Walton Walks: The Canal

This is one of a series of articles that provide a photographic impression of walks around the village of Walton, near Wakefield in West Yorkshire. The idea is to provide something vaguely similar to Google Street View, so the reader as a visible indication of the walk’s progress.

The Barnsley Canal was opened in 1799 during the industrial revolution when the north of England was at the centre of the biggest historical change since the creation of the first cities on the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in the Middle East.

The canal was built to transport coal from the early coalfield around Barnsley to the wider region (1). It was part of the infrastructure of the world’s first industialised society.

This article is about a walk exploring some of the still visible archaeology of this earliest industrial age.

On this walk we are going to do our best to follow the route of the old Barnsley canal that ran through Walton and effectively linked Walton into the wider trade and communication network. It linked Walton to the River Calder, which linked to the Aire, the Ouse, the Humber, and ultimately the North Sea.

We start this walk at Bridge House on School Lane which is right next to a bridge. The bridge looks completely out of place because it does not seem to go over anything. However, this was one of the bridges of the the old canal.

Untitled

After you turn right out of School Lane you can see the bridge as seen in the two photos below.

Untitled

Untitled

As you move forward crossing the bridge, if you look left you can see where the canal went as it moved North toward the point where it moved toward the River Calder at Heath Common. In the photo below the canal used to run on its course behind the bushes on the left. It ran toward the building on the right which was a lock keeper’s cottage and continued to the railway line, where there was was once a bridge that the canal flowed under. This bridge was filled in around the late 1970s/early 1980s, blocking the previous route to Walton Colliery.

Untitled

If you look to the left you can see the embankment of the canal behind the allotments. The houses on the left in the photo below are built on the canal’s course.

Untitled

Continue down the lane shown in the photo below.

Untitled

Take the middle route (the smaller path) in the image below.

Untitled

If you walk a short while down the left hand path you can look back and get an impression of the route of the canal you saw from the Bridge. In the photo below you can just make out the top of the bridge to the left of Bridge House. You can also see the bank of the canal where the green of the fields meets the fence.

Untitled

The central path is shown below.

Untitled

At the end of this path you turn right, and then right again into Walton Club playing fields.

Untitled

The route of the canal is marked by the trees on the right, behind the Walton Club building shown below.  Locks were located at the position of the stone house to the left of the club house.

Untitled

At the top of the club car park your turn right.

Untitled

If you look to your back after walking a few paces left you see the road to Crofton and the blue sign that directs us on our route.

Untitled

This is the entrance to the footpath to which the blue sign points.

Untitled

You walk for a short while and you emerge into a small meadow. The path is in the middle of what was the canal.

Untitled

A path goes off to the left to Cherry Tree estate, but our walk takes use forwards.

Untitled

We are still in the middle of what was the canal, you are aware that you are at the top of the canal embankment because of the houses at the bottom of the bank being much lower.

Untitled

If you look to your left you can see the rooftops of Cherry Tree, Elmwood and Brooklands estates and the Walton Colliery nature reserve beyond.

Untitled

You can see from the incline of the path that we are moving up the contours. This is why locks were needed on the canal – so that the barges could effectively go up hill.

Untitled

The image below captures the remains of one of the locks as the level of the canal rises up the contours.

Untitled

The canal continues in the photo below to the left of the path under the green undergrowth.

Untitled

We then reach the remains of the next set of locks seen in the images below.  These remains are far more extensive that they ones we passed earlier.

Untitled

The next bridge we reach did not go over the canal in its heyday, but was only put there recently to link the new golf club house the the golf course.

Untitled

The clubhouse can be seen on the right.

Untitled

We then reach the next bridge that was part of the original series of bridges over the canal.

Untitled

Follow the path forward ignoring the path going up to the bridge on the right.

Untitled

Continue forward.

Untitled

We ignore the path to the right and continue walking on the left towards the bridge over the canal.

Untitled

In the photo below we are now approaching the next bridge on our journey, the canal is to the left and the straight line of the bridge just visible through the trees. On the right hand side you can see the rock out of which the canal was dug.

Untitled

The bridge comes clearly into view and you can see what remains of the canal running underneath it.

Untitled

The following photo is a close up of the stone of the bridge as it was built into the rock that was cut away to make way for the canal.

Untitled

Another view of the rock cutting a bit further on, the canal remains on the left.

Untitled

If you turn your vision to the left you can see the mud that indicates the canal’s course.

Untitled

The rock cutting is visible on the far side of the canal.

Untitled

As you move forward you may even come across parts of the canals course that actually still manage to accumulate water, especially after recent rainfall.

Untitled

Continue to follow the path onward into the tunnel of bushes.

Untitled

You then  come to the next bridge, this one had collapsed in the middle and repaired using metal rather than stone.

