and Chief Executive of Railway Paths Ltd. Huw was previously a Consultant Railway Civil Engineer for 5 years so he is ideally placed to give us advice on the flooding. Having said that the tranches dug last week have made an amazing difference under the bridges as can be seen, just glistening mud.
 
Rubbish
 
Rubbish
  
Rubbish
   
EandS
It was a 'red letter day', Sunday 22nd, with the litter pick under the Miner Island in Brownhills happening at last and what a difference a day makes! We had nearly 30 volunteers starting just before 10:00 with some stalwarts still working away at 3:00 and in total we probably had around 75 work hours. The idea of digging drainage channels has really paid off with the water level under the bridge dropping substantially. Just look at the photos to see what an outstanding achievement so it's a great big 'Thank You' to all the volunteers of all ages and Holland Park Surgery for paying for the skip, we couldn't have done it without you. The press came and we made the front page of the Express and Star - again!
   
SEPTEMBER 2017
  
   Gate
Clearing access to the gates needed for the skip ready for the litter pick under the island.
  
Hedgehog
  
Hedgehog
  
Hedgehog
We went out with Sim again this time to place five baited tunnels along the track towards Brownhills. After a week, checking every day, the final results were inconclusive. We'll try again in the spring.
  
Reptiles
Out with Sim Duhra, Greener Greenways Project Officer (Midlands & East), placing mats along the route to attract reptiles to go under them. After three weeks the result was unfortunately, nothing. We'll try again in the spring.
 
AUGUST 2017
 
Meeting With Staffordshire
We had a meeting with Councillors, Officers and other enthusiasts from Staffordshire who really want their section from the A5 to Lichfield to happen as soon as possible. If only we had as much support from the Walsall side of the A5, mostly two Councillors from Brownhills (thanks Ken and Steve)
 
First Day Cover
  With 2017 being the 170th anniversary of the opening first part of the line it would be great to add something really positive but the quotes for clearing under the bridge are coming in really high, almost as if they didn't want the job!
 
JULY 2017

We met up with contractors to investigate the track under the miner in Brownhills.
It's a bigger job than we thought as so many health and safety rules apply. Apparently because there is a couple of inches of water anyone working in it has to be roped to someone standing on dry land plus the danger from sharp objects etc. We are awaiting quotes!

Chris pattison SSWA
We visited the South Staffs Water Arcives where Chris Pattison showed us photos and documents relating to the Lichfield to Walsall pipeline laid alongside the track. It was fascinating material and we are certainly going to take up Chris's offer of a return visit.
He has also said we can show some of the photo so watch this space.

Highbridge Bridge
Working on the cast iron pipe at Highbridge Bridge. Health and safety, what's that?

South Staffordshire Railway Certificate
Spotted this on eBay and couldn't resist. Chasewater Railway has the one after.

We've now joined up with One Walsall who support community groups and we have been talking to Russell of Aldridge Cinema about appearing on the 'silver screen' while we wait for permission to work on the track to arrive in writing as promised this week.

We were invited to set up a stall at the Chasewater Summer Fair on Sunday 2nd. We were lucky in that the weather was fine although a little breezy off the lake but then again you can't have everything. There were visitors to the stand all day and we've added many more followers on Facebook and Twitter.
  
Chasewater Summer Fair

JUNE 2017
  
As part of our linking up with others with similar aims in mind we were invited to visit the Sandfields Pumping Station in Lichfield. A fascinating tour of a wonderful piece of Victorian engineering. Thank you Kate and Gill. Gill mentioned they'd like to set up a tea room and as you can see below the track is literally on the doorstep, as in our photo looking out of the window, so it would be a welcome end to an outing.
     
