Chasewater News
Chasewater Wildlife Group accepts no responsibility for the content of external websites, links to which may appear on this page
 May 4th 2015
The Wildlife Group is no longer active but there are still plenty of observers out there so please see the diary for sightings and information. If you see or photograph anything of note please send it to our email address
For other useful information about the management of Chasewater the rangers produce a newsletter. The lastest full edition has been uploaded by 'Brownhills Bob' on his blog (external link)

July 25th 2013

Peter has made further visits to Chasewater and with the help of an ascomycete specialist in Germany he has located a species not previously recorded in Britain. Details can be seen on the diary pages for the 29th June 2013

February 9th 2013

Ascomycete Fungi of Chasewater

Following his work at Biddulphs Pool, Peter Thompson is continuing to provide valuable and fascinating information regarding this commonly overlooked group of organisms. Peter is now focusing on the broad variety of habitats found at Chasewater and a list of the species he has so far identified can be found via the link on our species page here. Peter intends on building this list with future visits and we will update the information. The rarest of the species he has identified at Chasewater so far is Lasiobelonium variegatum, which has not previously been identified in Staffordshire. Thank you to Peter for sharing this valuable information


February 2nd 2013

The following monitoring data was taken on January 28th and has been provided by Staffs CC.

  • The reservoir level has risen 25cm in the last three weeks and now stands at 151.61m (0.52m below the overflow and 21cm above the Pool Rd culverts).

  • The reservoir has risen 6.43m in the last 12 months

  • The water level is now 0.49cm above the Causeway invert, so Jeffries Pool is now filling as part of the main reservoir.

  • V notch B downstream of the dam is nearly at its recorded highest level due to the reservoir being at its highest level at 108 l/min.

  • Flow through the sheet piles is at its highest level marginally at 60 l/m

  • V notch C in the canal basin has increased a small amount at 27 l/min but this has never changed significantly.

  • The embankment was inspected and there was no evidence of seepage on the embankment at the toe or on the surface.

The reservoir now has an increased surface area, with Jeffries Pool rising as the same level at the main body of the reservoir. This has slowed the rate of rise during this month to an average of 8cm per week. It is estimated that the reservoir will be completely full in mid-March if weather patterns remain similar.



January 25th 2013

Ascomycete Fungi of Biddulphs Pool

Amateur mycologist Peter Thompson has kindly provided a list of ascomycete fungi detected at the Biddulphs pool area to the North of Chasewater. His studies have revealed rarely recorded British species and uncovered a new British record. The list can be seen via the link on our species pages located here.


June 3rd 2012

Little Ringed Plovers

At least 12 pairs of these specially protected 'Schedule 1' breeding birds have attempted to nest this year on Chasewater's shores. None of them have yet been proven to have been successful, unlike last year when broods started to appear by May 13th. Several pairs are obviously trying for second clutches having failed with their first attempts. Of course, the weather may be an important factor in this situation but has anyone reading this been aware of any official attempt to inform the public or protect the birds in any way? It seems that the disputes continue as to just who is responsible for the care of these birds. I imagine the discussions go something like this:

 Council A - They are here because of the low water levels caused by the works on the dam, therefore it must be your issue to solve.

Council B - We have put you in charge of site management till April 2014, so it is your responsibility to care for these rare birds.

Meanwhile, up to 35 people and 7 dogs can be seen at any one time 'innocently' walking over the birds' nest sites and just to rub salt into the situation, scramble bikes regularly race around the 'Island' only feet away from a Lapwing's nest and three Little Ringed Plover territories.


Anglesey Wharf

Yet again, it's great to see Brownhills Bob being so fantastically enthusiastic about Chasewater's history and I recommend everyone to click here to read about his investigations. It reminded me that I haven't updated the Website's pdf files of the Chronology for rather a long time and I thought it would be a good idea to at least copy below the updated version of the period Bob is currently investigating. There is so much to add, clarify and correct so please feel free to offer your ideas and knowledge so that we can build up a true picture of our fascinating heritage.


The drivage of a drift is approved from the main haulage way at Bass seam level (273 feet) at No 2 to Anglesey Wharf, a distance of 864m (945 yards).


Very low water levels in the reservior are recorded.


Shafts at the Cannock Chase Colliery Co No.5 Pit are sealed but the colliery's power station is expanded and electricity is used to power Chasetown, Chase Terrace and Boney Hay.


The Plant Pit becomes the centre of operations for the Company. Washery and new screening plants are installed to which an overland endless rope haulage (2200 yards) is provided from No 8 Colliery, where a 60hp twin cylinder steam engine to drive the haulage is located. The drift from No.2 to Anglesey Wharf is opened on 16th April after two years in the construction by a team of minors working three shifts a day. It runs for 945 yards at a gradient of about 1:10 and the 120 horse-power electric motor provides continuous haulage of coal tubs to the wharf, where newly constructed conveyors can directly screen and load the coal onto narrow boats. Coal drawing from the shafts of The Fly now ceases.


The new workshops at the Plant become known as 'Wembley' after the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley which was opened on St. George's Day this year.


Floating Water-plantain is recorded as 'plentiful in shallow water at Norton Bog.'


The General Strike.


No 9 Pit closes as a drawing pit but the Anglesey Wharf to Fly Pit drift is extended to link with The Plant (No 3), Eights (No 8) and No 9. Coal needing screening goes via the overland rope haulage to The Plant (No 3) where the slurry beds obliterate Norton Bog.


The Cannock Chase Colliery Co still employ 83 horses underground and 12 on the surface.


The pump engine on the dam is bought for scrap by J. Cashmore Ltd, leaving the pump/engine house an empty shell.


The Fly Pit closes and haulage along the drift also comes to an end (although is referred to as disused on a 1938 map).


Sheep are grazed on the north shore heath with a sheep-wire fence keeping the animals from the water's edge. (This fence was only rarely inundated at the time but the fence stumps were only recently exposed by the 2010 drawdown, implying formerly much lower water-levels or considerable subsidence). Many locals shoot the wildfowl 'for the pot' with good numbers of Mallard, 'Black and whites' (Tufted Ducks) and occasional Pochard and Teal.


Nationalisation of the coal industry. Pits 3, 7, 8 and 9 are still operative. The Plant Workshops become the Area Central Workshops serving all the collieries in the Cannock Chase Coalfield. Around this time a belt of willow saplings are planted along the north shore as a 'hide' for wildfowl hunters. Shooting licences can be obtained from Lawton Hall for 15 shillings a year.

GE (with 4th June edit)

June 1st

Water Levels

 A couple of weeks ago I received a very informative email from Ali Glaisher the Principal Ecologist for Staffs CC. She told me that they receive water level monitoring data weekly from URS/Scott Wilson and the latest data was that the reservoir was at 147.27 AOD on Monday May 14th and rose 20 cm in the preceding week. From April 2nd to May 7th the rise was 1 metre 33 cm.

So I wasn't too far out with my calculations. The water levels are now approaching the ends of the concrete slipways the Sailing Club and Water-ski Clubs built during the low water levels of 1957 (147.5m AOD in September), so we're just about at 'living memory' levels. I was only 3 years old at the time but there must be someone out there who remembers this time and perhaps took photos of the event.

This report is from the Advertiser on 12th October 1957, when Chasewater was starting to fill up from the exceptionally low levels during the summer.


Here is a copy of an article from the Express and Star for 21st August 1976

The water level is currently around a metre lower than that shown in the photo which was recorded at the time as being 3.75m below the level of the weir which was at 152m AOD. It fell a further 25cm during September before rising 1.25m by the end of the year.

The photo also shows the line of smoke on the North Heath from the devastating fires that were ravaging much of our local heathland at the time. Somehow the E&S forgot to mention it!



