Working To Make 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

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Map of Track

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

Keeping the 'McClean Way' a Greenway
"A greenway is a corridor of undeveloped land, reserved for recreational use and environmental conservation"


For a long time we felt the disused railway between Walsall and Lichfield should have a name like many other well known routes around the country and so we are really pleased to be told officially we can now call it "McClean Way" with this logo as a suggested way marker.
 
Logo 
     
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)
 
Smithy's Forge     B&M     Wilko's     TESCO
Just to say thanks to Smithy's Forge for letting us use their car park and facilities when working north of the Chester Road, B&M for letting us use their car park when south, Wilkinson's for their support under their 'Helping Hands' scheme and last but by no means least TESCO for their 'Bags of Help' scheme
   
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DECEMBER 2018

Tyres

Tyres

"If you go down on the track today you're sure of a big surprise" Brian and Barry were on the Brownhills section of the McClean Way on Friday calculating how long it would take to put all the tyres in a pile to be collected when along came Nicola who asked if she could help? Well we thought we were going to get a team but what we got was Nev who with Nicola's help has got them all in one place in just two mornings! How far he must have walked and how much weight he must have carried we wouldn't like to calculate but it was a phenomenal task. So on behalf of BTT can we say a huge "Thank you" to you both but just wondering what's Brian going to do now?
   

NOVEMBER 2018

McClean
We have contact with an artist who 'colourises' black and white photos and whose work has appeared in many national railway related magazines. Here is the result of one he did for us, a stunning image of "McClean"

 
Barry

   
Brian
  
The Signal
Barry hold the signal arm, Brian holding the crowning glory and the arm in place for all to admire.
 
Carl at work.

12/11/2018 Carl at work extending the drainage channel towards the A5

Steps
As part of a collaboration between BTT and Railway Paths Ltd (the land owners) we now have some excellent steps over the concrete barrier between Station Road and Ryders Hayes Lane, Pelsall.
 
Map of the Track
We are often asked about access points so here is a map to help.

OCTOBER 2018
  
 
On Tuesday 2nd we had a visit from Central TV who wanted to include us as an item in their 'Active Autumn' series. Click above to see the result. We think it does an excellent job of showing how far we've come since that first skip just under a year ago.
 
Brian in Hat

Action shot from Chris Halpen about to interview Brian who was looking very smart in his new hat.

SEPTEMBER 2018
  
 
Station Building
   Barry has been emulating 'Time Team' and has uncovered remains of the station building.
 
Drainage
22/09/2018 Bending the channel round just passed the platform to join up with the existing drainage.
  
btt

btt
20/09/2018 Up bright and early to let Carl back onto the track under the miner to carry on the drainage channel. Unfortunately a rear tyre got a puncture but with everyone helping the tube was repaired and work recommenced in the pouring rain!

btt

btt
10/09/2019 We admit it, some of us may be gifted amateurs but we can't compete with the professionals. Yesterday Carl had dug as much trench in an hour and a half as we did in a whole day. Went down today and it shows it's working as we now have a flood where the trench ends at the moment. As soon as he's available we'll get Carl to carry on towards the A5 and the Cranebrook.

BTT

Btt
05/09/2018 Isn't it always the way, you start work on tackling the drainage problem and it pours down over night but it didn't stop the team cracking on and achieving 75 metres of trench at the end of the day. It started to fill from the word go and with a few more sessions we should reach the station.
  
 AUGUST 2018  
     

Brilliant news and a huge 'Thank You' to everyone who voted for us in the TESCO 'Bags of Help' blue token scheme. We've now been told we came first but don't know how much yet. Rest assured, no matter how big or small the amount, every penny will be spent on making and maintaining the old railway track, the "McClean Way", as the fantastic community resource it is.

  
 Any Old Iron?
  Thanks to Donna and Paul donating a skip we started work on filling it with all the rubbish in the undergrowth. The junk was pulled out to the side of the track, a team of two with barrows collected it to take to the trailer which was then was emptied into the skip. What organisation.
 
JULY 2018
 
Tim man Island
Very interesting morning on Wednesday (25th) looking at the police drones on Tesco's car park in Brownhills. PC Chafe kindly sent us a shot of the miner. Looking at the 'McClean Way' you can certainly see why it is a Greenway.

Highbridge repair
  Denis met up with Andy from South Staffs Water yesterday. Andy had an electronic map where the 24" water main built by John Robinson McClean is shown even though it fell out of use about 1972. The position of the pipe through the station area is on the side of the doctors and then comes across towards B&M with a small section missing. Andy thought the water coming up between the bridges was more or less where the pipe was. We need to investigate further but interesting to speculate that a 165 year old pipe may still be carrying water albeit not to where it's wanted.

It was a red letter day today with our first informal 'walk through'
Grand Opening
  
Grand Opening
We were not sure how many people had seen Brian's comment about the path now being walkable but quite a few did and joined us on the track this morning when it was looking at it's best. We were very pleased that Wendy Morton managed to juggle her diary and fit us in before dashing off back to London.
    

Clean it up
 
Clean it up
The track, the 'McClean Way', is a safe and valuable environmental resource for schools to use and we were really pleased when Sim, the SUSTRANS ecologist, organised a session with a local school. They all had a great time apart from one thing, the amount of dog pooh in the grass. To try and remind owners of their responsibility to 'Clean it up' we were given a stencil by SUSTRANS which we used seven times yesterday. If you follow them up from Rushall you'll see it was a learning curve with Bob's at Pelsall nearly perfect.
  
Barriers
Putting in the barriers at the 'Swan' pub end
    

Barriers
Mowing the grass towards 'Smithy's'
  
Sign
The sign we are putting up at points along the track which goes someway to explaining why we can only do so much at this time.
 
