Search for the Old Roads of
Historian Fred Hughes writes....
The big clue is blackberries; yes, plump juice-filled berries hanging heavily in English hedgerows. You’d think they’d be lining some country lane. But no, here they are, forests of them clustered yards deep along the unseen byways of urban Newcastle.
“And that’s the giveaway,” historian Jim Worgan told me last week. “Blackberry bushes were a feature of railway embankments and canal towpaths. They were easily propagated and bees love them. You see, blackberry flowers are good nectar producers and once they take hold they remain there forever.”
For the final leg of my journey along the Newcastle Canals I’m accompanied
by Potteries’ historian Paul Nibblet and his wife Kathy, author and expert
in 20th century ceramics. We’re searching for the route of the
Apedale Canal and have been joined by canal enthusiast and Newcastle
resident Colin Ramsell.
It was a 3
mile level private canal from Sir Nigel Gresley's collieries at Aperdale
Now Colin comes up with another surprise.
“I have discovered a house in King Street that stands in a different direction to the others,” he claims. “I’m sure this was once the vicarage to St Michael’s Church. If so it must have stood right next to our canal.”
We’re in luck encountering Sandra Cook a resident of King Street for 33 years.
“Yes you’re absolutely right about the old vicarage. In fact our house was once part of the vicarage grounds. It was actually built on the tennis courts,” says Sandra pointing out the location on Paul’s map. “The canal ran along the bottom of the vicarage gardens and passed through my neighbour’s plot emerging in Milehouse Lane, through the Meadows road and across some land which was called the Cut where it connected with Holditch Colliery. Before the estate was built the vicar would have uninterrupted views across Knutton and Keele.”
The eponymous, the Cut, makes sense. Here you can visualise the canal line along Meadows road. But that is it. Only satellite observation from this point gives any clue to Gresley’s canal long buried with the ubiquitous coalmines by new industrial estates. At some point it passed Loomer Road stadium pushing its trail through moonscape terrain ravaged by pits and tips. My enduring fellow-traveller Steve Birks catches up.
the bed of Gresley's anal coming into Apedale
this area is still industrial - the only part not changed by land reclamation of country park.
Following a decade of opencast mining in the 1980’s Apedale has been transformed into an inspiring country park. And it really is impossible to see how it looked 200 years ago during the brief period of the canal age before the railways arrived to make Britain the most powerful nation on earth.
15 August 2008
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