May 7th

Water Levels

I'm sure the water-levels are being officially monitored but, by various means, I have made my own measurements and calculations. Assuming the water-level established in March 2011, was at 144m above sea-level (i.e. that of the canal), then the figures run something like this:

September 14th 2011, after a dry summer, levels had dropped by another 30cm to 143.70m

November 1st - 143.83m

January 1st 2012 - 144.30m

February 6th - 144.67m

March 3rd - 145.20m

April 13th - 145.45m

May 7th - 146.65m

So there's been a rise of nearly 3m over the past year and over a third of that has been during the last 3 weeks! There are 5.35m to go before the lake is full.

The scale at the end of the pier starts at 148.35m, so there's only another 1.70m to go before we'll have a better ability to monitor the situation. We are now less than a metre away from the levels experienced in 1957, (just after Brownhills Council had taken on Norton Pool and renamed it Chasewater) and around 1.5m away from the lowest levels of the 1976 drought. A record wet winter actually filled the lake by May 1977, so if the current weather continues you never know!

Little Ringed Plovers

Although the poor weather and work commitments have prevented a thorough survey of the Little Ringed Plover numbers this year, it would appear that there are at least 10 pairs attempting to nest. However, with the extent of the shoreline continuing to shrink with the rising water-levels, the pressure put on them by both people and dogs is greater than last year. The three pairs on the South Shore are being constantly disturbed, resulting in potentially long periods off the nest during unseasonably cold weather conditions.

There seems little hope of successful breeding on the South Shore this year.

I've seen no warning/information signs around the site so I presume a blind eye is being turned to the situation by the current site managers.



March 4th

I seem to have missed all sorts of goings on over the past couple of weeks due to a serious attack of work! I popped over to the Nine-foot area today to see what progress has been made and take a few photos but there is little point in saying a great deal since a click here will give you a great insight into what's been going on! Thanks Brownhills Bob - at this rate it'll be Easter by the time I can catch up! One thing I can say is that the water level has risen 1.5m since last September but only 1.2m since the end of last March, as the very dry spring and summer caused levels to drop by 30cm. At least we seem to be in a rather unsettled period for a few days and the dry trend may be changing. Surely it can't be as dry as last spring when only 3.4mm of rain fell in April! Don't forget to check the wonderful Hammerwich Weather for details.


February 19th

On February 15th the latest posting was made on the Chasewater Dam blog and it coincided with an article on BBC's Midlands Today. It appears to be in the form of a press release and repeats what has been said before. Unfortunately it is written in the style of a tabloid paper and contains what can only be regarded as deliberately misleading nonsense which I'll try to translate a sentence or two at a time.

A Hard Task!

More than 100 tonnes of concrete is to be poured into Chasewater Reservoir to help support the 200-year-old dam. The concrete will help control the flow of water when the reservoir is full. Repairs to the reservoir's drawdown culvert (or plughole), have also been carried out.

Translation: Over 100 tonnes of concrete (about 40 cubic metres) will be used in the casting of the weir and the completion of other works in the Nine-foot area at the south end of the dam. The apparently rather over engineered structure will only be put to use when the lake is full, on average once every 2-3 years, but health and safety regulations demand that the dam and weir have to be able to withstand a one in 10 000 year flooding event.

County councillor Mark Winnington said: "This is the last major milestone in what has been a hugely successful and high profile project to restore one of the most popular country parks in the Midlands to its former glory."

Translation: We are now approaching another milestone in the works which have taken over a year longer than originally planned and have cost over £6 million, which is around double the estimate made two years ago. The final milestone will only be reached when the long suffering Sailing Club, Outdoor Education Centre and Water-ski Club are able to fully function and the quality of the rare SSSI environment is restored to, at least, its former state, and this may take several years.

"The county council has carried out vital safety improvements to the overflow to safeguard nearby residents in the event of severe flooding, which will enable us to monitor the condition of the dam much more closely in the future".

"The drawdown culvert 'the equivalent of the plughole in a bath' was located and inspected for the first time in over 200 years. Vital improvements have now been made and the project is expected to be complete in the spring."

Translation: Galliford Try is hoping to be off site by mid-March.

Water levels have begun to rise again after the plug was replaced last October. It is expected to be refilled fully by spring 2013.

Translation: The exceptionally dry 11 months since last March, when the last water was run off into the canal, has meant that the filling of the lake has been very slow and unless we have the wettest year on record, there's not a remote chance of the lake being full, or even half-full, by next spring. The currently small surface area has only risen by about 90cm since last March and there's another 7m to go before the lake is full.

Jeffrey's Swag has refilled and is now overflowing into the main lake bed and helping to dilute the poor quality water flowing down from the Chasetown Industrial Estate, which is frequently polluted by an unadopted drain. Members of the public are urged to call the Environment Agency's 24 hour Freephone Incident Line on 0800 80 70 60 whenever they sense pollution in this, or any other, stream flowing into Chasewater.

Well, at least this is what I feel should have been said but of course we all see things from different perspectives and I look forward to shifting into the parallel universe inhabited by the writers of the blog so I can fully experience the results of this 'hugely successful' project next spring.


February 8th


The Natural History of Chasewater by Graham Evans

I will be giving an illustrated talk to the Norton Canes Local History Society on Tuesday 14th February at Norton Canes Library from 7:00pm. Everyone is welcome to come along and share in the learning about the social and natural history of our special place. A great Valentines Day night out!


Friends of Norton Bog



Just a reminder that the next work-party of the Friends of Norton Bog will be on Sunday 12th February from 10:00 -13:00, meeting at the car park on the Burntwood Road.

There is even a chance of seeing the Bittern that has been skulking in the reed-beds for at least the last 3 weeks.

For more information please contact Rob Davies of Staffs County Ranger Service on 07855 336 907.


February 2nd-8th 2012

On 25th January, 5 Cattle were introduced to the 'Winter Enclosure' which embraces the reclaimed pit waste areas between the Chasewater Heaths Station and the cycle track. They are all placid steers of mixed heritage and have good appetites so should have a good effect upon the grassland areas. The summer grazing on the north shore heath is currently uncertain due to the possible damaging effects to the cattle of the iron oxides and other chemicals seeping into the wetland and also the possible trampling damage caused by the cattle to the Round-leaved Wintergreens. This area may have to be fenced off before grazing can take place. Please keep dogs under control in all areas of the Country Park.

Lichfield DC has recently been working on heathland management on the north heath. To the north of Target Point a large area of Broom and Gorse has been cut in order to encourage the growth of Heather and low scrub has been removed north-west of the marsh. It will be interesting to monitor the positive and negative effects this work will have on breeding birds such as Whitethroat, Linnet, Grasshopper Warbler, Meadow Pipit and Skylark. Its good to hear that funding for heathland management has been secured for the next 5 years and we should soon see further improvements in the footpaths and boardwalks to reduce disturbance over the heathland.

The Swag has now reached its maximum level until the lake refills and flows through the new culvert in the causeway. Water is now flowing under the old bridge and contributing towards the filling of the main lake.

All the major work at the north end of the dam appears to have been completed. Ten drainage pipes have been put into the sheet piles to allow water to flow into the marsh and on into Crane Brook. The remaining works around the Nine-foot and weir are planned to be completed in the next month or so with Galliford Try off-site by mid-March.

The first Snowdrops of the year are now flowering.

All photos taken on 2nd February � G Evans.


