Going with the flow

I’ve had this article from The Young David Evans in for a while now, as I wanted to find time to illustrate it with some great mapping. David’s exploration of the places of his childhood, and his interpretation of the current physical geography is fascinating. My thanks as ever, to David for sharing.

In the modern world of asphalted roads, acres of hardstanding and housing estates by the square mile, we tend to forget that our landscape is riddled with lost brooks, springs, natural drains and man-made culverts, and all have to be managed to prevent flood and ensure adequate drainage, whilst still maintaining irrigation.

Areas of the local landscape are actually very wet indeed – The Slough, Clayhanger Marsh, Ryders Mere, stretching round to Stubbers Green through Jockey Meadows. These are all essential drainage bands, and ensure not just continued relief of higher ground, but maintenance of our biodiversity.

Here, David explores a stream he thought lost, remembered from his childhood.

Here’s what he found…

Stream

Walsall Wood, a 1:2,500 fragment from 1902, with the watercourse highlighted, as is Kingshayes Farm. Click for a larger version.

This part of the 1902 Ordnance Survey map of Walsall Wood shows the course of a stream at that time. It seems to rise in a pool to the east of the Kings Hayes Farm (highlighted) and flow past the farm and join another watercourse, from a spring which is identified as ‘spout’ to the south-south east. Both  combine to flow under the road and continue in the shallow valley that exists, almost parallel to Coppice Lane. Interestingly, like the Brook, mentioned in the article Downstream, this brook also flows under a railway, the Walsall Wood Bridge Extension, and also the canal, at the centre of the above map. The stream then continued past Coppice House towards Stubbers Green Road.

I wanted to see what, if anything, remains of the original course of this stream. A lot of the landscape has changed dramatically since the time the map was made, and what I document here is that which can still be discerned nowadays.

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Seen from the adjacent transport yard, the stream turns and flows to some sort of culvert. From hereon the original course of the stream is lost, as can be seen in the images in Google Earth.

Untitled 5

Google Earth imagery showing the modern course of the stream in question. Note that near the boundary of the former marl pit, it disappears; it would have been culverted to protect the marl pit from flooding. Click for a larger version. Imagery from Google Earth.

This stream, and the memories it may evoke, is a gentle witness to times and way of life from many years ago, to the dramatic and irreversible changes brought by the industrialisation of the nearby land, and forms another part of our local history.

[Bob adds:]

Interestingly, since the Vigo is a former landfill, it’s intriguing to note the following from the Friday, 13th September 1901 copy of The Lichfield Mercury, spotted by Environmental correspondent Peter ‘Pedro’ Cutler:

AN AWKWARD MATTER – The Clerk read a letter from Messrs. Shelton, Walker and Taylor, complaining that the Council had been depositing rubbish on King’s Hayes Farm, Walsall Wood, close to the road, and giving the Council 7 days’, notice to remove the rubbish and not to trespass; on the land again.

The Surveyor reported that he had visited the spot and found that some hundreds of loads of rubbish there. It would be a big job to move it. The night soil foreman (Mr. Harrison) was called upon to explain, and said the rubbish had been tipped there for the last ten years.  A complaint was recently made and none had since been deposited there. The Clerk was directed to reply that the work of removal was proceeding.

So the question kind of remains, what on earth did they do with all that rubbish?

streetview

OS Street plus mapping shows the brook clearly, unconverted when last surveyed. They cite is as starting as a spring (‘issue’) up on Castle Hill, and disappearing near the entrance o the Vigo quarry/landfill. It appears to re-emerge from under the canal, and run alongside the winding path between the Weinberger marl pit and Veolia, eventually feeding the marsh at Stubbers Green.

Both myself and David would like to express our gratitude to Mr. Simon Taylor, owner of the land and of the busy adjacent industrial site, for so readily allowing David to take these photos for everyone to share and appreciate.

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14 Responses to Going with the flow

  1. Pedro says:

    October 1895…

    The Clerk read a letter that had been received from Mr AK Lewis with reference to the pollution of a brook course at Walsall Wood, and after a short discussion it was decided to have the brook cleaned.

