Lichfield & Hatherton Canals
Lichfield & Hatherton Canals Restoration Trust made huge progress in 2020 despite restrictions imposed by Covid-19 regulations. The first lockdown stopped work completely for a long period, preventing WRG camps and visits by corporate volunteers from being held, which had become such a big part of the restoration. Fundraising events were stopped too, though that did not prevent supporters organising their own efforts, including trust member Margaret Broadhead, who raised almost £800 by doing a sponsored walk up Ben Nevis.
An appeal was launched to help pay for sheet steel piling on a new section of the canal alongside Falkland Road, which attracted a £2,000 donation from DPD’s Eco Fund. In total, the 20-20 Piling Appeal has raised over £20,000 since its launch in April 2020.
The Tunnel Vision appeal, to raise at least £1m to install a tunnel under the Cross-City railway line, has been delayed by factors beyond the trust’s control. Having reached over £600,000, from home and abroad, the amount is still growing through match-funding for grant money to stem rising costs and there are hopes that the tunnel can be in place soon.
In the start-up after the first lockdown, reduced numbers returned to the work parties, though the trust managed to increase both volunteers and members, and there were more people using the Heritage Towpath Trail and nature routes for their outside exercise. Despite the restrictions, trust volunteers kept busy during 2020. Alongside the steel piling at Falkland Road, the canal wall, towpath and off-side path were almost completed up to the point where the transfer of more land is needed to carry on further towards Birmingham Road. Work also began on filling the gap of the railway turn basin at Fosseway Heath. The canal wall and towpath were completed at Gallows Wharf and through Gallows Reach, next to the Tamworth Road, and piling also started in the Gallows Reach section. Free hedging from the Woodland Trust was planted at various sites, and record numbers of Duke of Edinburgh award volunteers helped to reclaim bricks and build fences. Maintenance of the towpaths at Summerhill and Hatherton also continued through the year.
LHCRT held ground-breaking discussions with housing developer Persimmon which saw an agreement to include the canal and the retention of Heritage Lock 23 in the designs for a 450-home development at St John’s Grange, between London Road and Birmingham Road. The canal route lies between the new estate and the extension of Lichfield Southern Bypass, and the agreement met the challenge of safeguarding the route at this difficult pinch-point. Two bridges are being built over the canal to link to the new housing development.
One consequence of the pandemic was that the Huddlesford Heritage Gathering, organised jointly with Lichfield Cruising Club, and due to be held in 2021, has been postponed. The biennial event will now be held in 2022.