December 31st

Friends of Norton Bog

The dates for 2012 work parties on Norton Bog are as follows:
January 8th, February 12th, March 11th, April 15th, May 13th and June 17th.
All are on Sundays and run from 10:00 -13:00, meeting at the car park on the Burntwood Road (which is the little one with the horses)
Further dates will follow if there is enough interest!
Rob Davies of Staffs County Ranger Service - contact number 07855 336 907

The Weather

The  Hammerwich Weather and News blog now reports the total rain for December (so far) to be 67.4mm which is just about average for the region. However, the total for the year of 432.4mm is just 65% of the regional average and not ideal for filling up a reservoir. Happy Wet New Year to everyone!


December 21st

A new update from Staffs CC has been posted on the Chasewater Dam Blog, which gives details of the current state of the work on the dam and informing that the path across the dam and Nine-foot bridge has been temporarily re-opened over the Christmas period whilst Galliford Try are not working. This evening I took advantage of the re-opened path to take the following images.

Anglesey Basin
South end of dam


North end of dam - heather brashing


The Nine-foot


December 8th
I suppose the BBC forecast was correct but unfortunately the driving rain only lasted for five minutes around 3pm.
A moment of heavy rain but still no Norton Brook flowing into the Swag.
December 7th

The  Hammerwich Weather and News blog continues to make interesting reading and is clearly being run by a very knowledgeable and devoted enthusiast. By December 3rd the total rainfall recorded for the year was only 371.4mm which is only 56% of the Birmingham annual average of 662mm. It's no wonder that the water-table is so low and streams aren't flowing but at least there are signs of wetter weather in the next 24 hours with heavy rain forecast by the BBC during Thursday afternoon; let's hope it arrives and starts to make a difference to the water-levels.

 The following table is from Wikipedia:

Climate data for Birmingham
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high �C (�F) 6.0
Average low �C (�F) 0.3
Precipitation mm (inches) 56
Avg. precipitation days 16.7 12.8 15.9 14.1 15.2 12.6 11.7 13.5 12.4 13.4 15.5 15.7 169.5
Source: United Nations World Meteorological Organization



December 1st

The Dam Works - water levels are rising!


Slowly, but surely, the water level of the main lake has risen over the past month and, after the 4mm of rain last night, the plug-hole is just about covered. However, an average rise of 3cm per week since the start of September is slow progress during what is normally a fairly wet time of year. At this rate of increase it would take 5 years to fill the lake and if you take into account the very dry summer the 35cm rise has actually taken 8 months, a rate that would take over 15 years to fill. The only stream currently feeding the lake is Chasetown Brook (Blakemore's Gutter on 19th Century maps) which flows through the Chasetown Industrial Estate, under the by-pass, into Fly Pool and on to Fly Bay (or The Creek). The Swag is only being fed by Little Crane Brook which today had a flow no greater than a household tap and Norton Brook and Crane Brook are still totally dry. The Swag has a long way to go before it can start feeding the main lake and Norton Lagoon (Slurry Pool) is too low to feed Crane Brook. The dry year has affected much of the Midlands and the South-East and with water-tables generally very low there is fear that the effects of the drought could continue well into next year.


At last the plug-hole is covered.


The dry bed of Crane Brook
Little Crane Brook trickling into the Swag.
The level marker on the Swag showing no change since early August.
Most of the work is now centred on the Nine-foot area at the south end of the dam but what was described as 'dental work' is being carried out on the lake side of the dam. Large numbers of rocks which have migrated downwards are being put back into place and what is presumably a concrete type mixture is being sprayed over and between the rocks to hold them in place. Water has continued to be pumped out of the drawdown culvert between the secondary chamber and the canal, presumably for final inspections to be made.



The work at the foot of the dam continues with the installation of several pipes into the steel piles to allow a flow of water into the marsh and Crane Brook. Ironically, despite the dry weather, the newly formed footpath has a dip in it which has flooded and, hopefully, the drainage can be improved at this point.




All photos taken on December 1st and � G Evans
November 30th

Friends of Norton Bog

A special area in need of thoughtful management and lots of enthusiasm - images taken on 1st December � G Evans

The 'Friends of Norton Bog' meeting at Norton Canes Library this evening was attended by 22 people and there was a very encouraging atmosphere of enthusiasm towards the care and management of the site. The main purpose of the 'Friends' is to develop a group of people who are willing to give some of their time to care for this special area that is now part of the Chasewater and the Southern Staffordshire Coalfield Heaths SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Importance). Staffordshire County Council has been managing this area for over 10 years and in two years time will be taking over full control of the Chasewater Country Park which will include the Norton Bog area. The first work-party session for the 'Friends' will be on Sunday 8th January between 10am and 1pm, meeting at the Wooden Stables car park on the Burntwood Road (just before the 'Skoda' roundabout as approached from Norton). Everyone is welcome but please don't arrive in your Sunday best - there's work to be done and fun to be had!

Contact names and numbers are:

Rob Davies of Staffs County Ranger Service at 07855 336 907

Steve Archer, Community Volunteers Officer at 07817 863 303
Norton Bog Country Park
(Click on image to enlarge)



November 22nd
The excellent Hammerwich Weather and News blog makes fascinating reading and gives substance to the recent news reports that the Midland region is experiencing the driest year on record. The blog states that only about 30mm of rain has fallen during November so it's no wonder that it is taking so long for even the drawdown culvert to be inundated. Quite remarkably, the level of the Swag is only very slightly above the level it was at in early August with Norton Brook and Cranebrook still dry. The only stream with any flow into the Swag is the one flowing from the bottom pool on Cuckoo Bank and across No Man's Bank and Southacres Farm.
Plughole on November 1st


and 17th


November 18th

A new update from Staffs CC has been posted on the Chasewater Dam Blog.

November 17th

At last night's Stakeholder's Meeting it was stated that good progress is being made with all the works which were now concentrated on the Nine-foot area. Today the compound at the north end of the dam has been removed and Sandy Bay has been restored to just that! The two refurbished penstocks have been replaced today and whilst this work was done the secondary chamber was used to block any water that may have overflowed down the 'plughole'.

It is hoped that during the Christmas break the footpath across the Nine-foot bridge will be temporarily reopened but will have to be closed again when works recommence in the New Year. 

There is still no positive news regarding works to the Island and lake bed regarding which the Sailing Club and Wildlife Group have been in discussion with LDC.

November 11th:
The head of the canal basin showing the drawdown culvert outlet and two other culverts probably associated with the old pumping station - presumably one for the steam engine and the other for drawing water back into the reservoir.


The Nine-foot:
 a hive of activity on November 11th.


November 6th

Signal Crayfish

In recent days at least 22 specimens of the invasive alien Signal Crayfish have been found by the Staffs County Council Rangers in the Norton Bog pool shown in the photo. It is not known whether they have been put into the pool or found their own way through the pipes going under the by-pass from further 'up-stream' but their presence is certainly not good news. They are known to carry 'crayfish plague' against which our native White-clawed Crayfish have no resistance. Chasewater used to be a wonderful site for large numbers of native Crayfish but over the past few years numbers have dropped dramatically and perhaps we now have the reason why. Let's hope that this is not the case and that Signals are not in the main lake but somehow I fear it is likely they are. Please keep a look out for these distinctive creatures and report sightings so they can be dealt with. Consent has to be obtained from the Environment Agency in order to trap non-native crayfish. The Rangers' Office number is 01543 370607 and for Norton Bog sightings contact Rob Davies on 01543 871773.


Pool where Signal Crayfish have been found.
Claws of Signal Crayfish


November 1st
These two photos, taken today, not only show the unseasonably beautiful weather but also how close (about 20cm) the 'plug-hole' is to being covered by the rising water and the hive of activity now going on at the southern end of the dam.