Sandfields Pumping Station

Aerial views courtesy of Lichfield Waterworks Trust
  

MAY 2017
  
Sustrans, Back the Track and the local authority are now working together to establish a 'Greenway' route from Pelsall towards the Miner’s Roundabout in Brownhills, Chasewater and Lichfield in the future. We will endevour to raise its profile as a place that the community can take pride in, by promoting positive use of the track and caring for the nature that now inhabits it. We are all looking forward to building on this over the coming months and years

We have just participated in the Chasewater Soup event organised by Kate and Jane at the Innovation Centre. Participants put £5 into a pot and then state why their project should get all the money. Votes were counted while we enjoyed a very tasty soup and although it was close we are very pleased to say we got over 50% of the vote and therefore the money. Now to sort out the insurance.

   
 Chasewater
  
Chasewater
    
Also a big thanks to Bob for designing and sponsoring the new look business cards.
    
Cards
    
The Background to the Project and Older Posts

The track is currently the responsibility of Railway Paths who state on their website:

"Railway Paths does not construct paths itself, but makes its land available through sale or lease to third parties, including its sister charity Sustrans and local authorities"
   
 At one time Sustrans (Sustainable Transport) was actively working towards making this section part of NCR5 (a national cycle route that runs from Reading to Holyhead) to continue on from the stretch already built from Walsall to Pelsall. Around 2007 Sustrans withdrew a planning application and have appeared to be very negative towards using the track ever since.
 
February 2015
From Sustrans newsletter
'The Movement' Feb 2015
Certificate

Volunteers spent several months clearing the track as part of the Sustrans 'Greener Greenways' project around Clayhanger to make "it easier for walkers and cyclists to go through" After being thanked (see left) and given the certificate above, the volunteers were then told Clayhanger was NOT part of the Greener Greenways project and it was NOT intended to be used  by walkers and cyclists who were now actually using it! The clearing was to stop forthwith. What part of the newsletter article did the now disheartened volunteers misunderstand?

   
In an email from Railway Paths in April 2016 regarding a request to continue clearing back vegetation from the track they state:
  
"....  refuse your request to continue maintaining this land, since where land is left overgrown this discourages antisocial behaviour.  The vegetation clearance undertaken on this land has been beyond that called for by Greener Greenways, but it won’t have been for nothing since the premise always was to cut areas back and to then let them regrow"

There have been one or two comments expressed about possible anti-social behaviour, of which we have found very little evidence up to now, but Sustrans themselves state in their 2012 document 'A Guide to Controlling Access on Paths'

"3.3.3 Vegetation management: Many paths, particularly those running along railway alignments, can suffer from a lack of natural surveillance, particularly where there are few overlooking buildings or where foliage has been allowed to grow out of hand. Addressing a lack of natural surveillance by cutting back foliage or altering boundary treatments can open up views of and along paths, which may make them less attractive to those prone to anti-social behaviour."
   

Although Sustrans appear to be negative towards Brownhills and its Greenway this does not appear to be the case elsewhere as in the photo below off their website and the following article from their Spring 2016 newsletter.

Keniworth
 
Spring 2016
 
As part of the tidying up it was hoped to include the disgusting mess under the traffic island bridges in Brownhills.
 
Bridge

On querying this as not being suitable for wildlife, apart from rats, we were told by Railway Paths in April this year that:

"The litter is unsightly, but it doesn’t really affect the ecology. I showed your photo to the Greener Greenways ecologist, who confirmed that this is entirely satisfactory as habitat"
        
News Update 09/06/2016
    
Ryders Mere

Campaigners thanking Aldridge/Brownhills MP Wendy Morton for meeting them at Ryders Mere. They explained how it would be possible to include this as one of a number of fantastic wildlife attractions if the Pelsall to Brownhills track were to be opened up.
        
News Update 06/07/2016
      
Rail Paths Over the last few days a couple of gentlemen have been spotted checking the infrastructure of the bridges along the old railway track from the canal bridge at Clayhanger down to Rushall.

They have been accosted by several campaigners and have been found to be very positive in their attitude to the track being made accessible for walkers and cyclists again.

I caught up with them today and had a pleasant chat with Paul Thomas BSc MSc, Bridge Engineer and John Litt, Bridge Inspection Assistant of Railway Paths Ltd.

