There is a fantastic,
huge system at Dudley between
of the main canals built in
This was an ideal situation, you just cut branches off the canal and then you could mine the stone, load it aboard barges and transport it anywhere. Unlike other more famous mines in the country, it was surrounded by coal, and industry, building needs, and labour. There was no tramping for miles ever moors and hills. You just took the boat in, dug, filled it up, and out again. Even today it is important enough to be part of a TV advert with Lenny Henry, for Dudley Zoo.
I decided on
a visit when I went to
We went into
the canal tunnel in a 7Oft. long barge. After 600ft. we approached the bottom of
a huge, deep hole, filled with trees, via a large entrance 20-ft. square. Moreover a 15ft.
curtain of ivy hung down making a magical scene. The boat nosed it’s way out of
the bottom of this curtain into brilliant sunshine, more like a scene from the
tropics than the outskirts of
This cavern is 200ft. long, 30ft. wide, and 80ft. high, set at an angle of seventy degrees with huge rock pillars. It was named the Singing Cavern due to the sound of the wind blowing through it.
Here we got a very original sound and visual display, often in almost total darkness, with ‘candle’ lights here and there lighting up the cavern as it would have been in the past. Various voices were heard of people preparing a shot hole. There were life like sound of hammering and drilling by hand, this followed by voices and the sound of a burning fuse, running feet, followed by the sound of a tremendous explosion. This was followed by more voices, footsteps, a yell, the sound of falling and a splash. Then came the sounds of a rescue attempt. (Ron Bliss would have been proud of the sound effects).
Eventually we returned, passing the remains of an underground lock gate, which raised boats a fcot or so. In the past someone spent their days working this thing, some 40,000 boats a year went through at the systems peak usage. Then another tunnel was driven, so as to make a one way system to cope with these numbers.
The present day trip is very impressive, plans and work are in hand for an extension to the Seven Sisters cavern, this is reputed to be twenty five times as big as the Singing Cavern. But it is at least 400ft. long and 50ft. wide according to old photos and a survey.
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