These two photos, showing the same piece of ironwork in the lake, give a good impression of how much the water-level has risen during the past 7 weeks. It appears that the metal has been inundated by no more than twice the length of the gull's tarsus (average of 65mm) which would average out at a rise of around 2cm a week. At this rate, with nearly 800cm to go, it would take over 8 years to fill! Thankfully we seem to be heading for a period of unsettled weather and let's hope that, at least, the plug-hole will be covered by the end of the month.


1cy Yellow-legged Gull on 14th September
1cy Cormorant on 1st November
October 30th
Not for the first time, the barrier system at the main entrance to the South Shore Park failed to work correctly tonight. A member of the Chasewater Railway had correctly used his key card to gain access at around 5:15pm but the barrier rose up when only the front half of the car had passed over, resulting in the situation shown in the photo. A Ranger had to be called out to use a control key to lower the barrier and it was hoped that no serious damage had been done to the car. For those members of the CWG with a key card please take care and consider your options before entering when the barrier is up.


October 28th

In September 2004, the Outdoor Education Centre received a huge quantity of surplus sandy overburden from the construction of the by-pass and used it to form bunds around their grounds. This week this material has been almost completely removed and deposited over the re-contoured land at the north end of the dam. This has been a really imaginative use of on-site material that never really appeared to be in the right place and should form a good base for the restoration of heathland  that will lead into the, hopefully, regenerated sphagnum lawn when the hydrology has recovered. Paul Fisher of Penny Anderson Associates recently said that the hard work starts now and this is a great example of some of the high level restoration works that I know they will be demanding in order to re-establish the site's important ecosystems.

September 2004
North end of dam


October 25th

Norton Bog Country Park

Signs have been put up around the Norton Bog area inviting 'Friends' to a meeting at Norton Canes Library at 6:30pm on Wednesday November 30th. This will be a volunteer group organised by Staffordshire County Council.

Contact names and numbers are:

Rob Davies of Staffs County Ranger Service at 07855 336 907

Steve Archer, Community Volunteers Officer at 07817 863 303

Click on the photos for more details

Obviously we are encouraging all interested people to attend and the CWG has a particular interest in this area as it was the threat of its destruction that led to the Group's formation in 1995. Staffs CC have managed the site since its restoration ten years ago and it is assumed it will be integrated into the Chasewater Country Park once Staffs CC take over the full running of the site, from Lichfield, in a couple of years time. So, for the time being, it's Norton Bog Country Park and let's hope there can be lots of proactive local involvement. A leisurely scroll through the CWG's Diaries will give you a good idea of what a fascinating and beautiful area it is developing into.

October 19th - evening edition!

Tonight's Stakeholders' Meeting was both informative and amicable. The work at the north end of the dam should be completed by the end of the week and all resources will then be focused on the Nine-foot area and the completion of works at the head of the canal. It was emphasised that the 'completion of a major engineering milestone' (see below) referred to being able to say 'the plug was back in' not the completion of all the works which, given good weather and trouble free progress, should be made by March. The bridge will be completed first and the weir will be the last major part of the works but due to the constant need for heavy plant to access the area it may not be possible to open up the footpath across the dam until completion but options are being considered. In the meantime people are urged to respect the safety measures which are in place.

The speed of the refilling of the lake is totally dependant on the amount of rainfall we have so no promises can be made but British Waterways have agreed to not draw off water from the reservoir until it is full in order to allow the dam to be inspected whilst under full load and to ensure the Sailing Club and Waterski Club get back on the water as soon as possible. It's rather ironic that, despite 'putting back the plug', Galliford Try really need it not to rain to ensure a swift completion. Meanwhile, all other users are now choreographing their various rain dances!

It is hoped that, once cut, many of the taller willows on the lake bed could be used creatively!

The Sailing Club and Wildlife Group have both persistently been asking if, whilst water levels are so low, there could be some modifications to the lake bed to prevent damage to boats and to enhance the wildlife value of the Island.  Whilst they were managing the works, verbal assurances were given by Lichfield DC that this would be done. As the total cost of the works, including Lichfield's costs, has been taken over by Staffs CC it must surely be within Lichfield's ability to do this work, as they have with the Waterski Club's 'slalom channel'. It would be a good gesture and would go some way towards mitigating the effects of the unnecessarily long period of drawdown which has caused such damage to the Sailing Club and to the lake's ecology.


October 19th

I've now seen last week's editions of the Burntwood Post and Burntwood Mercury and it just reinforces how careful you have to be when researching the past by using newspapers. Any future local historian researching the events at Chasewater in 2011 would be led to believe by the Burntwood Post, under the headline "Chasewater rises again", that by October 13th 2011 the dam safety project had been 'finally completed' and that 'It is hoped the reservoir should have refilled fully by Summer 2012, if there is average rainfall'.

Fortunately, the Burntwood Mercury (reporter Alex Keller) has been far more professional and has researched beyond the press release that both papers presumably received from Staffs CC and has produced quite an accurate and informative 3 page article. The press release was as follows:

Celebration at Chasewater as the plug finally goes back in

After two years, waters at historic Chasewater reservoir will start to rise again after the completion of a major engineering milestone.

The 200-year-old reservoir at the heart of Chasewater Country Park was drained of water in early 2010 amid concerns for the safety of the dam which dates back to 1797.

The £5.5 million project, started by Lichfield District Council, proved a bigger challenge than anticipated and was taken over by Staffordshire County Council in May 2011. The county council has extensive experience of managing major engineering projects.

Now the 'plug has gone back in' and water levels can once more start to rise. This will restore Chasewater to its original position as a major regional leisure attraction, wildlife haven and key component of the Midlands canal network.

Mark Winnington, Staffordshire County Council's Cabinet Member for Environment and Assets said: "This has been a major engineering project that has been carried through to a swift and successful conclusion by the county council.

I am now delighted to be able to confirm that the plug is back in and the reservoir will start to refill naturally with water."

The original role of the reservoir was to regulate water in the Midlands canal network; in times of drought water would be drawn from the reservoir to ensure the economically vital canals were still deep enough to navigate. 

Fears however had grown that the earth dam was no longer safe to withstand major floods, was leaking, and could pose a danger to nearby homes.

County Councillor Winnington said: "We now have a much better understanding of the dam. Overflow precautions have been improved to safeguard nearby residents in the event of severe flooding, and we will be able to monitor the condition of the dam much more closely in the future.

"The drawdown culvert, the equivalent of the plughole in a bath, was located and inspected for the first time in over 200 years. Vital improvements have now been made. A mystery brick-built chamber that does not appear on any plans was also discovered inside the dam, and will now be used as part of our monitoring procedures."

Water does seep through the dam, but this is perfectly normal and acceptable as long as it is carefully monitored to spot potential safety concerns. It has also created a mini-ecosystem that has become a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The work has ensured this is safeguarded.

Clive Thomson, the county council's Head of Specialist Services said: "The dam is as safe as it is possible to make it and we will now be able to monitor its condition in far greater detail than was previously possible.

Some water will always pass through an earth dam, but we are now able to keep a very close eye on how much and ensure this is not weakening the structure."

County Councillor Winnington said: "People should start to see the water levels in the dam rise. We realise that many local people have been frustrated about the length of time that the reservoir has been empty, but we really have completed the work in as short a time as practical, and to keep local people informed with help from colleagues at Lichfield District Council.

This work will provide reassurance for local people, will allow the country park to go from strength-to-strength as a visitor attraction and will also benefit wildlife and users of the regional canal network."

It is hoped the reservoir should have refilled fully by Summer 2013 if there is average rainfall.

