This morning the group was taken on a walk along the route of the old Bradley Branch canal passing the now derelict locks and where the Old Main Line used to run near to it on our way to the Bradley Lock Gate Manufacturing Facility.
It is only a small unit of 22 personnel but they make the gates for the whole country now where in the past they would have been made at local workshops. They take the British Green Oak, cut perhaps only a few days ago, and machine into between 75 and 200 sets of lock gates per year.
Here a reclaimed Sailors Hat has fitted to the gate head, whilst new paddles are fitted made from plastic as they are much more sturdy than the old Elm type and each one costs around £750. The detail drawings for each gate are made by Mark from original drawings and measurements taken on site.
The workshop was originally used to build and repair boats and still has 2 Dry Docks with a Boat Turning Mechanism. The boat would come and be clamped within three of these rings then the mechanism at bottom right would turn the boat over. Now the docks are covered over and not used.
There are some very large machines capable of working the large chunks of oak used in the gates. The stores also have to hols stocks of the all the iron mongery for each different canal as they all have slightly different fittings and different angles of taper etc..
During the 1st World War a Zeppelin dropped a bomb on the site killing 2 workers and blowing shrapnel into the pump house and a plaque has been erected to the memory on the pump house wall.
A great visit enjoyed by all and a place I would like to return to when I have more time as the employees were so interesting to talk to and so proud of what they are doing.
On returning to the boats we all set off after some lunch and were brought to a sudden halt as the boat in front had something around its prop at the first bridge. It was soon sorted and we were all off with Nb. Toddy 11 following us through shallow but very rural looking canal.
We soon turned up the arm into the large Walsall Basin which is being developed very nicely as a water front venue. It is right next to the New Art Gallery which houses works by Picasso, Van Gogh, and several other prominent artists. opposite is a large new shopping complex and a short walk away is the Tuesday Market and many more high street shops.