- Posted by: Valerie Vaz MP
- Category: News
On Friday 17 June I boarded a canal narrowboat from Ocker Hill to Walsall Town Centre to look at accessibility to the canal.
The Boat, called Edward, belonged to Steve Hubbard who along with Frank set us off on the journey. Pictured above from left to right is Peter Matthews CMG, CRT, Pat Barton Inland Waterways Association – IWA, Ivor Caplan BCN Society, CRT, IWA and Dave Pearson IWA. Charley took the photographs. I was reminded that if I fell into the canal I would be up to my waist but to keep my mouth shut. Along the banks people were fishing, cycling and having a picnic. It was pointed out that the reeds have now been left but they would have been cut and used for basket ware. I said this practise still goes on in Norfolk and could be revived here.
With some industrial sites and factories, there has been a commitment to landscape the surroundings. People enjoy the outdoor space at lunchtime. Standing on the prow of Edward, I saw ducks, a family of Swans, only one cygnet, and beautiful waterlilies. This is a sign of clean water, mostly yellow but occasionally a white waterlily appeared.
This is a resource for health and well being with active use of the banks and the canal. I had the idea to have a Jerome K Jerome day. He wrote three men and a boat and was born in Walsall. I am sure JKJ would approve. Steve invited me to steer the boat. I had never done this before but under his expert guidance and Frank grabbing the tiller on occasions, I steered and had to remember that if I moved the tiller to the left the boat veered to the right and vice versa. It was plain steering.
As the journey neared the destination of Walsall Art Gallery, we passed the Manor Hospital. Tucked away is Sister Dora Gardens a lovely open space which I want people to visit. It is also a good way for patients to recuperate with their carers after an operation before they are discharged. There is evidence that green spaces enable patients to recover quickly. Steering into the mooring by the Gallery was very exciting. Charley hopped off the boat and we retired to quench our thirst. My thanks go to Steve for lending us Edward and Richard Preston from the Canal and River trust for organising the trip.