My stretch: Wyrley & Essington Canal

Meet the walkers, cyclists and day trippers braving blustery weather and territorial swans along the affectionately named ‘Curly Wyrley’ canal.

My Stretch


Anglesey Basin sits at the top end of the Wyrley & Essington Canal, affectionately known as the ‘Curly Wyrley’ canal because of its meandering course through Staffordshire and West Midlands County. This end point of the canal is just a stone’s throw from its feeder reservoir in Chasewater Country Park, where dog walkers, families, joggers and cyclists circumnavigate the waterside path, rewarded by sightings of swans, tufted ducks and great crested grebes. We stopped to chat to a few of the local residents and visitors on a blustery spring morning.

Jason and Matthew McCarthy

Matthew & Jason Mcarthy

“We’re from Shropshire, just passing through. Matthew’s been here before with Mummy but unfortunately she’s in the car feeling a bit poorly – she’s pregnant. We like to stop here to stretch our legs and watch the wildlife, particularly the ducks – Matthew loves to watch them dive. Sorry Matthew won’t talk to you, he’s gone a bit shy!”

Naomi Davis

Naomi Davis

“I’m originally from this area but moved away a few years ago. I’m back today visiting family. This is where I come to walk my dog, I’ve been bringing her here since she was a puppy, it’s quite safe for her to roam around. She likes to play with the ducks – when she was a puppy she used to be scared of them, but she’s ok now. It’s only when the swans hiss at her that she runs off! It’s quite a built up area but it’s nice to know that all this lovely space is just round the corner. My family used to bring me here when I was a toddler, so I feel like I’ve grown up with this waterway.”

Ashley and Kevin Pace

Ashley & Kevin Pace

“We’re from just round the corner. Most weekends we’re here, either walking or on the bike; there’s lots of trails to explore. We love the open space and the feeling of wellbeing we get from it. We usually do about 12 miles on the bikes then stop at a café. We’ve lived here for about 18 months now – we decided to retire here because we love it so much. We plan to explore a lot more of the canal in the summer.”

Johnny Wood and Neil Astle, Animal Collections Officers, RSPB

Johnny Wood and Neil Astle, Animal Collections Officers, RSPB

“We’re here to monitor the swans in the reservoir for symptoms of lead poisoning. This area was used as a rifle range in the late-19th century, and there’s still lots of lead shot in the reservoir – so the swans inadvertently ingest it when they’re feeding. We have rescued a couple of swans from the water recently – they do usually recover once they’ve been treated.”

Maciej Pamitea

Maciej Pamitea

“I’m from Poland originally, I’ve been living here for seven years. I’m here on my mountain bike – it’s my second love. My first love is my motorbike. The bike trails around here are amazing. If you prefer an easy Sunday ride, there’s lots of flat areas, especially the paths around the canals. If you want something a bit tougher there are lots of hilly areas too, such as Cannock Wood. I’m fascinated by industrial history, which is another reason I love it here. I enjoy learning about the old coal mines, and how coal was carried along the canal. Back in Poland I grew up by the sea, so with the wind howling here like it is today, I can close my eyes and imagine I’m there.”

Joanne Foulkes and Bailey the dog

Joanne Foulkes

“Bailey loves a swim, that’s why I’ve brought her here to the park. This is all on my doorstep – just a five minute walk from home and I feel like I’m out in the open countryside. As well as walking the dog here I’ve also joined a running club that does sessions around the park and along the Curly Wyrley – it’s a great way of blowing away the cobwebs.”

John and Dorothea Carrington

John and Dorothea Carrington

“My wife and I thought we’d brave Storm Gareth and venture out for a walk. We’re usually out walking along here once or twice a week. We used to have a narrowboat but Dorothea’s getting a bit wobbly on her feet and can’t manage it any more. Our last trip was to Oxford in 2014. I miss the boat, she doesn’t! We’ve lived in the area since 1960 – we love that we can leave the front door and simply turn left or turn right to go for a lovely stroll.”

“John loves to tell everyone he married an “older woman”. I’m 15 days older than him! We’re both 83. I’ve been boating from when I was 13 years old, on and off. I saw the start of the leisure industry on this canal. My sister and her husband were among the first people I knew to go leisure boating; they used to take me along. When our children grew up, John and I decided to take boating up ourselves. But I’ve become very handicapped these last couple of years so we’ve had to give it up. I can’t manage steps and I certainly pull ropes anymore. But I keep soldiering on.”

Dawn and Kay Edgington

Dawn, Mark, Kay and Charlotte Edgington

“We’re from Lichfield, about three miles away. It’s actually our first time here together as a family, although Mark used to come here as a child. He wanted to see how much it’s changed. We love that it looks so wild along this stretch, considering it’s a canal. It’s really natural looking with all the reeds and plantlife. We plan to come back again in the summer, for a picnic perhaps.”

Plan your day out along the Wyrley & Essington Canal with our online guide. The Anglesey Branch of the canal runs to Chasewater Country Park – 900 acres of open space and water. The Park centres on Chasewater Reservoir, which was constructed to supply water to the canal. It is now a Site of Special Scientific Interest, with plenty of walking and cycling trails. You can make the most of the water with lots of exciting activities, including sailing, water-skiing and sub-aqua diving.

Colin Nicholls