Untitled

Untitled

You continue round the bend in the canal. The block to the left of the path is part of the former canal infrastructure. This was used as an aid to make it easier for the horses to pull the barges round the corner.

Untitled

Here is a close up view.

Untitled

The canal continues on the left hand side, this part has water in it that has encouraged the growth of these aquatic plants.

Untitled

The water becomes a bit deeper as you walk forward with duckweed on the surface. In the 1970s when I first walked on the canal route this was the appearance of the canal from the start of the wall, though it was still deeper than this.  Nature has gradually reclaimed this artifact of the industrial revolution.

Untitled

Untitled

The canal then all but disappears under recent tree growth as seen in the following image.

Untitled

As you move onward, the canal has been filled in and is little more than a drainage ditch.

Untitled

It then reappears at the left hand side as seen in the photo below. The steps in the distance go up to the next canal bridge which is just about visible through the trees.

Untitled

If you are on foot you can take either the route under the bridge or the path on the right round it (both lead to the same place).

Untitled

Untitled

You then continue to follow the canal that though dry, can just about be made out on the left of the photo below.

Untitled

You then come to another of the canal artifacts that we saw earlier.

Untitled

We have now just about completed the canal portion of the walk. We can retrace our steps back to our start point or we can go back a different way. If you look to your left you will see the silver coloured rail; that is the way we will be going back on this walk.

Untitled

If you look straight ahead you see the bridge in the photo below. The track to the left is our route to the silver rail and the way back. However, for a couple of minutes we will walk to the other side of the bridge.

Untitled

Untitled

From the middle of the bridge, if you look to your left you will see the reservoir that was presumably used to provide for the water needs of the canal and its locks.

Untitled

If you look right you can see how the water flows into the canal.

Untitled

Continue a little bit further and you can have a better view of the reservoir. On the other side of the reservoir, the canal continues on its way toward Royston and Barnsley. This could be the subject of another canal walk.

Untitled

Head back across the bridge and continue in a straight line to reach the silver rail pointed out earlier.

Untitled

Here you can see another part of the canal’s infrastructure in the form of a stone wall. I’m not entirely sure what its function could be, perhaps another lock. The OS map seems to indicate that the canal goes this way, presumably to get into the lake.

Untitled

While you see evidence of a channel, it soon disappears.

Untitled

So we now follow the path from the silver rail moving off toward the right. You soon reach a bench with the words “Fox Well” carved into it on your right hand side. Fox Well is a label on the relevant OS map. You continue past it following the path onward.

Untitled

Untitled

Continue right on the main path. To the left is what remains of a clearing, though it is now been colonised by silver birch trees.

Untitled

Continue forward keeping the ‘clearing’ on your left.

Untitled

You then come to another junction – you continue to go round the corner on the right.

Untitled

Untitled

If you look left before moving on to the right you will see a working wood yard.

Untitled

Continue forward until you reach the next junction which has a useful sign post and a picture giving details about the wood for interested visitors.

Untitled

Untitled

Untitled

If you look right at the junction you see the following gate. This leads to the Angler’s Country Park.

Untitled

However, we now take the left turn and walk towards Waterton’s Watchtower, which was a hide in which the Naturalist Charles Waterton used to watch the wildlife without disturbing it. I am reliably informed that there were a number of these ‘watchtowers’ with underground tunnels connecting them. The information point pictured above mentions that Waterton’s Watchtower could have been one of the first ‘hides’ in the world. To see the watchtower you go through the metal gates in the middle of the following photo. However, we take the left turn and follow the wall.

Untitled

Untitled

Untitled

Untitled

We then turn right and continue to follow the wall.

Untitled

Untitled

We reach a cottage that is built into the wall and continue left over the bridge.

Untitled

Untitled

Untitled

If you look off the bridge you can see the course of the canal. In the two photos below you can certainly see the canal, complete with water because these were taken a few years ago, but today you can still get the impression of the location of the canal.

Untitled Untitled

Continue up the hill and when you reach the top you have an impressive view of the surrounding countryside.

Untitled

You continue by turning right, and moving round the bend. In the image below you can see Rose Farm in the left of the picture below.

Untitled

If you look to your right you see the line of trees. This is where the canal is and that is the route we followed on the earlier part of this walk.

Untitled

You then reach a junction with the lane to Rose Farm on the left. We continue on the main lane that turns to the right.

Untitled

You continue up the hill where you join The Balk which continues to the centre of the village emerging next to the war memorial.