Some facts

  • Chasewater reservoir covers 108 hectares and holds approximately 3.7 million cubic metres of water

  • It would take approximately 1.5 million road tankers full of water to fill the reservoir

  • The main dam is 560 metres long and is 12 metres high

The 'major engineering milestone' was, of course, the completion of the works between the penstocks and entrance to the drawdown culvert, which allowed them to say that 'the plug was back in'.  Councillor Winnington reinforced the 'misunderstanding' by saying "This has been a major engineering project that has been carried through to a swift and successful conclusion by the county council." and this rather misled people into thinking the whole job was complete and for the BBC to even think the lake was now full!

Perhaps all this spin is caused by the size of the new plughole!


October 16th

Many thanks to Brownhills Bob for posting this superb map of Chasewater in 1884. Its a mine of information.


October 14th
The latest Chasewater Dam blog update can be found here. It includes some photos of the works to the 'plughole' and drawdown culvert and a fascinating video taken during its inspection prior to restoration.

Today there was a hive of activity on the north end of the dam, the canal end of the drawdown culvert and around the Nine-foot.

Work continues with the installation of a drain and, with all the drain covers proud of the current surface, it is clear that the access tracks are to receive a final layer.

The restoration work at the canal end of the outlet culvert appears to be far from complete.

A great deal of work was being done at the Nine-foot. In particular it appeared to be preparation work for the recently planned emergency drainage pipes into and out of the Nine-foot Pool.

Click on photos to enlarge.

Misleading press headlines such as this one from the BBC (Stoke and Staffordshire)

Chasewater Reservoir refilled after £5.5m repair work

Related Stories

have led people to believe that the job has been completed and the lake is now full! I think the intention of the press release was to give hope to the water users that, as far as the refilling of the lake is concerned, Staffs CC have done their part of the job and it's now down to our wonderfully enigmatic weather to do the rest. However, what real hope can there be when we are in what is currently the driest year for 35 years resulting in a negligible rise in water level over the past 6 months when, as far as I know, no water has been pumped out. We just don't know what the weather will bring so no accurate prediction of when the lake will be full can be made.

The Staffs CC works are not planned to be completed before 'early/mid 2012' and the path across the dam will not be reopened to the public before completion.

Nature's completion date has not been announced!


October 13th
After several years working as Park Manager for Lichfield DC, Kevin Yates has relinquished the job and has been replaced by John Smith from Staffs CC. We wish Kevin all the best for the future and thank him for all his past efforts. We welcome John, who has considerable expertise and experience in environmental management and the Wildlife Group wish to give him all the support it can in ensuring the long term future of the Country Park's wildlife.

The photo shows the new information screen from Staffs CC, outlining the work done so far and its commitment to the future. I just feel its a pity they used a photo of a hybrid, semi-domestic 'farmyard' goose to symbolise the park's wild heathland and SSSI quality wildlife. Bearing in mind their slogan 'the knot unites' perhaps a photo of a Knot (a fairly regular visitor and totally wild) would have been more appropriate!


The secondary chamber of the outlet culvert has been extended making its entrance over two metres above the 'plughole'. It will be a useful guide to how the refilling is progressing; I would have thought submergence by next spring would be the target.


People are asking when the footpath across the dam will be restored. I think this photo gives a clue that it seems unlikely it will be before Christmas.



The Rangers have just received delivery of a machine that will 'decimate' the invasive willows on the lake bed and shore so lets hope it doesn't get stuck in the mud before the job is complete.



October 12th
Management of the Norton Bog heathland is currently being undertaken by Staffs CC and has involved the recent spraying of areas of invasive birch and willows and today contractors were busy clearing an area of young trees. This is essential management and should result in the area continuing to develop its heathland ecology. It is now 12 years since work started on the Norton Bog restoration scheme and it really has enhanced the whole area and formed a wonderful link between the Chasewater heaths and the Cuckoo Bank/No Man's Bank area.


Last week the new North Shore boardwalk was completed and it should be very useful once the rains arrive since this stretch can be particularly muddy. The surrounding heather will also have a chance of colonising the bare clay adjacent to the boardwalk.


A Red Deer stag has a harem of several hinds in the North Shore area and is a magnificent sight as it bellows out its lustful intentions. Please observe from a distance and keep dogs on a lead to ensure all round safety. There was sad news last week when a hind was killed as it crossed the by-pass which has become a notorious road for speeding.


October 11th

The  area at the north end of the dam has been reprofiled and the new embankments have been 'hydroseeded' and if the mild weather continues the grass seed should germinate before the onset of winter. The two terraces have not been seeded and look as if they may be maintained as access roads to the various drains. It appears that the secondary chamber on the outlet culvert is being developed to allow it to be used as an inspection chamber without having to drain the lake to its present level. The weather forecast predicts no significant rain during the next 5 days.

Hydroseeded embankments.
Reprofiled north end.
Access roads?
Hopefully a management plan has been devised to restore the sphagnum lawn in the SSSI.
Work continues on the secondary chamber.
Willow clearance is making slow progress.



All photos taken on October 11th (� GE)



October 10th - this is a work in progress but please reply if you have any observations you would like to add (GE).

Its great to have good discussion and research into Chasewater's fascinating history which, of course, has created the wonderful variety of scarce habitats that has led to the area being designated a SSSI. Brownhills Bob and his contributors are having a great debate regarding the pump house and overflow and I must have been very close to the mythical Bob yesterday as we seem to have been investigating the same area around the same time. Last week's post referred to my wish for better quality maps and, of course, Bob has obliged and I have copied the following sections that show the Anglesey Basin area in 1884, 1902, 1919 and 1962 (as usual, click on the images to enlarge them). If you're reading this Bob, if you have these maps covering the whole of the Chasewater area it would be fantastic to have copies of them to help refine the site's history - please!


The roadway separating the weir from the main lake is probably at the level of the old bridge shown on LDC's photo below which implies that the Nine-foot was considerably less than that! The sluice at the canal end of the spillway weir presumably controlled whether overflow water went into the canal or under it and into Crane Brook.

There is no symbol showing the concrete wall along the top of the dam but a symbol, which probably signified the wall, appears on the 1902 map.





Clearly work has been done during the late Victorian period to the Nine-foot area which is now far more regular in shape with steep stone embankments. It was probably this period when the concrete wall along the dam was built along with a new bridge on top of the old one at the Nine-foot (which probably gained its name at this time).

This LDC photo, taken during the demolition of the old Nine-foot bridge shows the top of an old brick arch which must have been the water course  into the Nine-foot area prior to redevelopment at this time.

A perfect copy of the map, looking south from the north end of the Nine-foot.

The present state of this piece of our local historical heritage leaves a lot to be desired.
October 4th 2011
The date gives us a good clue as to just when these developments were made. This ironwork is part of the sluice at the base of the spillway.
October 4th 2011




The 'Aquaduct' marked on the map must be the pipe between the pump-house and valve house. The chimney was marked for the first time. Were these new developments or just evidence of better mapping?

The breakwater is marked on the map for the first time and was clearly a novelty to be photographed on.




Compared to 1902, the water-level appears considerably higher and the overflow basin is holding more water

October 7th

The official announcement has now been made that 'the plug has gone back in'.

October 5th

Good progress has been made in the last week and all but the work around the Nine-foot area appears to be close to completion. The lake now appears to have a proper plughole but the 'plug' has effectively been 'in' for the last 6 months, since, I think, the last time any water was released into the canal was in March. We must now hope that the extremely dry year has saved up all the rain for the winter period and good progress can be made towards refilling the lake. The water level is currently at 144m AOD and when full it is at 152m. In recent years, when levels have been 150-152m, the average October-March rise in water-level has been 130cm. The present area of water covers only 25% of the total lake bed so only around 30% of water required for the final metre will be needed to raise the level to 145m, but of course the Swag will need to fill before any of the 'Norton water' helps to refill the main lake. Given a reasonably wet winter we could hope for a 4m rise to 148m by April, which is the level it was at during the 1976 drought. However, if rainfall over the last 12 months is replicated its going to be an achievement to reach 146m by the spring. I wonder what the odds are for when it will next overflow the new weir?