JUNE 2018
  Trimmed back
After a few mentions from active users of how long the nettles and brambles were getting on the section between the canal bridge and Bullows Road a group went out and trimmed back just enough without disturbing the wildlife.
   

MAY 2018
  
 After Ian visited from Canada a few weeks ago when gave us an excellent talk with photos from his soon to be published book he has very kindly sent us a few 'preview' images.
Ian Molesely
 
Ian Molesley
 
Ian Molesley
   
Ian Molesley
  
Ian Molesley
  
Ian Molesley
We'll keep you posted as to when the book will be available which should be fascinating with so many never seen before views of the track.

Fairy Glade
  Last week opened up a whole new vista, a fairy glade which wasn't wet! The sunny aspect was much appreciated by group members. This week we are starting to clear the ramp up to Smithy's Forge gate which will provide the missing link.
  
Bags
We are very pleased to find we are included as a choice in the TESCO's blue token charity scheme in the Brownhills store. So if you feel you would like to support our local community project, as they say, "Every little helps. The winner will be announced at the end of June.
  
Channeling
Before he left to go back to Canada we met up with Ian on the track so he could point out all the bits and pieces he remembered from 30 years ago. We managed to locate the edges of the concrete channelling which may have acted as drainage but unfortunately most of it has been destroyed or has been lifted and is lying around in piles. Ian also pointed out the plate layers hut. We'll make sure he gets an invite to the official opening.
   

Ian
We had a great meeting with Ian (on left) yesterday, May 2nd. He currently resides in Montreal but is in Brownhills visiting his Mother. He had heard of our drainage problems even in the colonies and emailed to say he had some photos of the track and drainage channels, were we interested? Ian is writing a book about the line from the mid 80's and showed us some fantastic pictures he has in the book and has promised us ones we can use when he gets back to Canada. They must be unique as he took them when was he was a schoolboy and show a detailed account of the track being lifted and the bridges being built.
 
APRIL 2018
 
Bird Boxes

Bird Boxes

Bird Boxes
Sim and Martyn from SUSTRANS came along and we made bird boxes to go on the Greenway

wilkos
As part of their 'Helping Hands' Scheme Wilko's kindly gave us some seed for the track

Dam

Down by the access ramp built to help with the track removal which blocks the drainage through to Cranebrook. We're deciding if we can break through and stop the lake forming.

Burntwood

Meeting up with Vic and Simon from the Burntwood Action Group on a cold damp morning yesterday. They are as enthusiastic as we are in getting the track accessible especially in their area north of the A5. We also got the skip, kindly donated by Donna and Paul at Abcell Ltd , collected.

MARCH 2018
 
 Rubbish
After abandoning the litter pick in Silver Street, Brownhills on the 19th because of snow we couldn't have asked for better weather on the 26th. We collected 27 bags which were kindly collected by 'Clean and Green'
    
Cutting Back
   
Cutting Back
  
Cutting Back Cutting Back
While we've been working on the Brownhills end SUSTRANS have got in contractors to tidy up and prune down the Pelsall to Rushall section which is all part of the 'McClean way'
   
The Lamp Arts
The charity event for 'Back The Track' at The Lamp Theatre in Brownhills on Saturday 10th March at 7:30 pm was a sell out and enjoyed by everyone there. Thanks to the Aldridge Ukulele Band, Follow Spot Productions and The Lamp Theatre for the generous donation of their time and the venue. We raised over £400 towards materials to enhance the area under the bridges.

Snow
Under the island where we see we are not the first to  go down today 03/03/2018

Snow
One source of the water, drainage holes in the bridge!

FEBRUARY 2018
 
 
  



After the digger had been at work, just a pity there is still quite a lot of water to deal with.
 

We have managed to get a digger down on the track and as can be seen in the video what a fantastic difference this has made.
 
JANUARY 2018
  
The Pioneer
We've started off the New Year with an excellent article in the January edition of 'The Pioneer' magazine. Many thanks to Emma for the write up.
  
Tyres

Intrepid members started the New Year by clearing out the existing water channel and then set about extending it well past the point where the ramp behind the library is going to be. They lopped branches off trees that have fallen across the track. which allowed the water to flow better and will make cutting the trees up much easier. They also did another mini litter pick and collected a few more bags of rubbish. The good news is that the water is flowing freely now to about 50 yards past where the ramp will be so it seems there is a continuous gradient right through the station and no level bits which was feared might be the case.
 
DECEMBER 2017
    
The Letter
Having spent a couple of hours clearing leaves off the track in Pelsall this morning (6th) we went, rather appropriately, to The Railway Inn for a most pleasant lunch very kindly paid for by Sim and Martyn from SUSTRANS. It was while we were there Martyn gave us our excellent early Christmas present in the form of this letter at long last making us officially 'official' It states exactly what we are aiming for plus we like the reference to working with third parties, something we've tried to do all along.

Live Life Local
We were surprised to find we featured in this months edition of 'Live Life Local' We hope they don't mind us reproducing the page here.
     
Crane Brook
  
It's always useful when we come across people with local knowledge especially when it comes to matters of drainage. We know the track falls towards Lichfield from the highest point where the surge stack used to be next to the canal in Clayhanger. We've been told from the Miner roundabout (1) water drained by gravity into the Crane Brook (2) If we can move the years of silt then, hopefully, nature will take over.
  
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 Archives 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
  
    
Older Posts from around 2014 to 2016
 
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 to get through. We were thanked and given this certificate.
Keniworth
An example where SUSTRANS are working with a group on a very similar project to ours.
      
Spring 2016
        
Bridge
We hope to tidy up the disgusting mess under the traffic island bridges in Brownhills.
 

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!
 

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'


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

Brians Letter

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