Windmill End & Bumble Hole

3 05 2011

Not feeling in a particularly active mood and having less time to spend, we decided to park up at Windmill End today and wander around the beautifully named Bumble Hole in Dudley.  Turning off Springfield Lane we parked in Windmill End and walked up a short bank to find the canal.  The canal runs through the nature reserve and all the attractions of the area are encompassed within a steady meander of an hour or so.

Bumble hole is a disused clay pit, now filled with water and converted into a nature reserve.  It is difficult to tell from what is left that this rural haven would once have been a hive of industry and activity.  The Dudley Number 2 canal originally came from a westerly direction and travelled around the edge of Bumble Hole before heading south towards Halesowen.  The opening of the Netherton Tunnel saw the creation of a junction, with the canal bypassing Bumble Hole and heading directly towards the new tunnel mouth.  The entrance to what became the “Bumble Hole Branch” still remains but only goes around a third of the pit itself and appears to be largely given over to mooring.

The paths in the area are well laid out and it was nice to see so many people out and about enjoying the early summer sunshine.  I would imagine that the popularity of this nature reserve is helped along greatly by the superb Bumble Hole Visitors Centre – an entirely voluntary organisation that provides excellent facilities and a host of interesting local history.   And despite the fact that the environs of Dudley are not exactly rural, the nature reserve lived up to its name.  After just a short walk  I was smug enough to point out the “tacky plastic heron” in a back garden along the canalside ten or so meters ahead – only to watch said ‘plastic’ heron take off as we approached!

Having stopped at the Visitors Centre for the obligatory tea and biscuits we walked the short distance up the Number 2 canal to the entrance of the tunnel, just in time to see a boat exiting from the gloom.  From here we doubled back on ourselves and climbed up the bridge and across some grass land towards Cobbs Engine House – more properly called Windmill End Pumping Station.   The structure that remains housed a stationary pump engine that served to pump water (apparently 1.6m litres per day) from the ground and into the canal in order to facilitate the numerous local mining operations in the area.  It is now a Scheduled Ancient Monument and Grade II Listed.  Although just a shell of a building today, the nearby Visitors Centre and surrounding visitor information boards provide a useful insight as to how the area would have looked and how it formed a vital part of the success of local industry.  Sadly, a number of the boards had been defaced during our visit – apparently a never ending battle for the volunteers at the Visitors Centre.  So sad to see such a lack of respect for property or, perhaps more importantly, our industrial heritage.

Having enjoyed our visit to Bumble Hole we decided to make it the end destination of our next walk – from Parkhead Junction to Windmill End :o) (see here)