October 5th

The main drawdown culvert and the secondary chamber now have modern concrete plug-hole entrances.

October 4th


There is still much work to be done around the 9-foot and weir.


October 5th

All the top-soil appears to have been added and is awaiting the grass-seed mulch treatment.

October 5th


The area near the old cottage is being reprofiled.

G Evans


October 3rd

Its pleasing to see that the last article made a good impact on Brownhills Bob's Blog so I thought I'd at least make a start at adding more food for thought by comparing the following maps, of which I would love to find better copies!


This rather basic map shows some interesting features. No road is marked over the dam and the Nine-foot Pool is just part of the main reservoir, as is the overflow basin since no weir separates it from the rest. This implies that the basin always held water and when the lake reached a high level the water would spill over the weir into the feeder if required or into Crane Brook. The feeder channel appears to start at the present day head of the canal implying that there was also a feeder culvert from the lake at this point.




The canal is now in place but the Pumping Station is not marked and neither is the Nine-foot weir and the main overflow still appears to be at the eastern end of the basin with perhaps a similar spillway down to the Crane Brook.





The Pumping Station is an important feature and the Nine-foot weir is now marked but the basin still appears to have water, implying that the eastern weir/spillway was still operational. The large pipe under the spillway, that made it redundant, wasn't put in till much later.


October 2nd

Brownhills Bob's Blog entry for 28th September refers to the old 'Pump House' that used to be situated on the dam. I've waited a few days to see if anyone was going to offer any information, memories or myths but nothing has been forthcoming so I thought I'd better make my contribution which is very much based upon some 1988 correspondence very kindly provided by Tina James. I've copied extracts of the letters involving Maurice Cooke (researching his great grandfather, William West), J. H. Andrew (Birmingham Museum) and Tina's father, Mr Fred Downs who used to live in the house on the dam.

 Firstly Mr Cooke to Mr Downs:

4 Nov 88

In 1838 my great grandfather, William West, was employed by the Carlisle Canal Co to erect a steam engine designed by himself to pump water from the River Eden into their canal. The canal was killed off in 1853 by the Carlisle - Maryport Railway. I was asked to provide details of West�s journeys to Carlisle and the work done there and this was published in a Carlisle paper but not seen by me. Mr Peniam wrote querying the sale of the engine in 1854 to Park Haematite Mine just north of Barrow-in-Furness. The confusion arose as the Carlisle journalists of those days confused the steam engine that worked the pump and sometimes wrote about a steam engine when they meant the pump worked by a steam engine, or a powerful pump when they meant the steam engine only.

The huge 45" internal diameter pump was ideal for a canal which would want a lot of water quickly over a short period but far too big for a mine. I've no doubt the Birmingham Navigation Co. got it cheap as it was so large it couldn't have got down a mine shaft.

From the 25" map, the 2 holding down rods and the very wide brick foundations of the beam wall (the Cornish called a beam a bob) I have no doubt the well would have been under your pretty rose garden, close to the outlet from under the dam. The lift was only 36" so I expect Messrs. J. Cashmore lifted it, for its scrap value would have been quite good. At 45" internal diameter, it was the biggest in the U.K. and was made to stand up to very great pressure.

I had hoped to see it in the Museum but as you see all was sold to Messrs. J. Cashmore for scrap in 1937 and that would explain why you saw only the shell of the engine house in 1939. I wonder if J. Cashmore still exist and whether they have any records, probably not, companies cannot keep files for ever.


J H Andrew to Mr Cooke:

21 Oct 88

Thank you for your letter of 16th October containing details of the Carlisle Canal Company's engines and possible connection with the engine at Cannock Reservoir.

Enclosed is an extract from an article by Philip Weaver in the March 1986 issue of the Journal of the Railway and Canal Historical Society. In this article 'Some Interesting Data on the Birmingham Canal Navigations', Weaver shows the engine and boilers to be by Davis of Tipton but makes no reference to the source of the pump. Your research could thus fit with other sources in suggesting that a 45 inch pump was used from Carlisle.

You will see that Weaver states the engine was scrapped in 1937 and everything was sold to J. Cashmore. We have no record of any parts of this engine reaching the Museum, which was founded in 1950, although J. Cashmore Ltd. did present parts of a water-pumping engine at Whitacre to the Museum in 1951. Thus we feel that Mr. Downs was incorrect to state that the Cannock engine components were moved to the Museum.


In a very long letter detailing the history of the Cornish mining industry and Carlisle Canal, Mr Cooke writes:

........So the company [Carlisle Canal CO] was left with its enormous pump. Before I left for the north, I read Charles Hadfield's 'The Canals of the West Midlands'. The Cannock Chase Extension Canal to provide a means of transport for coal mines in the Chase was not dug until 1853 and the Company wanted more water. The local history librarian at Cannock was most helpful and advised me how to find the Cannock Chase Reservoir, now called the Chasewater and used for fishing, sailing etc. The 6" and 25" maps I had obtained at the Scottish National Library showed the pumping station. The dam (see map) a long, low one has an ancient small building, obviously a valve house, whose valve would allow the Reservoir to be drained. Where I expected to see the engine house, there is a splendid bungalow with pretty rose gardens and two other fine buildings. Mr and Mrs Downs in the bungalow received me most hospitably. He remembered pre-war the big brick built engine house and pointed out 2 of the 4 cylinder holding down rods and the 5' wide foundation of the brick built bob (or beam) wall. The wall must have been under where his pretty rose garden is now. He advised me to write to the Birmingham Museum. You will see it was a locally made engine but with a 45" pump with a lift here of 36". I've no doubt J. Cashmore lifted the pump. There was so much metal its value as scrap would have been high. I hope this solves your problem. The engine to Park [Park haematite mine north of Barrow]: the pump to Cannock.

So it would appear that the pump was installed as part of the massive expansion of the canal system (Anglesey Branch and Cannock Extension) in the early 1850s. The engine and boilers were provided by Davis of Tipton and the huge 45" internal diameter pump came from the Carlisle Canal Co. after their canal was drained in 1853. The engine was scrapped in 1937, when it (and the pump?) was sold to J. Cashmore but the brick shell was still standing in 1939.

Clearly there is still a lot to learn about this historical feature and many related aspects of the canal and dam and the following is a list of the questions that come to my mind:

  • Although dates on bridges etc refer to 1850 being the time of construction of the Anglesey Branch, I have a copy of a letter titled "Letter written by Homeshaw to Mr Wright 5th Nov 1956" which states that the original channel that fed the canal "was converted into a canal, called Anglesey Branch under Victoria Cap 112 dated 1854-5". Did this Act of Parliament precede the construction or just ratify it?

  • Was the Valve House and culvert constructed at the time of the Engine House and canal or were they built as part of the original 1796-7 or rebuilt/repaired 1799-1800 dam.

  • If they were all part of the same works, how was the channel fed from the reservoir for the first 50 years?

  • If the construction of the reservoir started in 1796, how on earth could it have been full enough to burst the dam in 1799 when we know just how long it takes to make relatively minor strengthening works with modern machinery over 200 years later? Remember that Eastern and Western dams were constructed and perhaps some clay puddling was required on the lake bed before filling could take place. The current works have already taken 20 months and there are 6 feet of water still in the lake but forecasts predict that it will not be full for another 3 years.