(1) Barnsley Canal https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barnsley_Canal

Advertisements

Which Way Now! Walton’s Historic Fingerpost Sign

In Walton at the intersection of Shay Lane and The Balk there is a small piece of our local historical heritage that often goes unnoticed – the black and white cast iron finger post.  Wikipedia describes these signs as follows:

“The posts have traditionally been made from cast iron or wood, with poles painted in black, white or grey and fingers with black letters on a white background, often including distance information in miles. In most cases, they are used to give guidance for road users, but examples also exist on the canal network, for instance. They are also used mark the beginning of a footpath, bridleway, or similar public path.” (1)

It appears from the article that these signs are related to an important invention of the early 20th century – the motor car. The car transformed villages like Walton, increasing their size and changing their economic basis.  Before cars the people of Walton were employed on local farms or in the coal mine at the edge of the village. Today, the mine is gone, agriculture is much less labour intensive and Walton is a village in which most of its inhabitants commute many miles to earn their living. To a large extent the car made all this possible. Here is what the article says about the impact of the car and other aspects of our history impacting on the signs:

“The Motor Car Act 1903 passed road sign responsibilities to the relevant highway authority, although no specifications were set. Guidance was given in a 1921 circular that road direction signs should have 2 1⁄2-or-3-inch-high (64 or 76 mm) upper case lettering on a white background and white supporting poles. It also recommended that the name of the highway authority be included somewhere in the design.

Mandatory standards (The Traffic Signs (Size, Colour and Type) Provisional Regulations) were passed in 1933 which required poles to painted with black and white bands and lettering to be of a different typeface. Signposts were removed during World War II, lest enemy forces use them for navigation, and replaced in the late 1940s.” (1)

I’ve not measured the letting on the Walton sign, but it is all upper case, the sign is certainly black and white though the poles do not have alternate black and white bands described – perhaps this has been overlooked in any post war maintenance. The sign does appear to be missing a finger, the one that should point down School Lane. Perhaps they lost this during the second world war while the signs were supposedly in storage – amazing that they did not get melted down!

I am assuming that the highway authority in the case of this sign would be Wakefield RDC (Rural District Council) displayed in the white circle at the top of the sign.

According to another Wikipedia article suggests that were quite unique, though the Walton sign bears no evidence of this:

“Fingerposts erected in the West Riding until the mid-1960s had a distinctive style. At the top of the post was a roundel in the form of a hollow circle with a horizontal line across the middle, displaying “Yorks W.R.”, the name of the fingerpost’s location, and a grid reference.” (2)

There is not “Yorks W.R” and no grid reference on the Walton sign.

At the bottom of the post it says “Royal Label Factory Stratford on Avon” which according to Grace’s Guide to British Industrial History (3) was established in 1874 to make signs for Queen Victoria’s Sandringham Estate and later made signs for local authorities across the country. Wakefield Rural District Council was obviously one of its clients. The company survives to this day as Leander Architectural based in Buxton which says the following about the current work of the Royal Label Factory:

“The Royal Label Factory, also based in Buxton, concentrates on traditional signage and retains many of the casting patterns it developed in the 1930s for county and town council signposts and fingerposts. Major elements of the workload also include blue plaques for civic trusts and societies throughout the UK and signs of all kinds for heritage agencies – particularly the National Trust, Historic Scotland and Cadw-Welsh Monuments.” (4)

Royal Labels Factory 2

It is good to see that there is a market for these attractive types of signpost, it would be good to go back to them at least in villages across the county.  They look much better and fit in with their surroundings improving the feel of a place.

Anyway, I’m glad the sign survives as it adds to the character of the village. Here are some more photos of the Walton Fingerpost.

Walton Finger Post Closeup

Crossroads

Walton Finger Post

(1) Fingerpost https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fingerpost

(2) West Riding of Yorkshire https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Riding_of_Yorkshire

(3) Grace’s Guide to British Industrial History http://www.gracesguide.co.uk/Royal_Label_Factory

(4) Leander Architectural http://www.leanderarchitectural.co.uk/about-us.html

Storm Damage

Written on 5 December 2013

Storm damage

Damage from last night’s storm in the UK. A branch from an old horse chestnut tree in the village of Walton, near Wakefield crashes into a car on Shay Lane.  I spoke to one of the chaps trying to clear up the mess – apparently the tree has a tree preservation order on it.  It would appear that Mother Nature thinks otherwise!

070

Poppy Fields View, Yorkshire

Written on 17 October 2013

I am quite a keen photographer, the following are some photographs that I took a few years ago in my local area.  The fields are different every year according to what crop is grown, etc.  The particular year when these photographs were taken seemed to cause poppies to grow.  I have not seen anything similar either before or since. I thought I would take this opportunity to showcase these vividly colourful photographs on my blog.

Poppy Field 1

Poppy Field 2

Poppy Field 3

Poppy Field 4

Poppy Field 5

Poppy Field 6

Poppy Field 7

Poppy Field 8

Poppy Field 9