Bloomers on the Branch

To be precise, the Shropshire Union Middlewich Branch (SUMB); some of the flora in this neck of the woods.  The second part is about some of the history of the SUMB, and it is strangely topical.

Although this is not about family history, it is inconceivable that my Evans ancestors did not travel along this section of canal on their way to Wombourne.


A few images of various plants and flowers to be found beside the canal.  They are all relatively common, but that does not diminish their beauty.

Shropshire Union Middlewich Branch

Just along the cut there is a lectern:

SUMBC sign 180416
SUMBA lectern.

SUMBA is for Shropshire Union Middlewich Branch Adopters.  Notice that the canal was repaired within a month.  The text:-

Canal & River Trust

Shropshire Union Middlewich Branch Canal

The Middlewich Branch runs between Barbridge, where it joins the main line of the Shropshire Union Canal, and Middlewich, where it joins the Trent and Mersey Canal. Opened in 1833, it is 10 miles long and descends 43 [feet].

The Trent and Mersey Canal insisted that there should be no direct connection to Middlewich and instead built the Wardle Canal to join teh two – the shortest canal on the system at 72 feet, plus a few yards either side of the lock – charging large compensation tolls for passing traffic until they were abolished in 1888.

The Branch was dominated by through traffic, a transhipment warehouse being built at Barbridge shortly after the opening of the branch, parts of which are still evident today. There were several wharves along the length, commodities that were transported would have varied from foodstuffs (milk and cheese products) to minerals (coal and salt).

Sykes Hollow Picnic Area

This amenity area of tables and barbecues was created by the Shropshire Union Canal Society in 2009, with grants from Nantwich Council, British Waterways and the Charles and Elsie Sykes Charitable Trust.

Thought to have opened in the late 1950s, up until 2002 it was a working clay pit owned by British Waterways and known as the Barbridge or Cholmondeston Clay Pit. The heyday of clay extraction was in the late 1980s, the clay being used for canal repairs. The brick built hut was an office for the works.

Cholmondeston Railway Experiment

In 1888 about a mile of 18 [inch] railway track was laid on the straight towpath stretch between bridges 5 and 6 and a small locomotive named ‘Tiny’ from Crewe railway works was used to haul boats. Although the locomotive could haul up to 8 barges at 7 mph the process proved impractical and no further action was taken.

The Church Minshull Canal Breach 12/10/1958

The breach at the present viewpoint between bridges 12 and 13 was purported to have been caused by a burrowing rat and drained 7 miles of canal between Minshull Lock and Stanthorpe Lock.

A 3 hour cascade of 20 million gallons of water flooded into the field and the River Weaver below and resulted in a gouge 15 [feet] deep by 100 [feet] wide. The breach was repaired within a month.

Once more a breach

This is topical.  There has been a catastrophic breach in Middlewich.  The Wardle Canal has collapsed.  This resulted in a number of boats being stranded.  They have been refloated and moved onto the Trent & Mersey Canal, but the navigation remains closed from Stanthorne Lock; see map below.  It is a very long way round to get back to Venetian; that is via Wolverhampton.

wardle canal os 1897 1899 id
Wardle Canal and Stanthorne Lock. Ordnance Survey. Revised 1897, published 1899. Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.

Well, it’s been a month at least since the breach.  Repair will be a major engineering project and, it is said, will take at least six months.  The folks I have spoken with reckon nothing will happen before the winter, so it could be a year or more before it reopens.  It’s not good for the local chandlers.

The CRT is appealing for help:  The Shropshire Union Canal: Emergency Appeal.



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