  • How was the pump used? Presumably its function was to draw water back into the reservoir, whenever the canal system was full, in order to prevent precious water being lost to the Crane Brook. Did water gush through the pipe that appears to connect the Pump House and the Valve House and then out over the dam wall?

  • When was the shell of the Engine/Pump House demolished?

What do you all think/know?




September 28th

Top soil is now being laid over the recontoured northern section of the dam, which can only be seen as a good sign that at least these parts of the works are coming to a conclusion.


Meanwhile, these two poor souls continue to clear the vast beds of willows that have invaded the lake bed.


September 26th

Last week's (21st September) Stakeholders' Meeting provided us all with some encouraging news that all plans for the dam works have now been completed and agreed and it was now a case of putting them into action as quickly as possible. The strengthening and regrading of the northern section of the dam is nearing completion and it is hoped to be able to spay the whole face of the dam with a grass-seed mulch that can start growing before the onset of winter. The only other works preventing 'the plug going back in' are:
  •  the replacement of one of the penstocks which had broken and prevented the flow of water through half of the culvert
  • the installation of a 3m high concrete cylinder over the existing entrance to the culvert to prevent it being blocked by silt
  •  the desilting and repointing of the chamber at the canal end of the culvert.
  • a range of 'dental work' on the front face of the dam involving localised repairs, replacing of rocks and spraying of weeds!

The other remaining works are around the Nine-foot and weir at the south end of the dam. This has been completely remodelled and it is likely works will continue till after Christmas but as these works are around 8m above the current lake surface the works can proceed as the lake fills.

However, the 'plug may be going in' but the 'tap needs to be turned on' if the lake is to refill and this year happens to be, regionally, the driest for 35 years and it takes a very long time to fill a bath with a slowly dripping tap! The drought of 1976 was followed by the wettest winter on record which raised Chasewater's water-level by 4 metres in 8 months. The current water-level is 8m below maximum so is anyone willing to predict just when the lake will be full again?


Dam works - 23rd September
One of many issues to be considered as the lake refills is just what to do with the huge quantities of invasive willow that, along with a fascinating array of other plant species, have grown on the lake bed. As the waters rise most terrestrial plants will die off, to be replaced, hopefully, by the rare aquatic and littoral plant communities that contributed to the site's designation as a SSSI. However, the huge quantities of decomposing plant material could change the nutrient levels of the lake and inhibit the natural recolonisation of the former plant communities. The willows would persist as obstructions to boating for years and those at the upper few metres of the shoreline are likely to be so well established by the time the waters reach them that they will survive the seasonal inundation and completely transform the nature of the shore. It is for this reason that the Rangers have, so I have been told, been instructed to remove all the willows from the lake's bed! The photo to the right shows one small area that has been cleared so far, near the north end of the dam, but this is a tiny proportion of the total. I'm told that the regular Rangers are now having to work at other parks in the Lichfield District and the casual summer labour has come to a close so just how this daunting task is to be completed is anyone's guess.  (GE)
Willow clearance - 21st September

September 13th

The photo at the head of this news page shows a Willow Tit which is still a regular breeder in the Chasewater, Cuckoo Bank and Little Wyrley areas but greatly reduced in numbers over the past 20 years or so. I remember that during local fieldwork for the BTO Winter Atlas in the early 1980's it was the third most frequently encountered tit after Blue and Great. This certainly is not the case now with Coal and Long-tailed Tits considerably outnumbering Willow which has probably declined by 50% locally during this period. However, the situation nationwide is far worse as highlighted in a recent article from Wildlife (Scan down the Recent Wildlife News column to find the article copied below).

Willow tit and lesser spotted woodpecker disappearing from Britain

Now among country's rarest nesting birds

September 2011: Two formerly widespread British nesting birds have now become so scarce their numbers will be monitored by a special panel of experts charting the UK's rarest breeding birds.

The populations of both lesser spotted woodpecker and willow tit are only a fraction of the levels recorded in the 1970s, when they were widespread. The numbers of both species have plummeted in Britain over the past three decades, and they are now only patchily recorded across their former ranges. The Rare Breeding Birds Panel, which has been collating records of our rarest nesting birds since 1973, has announced it will now be collating records of lesser spotted woodpecker and willow tit nesting in Britain.

Numbers fallen by 90 per cent
The RSPB's Dr Mark Eaton, a member of the panel, said: "It is tragic to think that within many people's memories these woodland birds were so widespread and now they are so rare. Since the 1970s, we've lost nine out of ten pairs of willow tit and three out of four pairs of lesser spotted woodpecker, and in many areas these birds have disappeared completely."

The Rare Breeding Birds Panel will also be considering three other species for the first time: long-eared owl and short-eared owl and the Arctic skua, a type of seabird confined in the UK to Scotland . These bring the list of regularly or occasional UK nesting species considered by the panel to 103.

Mark Holling is the Rare Breeding Birds Panel's secretary. He said: "With so many species in trouble, these reports provide an essential snapshot of how our most threatened birds are faring. Whether it's the spectacular increase of the red kite, or the near extinction of the wryneck and the red-backed shrike, our information arms conservation groups and government agencies to help our rarest and most vulnerable birds."

Our best hope may be larger tracts of ancient woodland
Martin Harper, RSPB's conservation director, said: "At a time when Britain was carpeted with forest, the lesser spotted woodpecker could have been among our most widespread birds.

Our scientists are trying desperately to establish why this little sprite is vanishing from so many sites. Perhaps its best hope for survival lies in the larger tracts of ancient woodland. Knowing the distribution of the species will give the best chance of hanging on to this endearing bird."

Between 1970 and 2008 the willow tit and lesser spotted woodpecker have declined by 91 and 76 per cent respectively. Every year, since 1970, the British population of willow tit has declined by over six per cent per year, and over the same period, the lesser spotted woodpecker has declined by three per cent per year.

The British sub-species Poecile montana kleinschmidti is almost unique to England and Wales as it does not occur in Ireland and most of Scotland. The huge decline throughout most of the country must put the bird's existence in jeopardy so I feel any management plan for the new SSSI must embrace the needs of our Willow Tits and not just the heathland habitat. Please report any sightings of Willow Tits (and Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers which are even rarer locally) so that we can build up our knowledge of their numbers, territories and preferred habitats throughout the year. (GE)

September 12th

The Chasewater Dam blog has been updated after a break of 5 weeks and it's an interesting read.

The following section of the update refers to the 'plug-hole' area:

There has been a lot of activity and progress made since the last posting including carrying out the inspection of the original drawdown culvert which was drained and inspected during August. 

The results of the inspection showed the culvert to be in remarkably good condition and it has been agreed that no remedial works are necessary to the brickwork. 

An unrecorded chamber some 20 metres from the inlet was discovered during the inspection and the engineers have been considering how this asset can be utilised in the future management of the dam. 

In addition one of the main penstocks was found to be damaged and a formal inspection is being carried out by specialists this week.

Plans have been drawn up to make improvements at both the inlet and outlet of the drawdown culvert and works will commence shortly.

The photos on the blog show the remarkable brickwork that runs through the dam and it's encouraging to know time won't be needed to repair it. However, it is clear that work needs to be done on the damaged penstock and at both the inlet and outlets so it is presumed that the 'plug will not be put back' for quite a while.

The installation of the filter drain at the base of the dam on the downsteam [I think they meant 'downstream'] side was competed [completed] during August and work is now well underway to re-grade the slope of the lower embankment and we are also installing additional gravel drains on the downstream slope to assist with future monitoring.

September 10th (GE)
Draining work - September 7th (GE)


We will be taking the opportunity to improve the condition of certain areas of the front face of the dam and this is likely to be localised using materials already on site.