On leaving Paul said he was happy for me to quote him when saying "I predict a happy outcome for all very soon"

Fingers crossed as pruning and tidying work needs to recommence on the track before nature takes it all back again.

News Update 29/09/2016

Network Rail
Local MP Wendy Morton meeting with Network Rail who say they have no objection to the track being made into a Greenway.

News Update 06/10/2016

Ryders Mere
John Grimshaw and Caroline from Greenways and Cycleroutes Ltd stopping off to look at Ryders Mere
Dennis and Bob gave them a tour
before we all met up in Brownhills to look at what needs to be done.

Brownhills  Brownhills  Brownhills



John writes on his website;

“A National Cycleway associated with HS2 Rail Working with Royal Haskoning DHV and Phil Jones Associates, the detailed route studies for this legacy route from London to Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester are now complete. Our surveys included assessing well over 2000 kms of options on the ground, including covering routes which might be associated with HS3 from Liverpool to Leeds, and a network of routes connecting into the Peak District from both arms of the HS2 route. Our brief was to propose works to the highest European standard (Dutch CROW Guidelines) and to pass through the centre of towns and communities within a corridor approximately 3 miles wide either side of the Rail Route. The outcome would be a large series of local routes, each of real benefit to communities otherwise bypassed by the High Speed Rail proposals, all to a flagship standard with the additional benefit that by linking up these fragments, local communities would have access to their countryside and nearby settlements, whilst visitors and tourists would have the possibility of longer national routes. The study also included a certain amount of more detailed work on potential schemes for an early delivery, such as the 5km route from Aylesbury Vale Parkway Station to Waddesdon which provides the only practical opportunity for a safe and attractive route north from the Town”

Brownhills Map
We know he has surveyed the route from Lichfield to the A5 at Brownhills so it wouldn’t be too much more to ask to just join it up with the existing route at Pelsall would it or are we being too optimistic?
  
We Made The Express and Star 10/11/16

Express and Star
A good article using our picture and a quote from our site.
Unfortunately it has been attributed to SUSTRANS!
   
A Meeting with the Area Management at SUSTRANS 30/11/16

Following a meeting this week with Matt and Ed from SUSTRANS we came away feeling the most positive we have for a very long time. There were many questions raised to which we don't have the answers as yet but Matt emailed back "It was very good to meet you all yesterday and see the route for myself. Seeing the whole route opened at some point in the future would obviously be a great thing for the local area and local communities. I am supportive of this but we need to think the various steps through systematically and together" Well at least he didn't say "No" as at other meetings with former SUSTRANS managers!


Brian's Video of the Accessible Parts of the Route November 2016
If you see a message 'File type not supported' try switching to 'Desktop View'


  
An article that appeared in the Sunday People 20/03/2017
Sunday People

A letter from Brian Stringer to the Walsall Chronicle 23/03/2017
Brians Letter

   
A Mention of a 'Greenway' from 1993
    
Brownhills Gazette
Thanks to Brownhills Bob's Website and Brian Stringer who was editor of this journal.
 
From a SUSTRANS Leaflet from 1995
  
95 Leaflet

95 Leaflet 
The top photo shows what SUSTRANS were happy with in 1995. We'd be more than happy with it today. Maybe the view under the island in Brownhills could look like this?
 
Ever since the day the railway closed there has been talk of it reopening at some time in the future. If it was made into a cycle track then what would happen if the railway came back? . The lower photo shows the Bath to Bristol Cycleway.

The Proposed Cycleway from 1998

Walsall Cycle Map 1998
It seems to be following a familiar route.
   
Another answer to the question "But what if the railway came back?"
    
Here a solution is clearly shown in Ireland where again they have proved that the two do not have to be mutually exclusive.

Athlone
Click HERE for the guide.

We are keen that the original plan should be returned to and that a way can be found for the track be opened up as a leisure route - a facility that surely Brownhills deserves!

If you are interested please email us at info@backthetrack.org.uk