  2. Clive says:

    Nice one Dave very intresting mate.
    Just like the water spring on the Fox covey, as a kid i wondered where this water going!

  3. David Oakley says:

    Referring to Bob’s footnote, “Where did the rubbish go ? “. My guess is that this could be the start of ‘The muck tip’ that existed on the ground between Salters Road and Brook Lane, once a low-lying piece of ground, that was still being used a a Council tip in the 1930’s. Coronation Road was later build on this ground, which covered quite a large area.. The muck tip, as we termed it, was very popular with the youth of the neighbourhood who after searching among the rubbish could sometimes come up with an item, which, after examination by the peer group, would be declared to be a ‘good thing’, thus spurring on more intesive searching.. Mothers hated this tip, because of the smell in the summer and the continuing health hazard. The admonition “Keep away from the tip” was made on a daily basis, and disregarded just as frequently. No such thing as Health and Safety regulations in those days. Council refuse lorries would deposit their load on the tip, then depart, leaving all the ‘good things’ available to the searchers, among the ashes, empty salmon tins.and other smelly debris. Great days !.

  4. Pedro says:

    Does the brook have a name? The course, with a little imagination, could be followed through Walsall to join the Tame near Bescot.

    Just think, one of the sticks that David dropped in the Brook could have reached the North Sea!

  5. tony winn says:

    If memory serves me correctly, King Hayes Farm was owned by a Mr Joe Strong. Sometime around the 1960’s he rented it out and moved to Jersey (I think for tax reasons), but retained ownership.

  6. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    many thanks for the excellent presentation and for your work in assembling this. I believe this spring and stream was used by workers at the brickyards ..good drinking water. It seems that this part of the village’s employment .. and social history.. ..is somewhat under-recorded!
    regards
    David

  7. David Oakley says:

    King Hayes farm was farmed by a Mr. Wilkins in the 1930’s, and many Vigo residents could be seen with jugs and cans at the farmhouse door, most mornings to be served with fresh milk.
    In those days, most domestic milk was supplied by the local farms, with one or two retailers buying from the local farms and setting up a door-to-door service. This service consisted of carrying two heavy, covered cans, each with a cargo of up to ten gallons, around the neighbourhood, together with a half-pint measure concealed in one can. One retailer, Mr. Horobin used a yoke to distribute the weight a little more evenly about him.
    Mr Wilkins gave up the farm early in the 1940’s , and the premises were taken over by a metal fabrication firm, Stinchome and Cooper, surely the first bit of metal-working industrialisation to happen in ‘The Wood’ since the chainmakers and nailers.
    Regarding ‘the spring’ the Vigo kids would make a special pilgrimage up to the spring during the long, summer holiday. The water was always icy cold, even in midsummer, and as David Evans states, brickyard workers regularly filled their bottles there, being just a short distance from Joberns’s brickworks. My grateful thanks to Bob and David for presenting this research in such a comprehensive and attractive manner and giving me a glimpse of a little stream, which will always be part of my childhood.

    • Ann Cross says:

      I remember Mr Horobin, Horace I think he was, bringing milk to the Royal Exchange as you describe, although did he later have a horse and cart? I think he lived on Shire Oak. He used to visit some evenings and drink half a pint of mild in the passage with a few other regulars.

      • David Oakley says:

        Yes, Ann, The Horobin’s did live ‘up Shire Oak’ on the left-hand side, so ‘Cross’s’ would be Horace’s nearest pub. The milk round was a father-son partnership, originally, with old Mr. Horobin wearing the wooden yoke around his shoulders. Shouldn’t wonder if the son gravitated to a horse and cart, afterwards. Progress, eh ?

  8. Carl says:

    The ‘spout’ spring is still running strong regardless of how long a dry spell we have. It currently fills a little man made pool for horses to drink out of, before over flowing and making its way into a culvert installed by the council when the old Walsall wood road was landscaped. The main stream is still fed from a couple of springs one as stated in your research and another a little further east up the fields. Unfortunately just near to the pool to east of king hayes farm is the storm drain outlet from the greenwood road estate which enters into the stream, this now appears to becoming more contaminated with foul water especially after heavy rains. Thank you to Bob and David for an interesting insight to the course it takes.

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