The overflow arrangements for the dam (Nine Foot Pool) have been completely redesigned and plans for an improved drawdown system which will be used at times of heavy rain have been drawn up. 

The construction sequence to complete these works is being looked at and works are on-going but it is likely that this will be the last part of the works to be completed.

The Nine-foot/Weir part of the works are a long way off completion but if the dry weather continues I don't think there will be any need for an overflow for several years! The first 9 months of the year have been the driest since the drought of 1976 when the level of Chasewater fell to 4 metres below maximum. However, the winter of 1976/7 was the wettest on record and the lake was full by May 1977. The lake is currently 8 metres below maximum and it will need an exceptionally wet winter to make an impact on the water level.


We hope to be in a position shortly to announce when we anticipated [I think they mean 'anticipate' since we already know when they 'anticipated'] the works will be complete and, critically, when the dam [reservoir] can start re-filling.

We are still in the world of hopes and anticipation but surely the works can't be too far off completion. There is no mention of any work to the southern part of the dam, apart from the Nine-foot area nor the removal of one set of steps along Norton East Road in order to block a potential overflow point. We will hope to get more detail at the next Stakeholders' meeting next week.


September 5th - by G Evans

The last month has seen a great deal of activity on the dam although nothing has been reported on the LDC Chasewater Dam Blog so I'll try to describe what appears to have been going on.

These two photos show the same part of the dam. The photo on the left was taken on August 21st whilst the one on the right was taken yesterday. Huge quantities of granite stone and chippings have been built up against the lower embankment at a gradient of around 1:2.5. The granite is insoluble and wont affect the pH of the remains of the SSSI bog. I've been told that the granite is coming in from Derbyshire although I don't know of any granite quarries in the region other than that at Mountsorrel, Leicestershire.
August 21st
September 4th
It would appear that this covering of granite will continue along the complete length of the northern section of the dam and then be covered by a 20cm thick layer of top-soil. If original plans are to be followed then the mid-terrace or berm will be raised by about 60cm and the embankment above it graded to the new level. The pipes in the photo below look about 25cm in diameter and could be used as relief wells along the length of the toe drain but are actually being used to create a drain along the length of the berm.
September 4th


September 4th


The Nine-foot and Weir -28th August

No further work appears to have been started along the southern section of the dam with all the activity centred on the Nine-foot Pool and Weir which are, as the photo shows, being completely reconstructed to a considerably higher specification than was previously the case, but it is nowhere near completed. The coffer dam has served its purpose of allowing an examination of the outlet pipe to be made but I don't know the outcome of the investigations so just when the 'plug will go back in' is not known. Meanwhile, the invasive willows and reedmace are completely changing the nature of the lake bed as the photos below show. The Rangers are attempting to clear some of the hundreds of thousands of willows but I fear the lake's ecology will take many years to return to anything like its former state.


4th September
4th September
The work on the Causeway has been completed, including all the fencing but the Swag remains very low with only a small trickle of water currently flowing into it from the stream flowing from No Man's Bank. Norton Brook is dry. The Swag will need to fill considerably before water will flow into the main lake.
Causeway - 25th August
Swag - 1st September

August 10th

On the causeway work has now started on replacing the fence between the footpath and railway line.


Work continues at the north end of the dam with the toe-drain gravel now partly covered and the removed material recontoured. There was also continued activity at the 'plug-hole' and Nine-foot so progress is certainly being made.

August 9th

On August 3rd the Chasewater Dam Blog was updated and included some useful general information. It is clear that these updates will continue to be issued very much on Staffs CC's terms and no comments are being published or encouraged.

I'm amazed that the fencing on the causeway, between the rail track and footpath, hasn't been repaired or replaced but I'm sure risk assessments must have been made and everything is in order to allow the trains to run without endangering the public.
Causeway 9th August

The regrading of the lower slopes of the dam will presumably use the ground gained by the toe-drain to create a gentler gradient and it is likely any remaining tree roots will be removed. It is likely that there will be infill of some of the hollows at the south end of the dam.

The photos below show the outlet pipe being drained within the coffer dam and the resultant sludge is being pumped into a pool on the lake bed. The sludge, which is quite heavily contaminated by 200 years of accumulated industrial chemicals, is quite lawfully being kept on site despite being within the SSSI. If it were to be taken off site all sorts of restrictions would have to be adhered to in its disposal.

Outlet pipe -9th August


Sludge from outlet pipe - 9th August.


This 16m wide and 120m long channel has been cut from the formerly botanically rich shore in order to allow ski-boats to access the water more easily when it has risen 6m higher than its current level. Permission had to be granted by Natural England since it is part of the SSSI. The building up and cutting off of the Island was included in the application but we don't know whether this will go ahead. The digger and truck were taken off site today (GE).
Waterski channel -9th August


July 19th

Today work continued on the toe-drain/filter, the steel reinforcement cages for the new concrete weir at the Nine-foot continued to be assembled and a temporary access road was being laid to the draw-down outlet in preparation for the coffer dam to be constructed (GE).

July 18th

Yesterday there was an opportunity to look more closely at the dam works and the effect it's having on the SSSI wetland below the dam.


Apart from the Nine-foot area, all works are currently centred on the north half of the dam. At the base of the dam the toe-drain appears to consist of a 20-30cm thick layer of filter sand against the lowest 2-3m of the dam face and the rest of the space to the sheet piles is filled with over 2m of course gravel. I imagine this will be covered by a layer of the peaty clay that has been removed and stored at the north end of the dam and allowed to vegetate naturally. I can't see how any of the stored wetland plants could survive on such a well drained site so its very unlikely that they will be relocated here.

Bog mats and sheet piles.



Sandy Bay
Some progress at the Nine-foot

The photo above shows just how close the works are to one of the most special areas of the Site of Special Scientific Interest. The area in the lower left hand corner of the photo is part of the acidic Sphagnum lawn that supported many hundreds of specimens of the rare and fascinating insectivorous Round-leaved Sundews as well as Cranberry, Crowberry and Cross-leaved Heath. The photo below shows the site in 1975 when it was in its prime and despite being designated a SSSI in 1987, little has been done to maintain these conditions. The works on the dam, particularly the sheet piles, have completely changed the site's hydrology and despite the best efforts of Penny Anderson Associates, the consultant ecologists, I fear that we will never see the site return to its former condition. PAA has installed 75cm deep plastic piles on the edge of the bog to try to hold back as much of the acidic water as possible but the sphagnum is dry and grazed by rabbits and there is not a single sundew plant.

September 1975


Once the habitat for thousands of Round-leaved Sundews


Polytrichum appears to be replacing the sphagnum


I find it quite amazing that Natural England has declared the site to be in 'Favourable' condition and it just makes one believe that yet another target achieving exercise has been completed by someone desperate to keep their job. The following has been taken from the Nature on the Map website:

Chasewater And The Southern Staffordshire Coalfield Heaths

SSSI condition summary

The following information is based upon details compiled on 01 Jun 2011 by Adam Dempsey the Natural England staff member responsible for the SSSI.

Glossary of terms

PSA target

The Government's Public Service Agreement (PSA) target to have 95% of the SSSI area in favourable or recovering condition by 2010.

Main habitat

The broadest classification of the feature on the unit selected from a list of habitats based on the BAP Broad Habitat classification.

Unfavourable recovering

Unfavourable recovering condition is often known simply as 'recovering'. SSSI units are not yet fully conserved but all the necessary management measures are in place. Provided that the recovery work is sustained, the SSSI will reach favourable condition in time.

In many cases, restoration takes time. Woodland that has been neglected for 50 years will take several years to bring back into a working coppice cycle. A drained peat bog might need 15-20 years to restore a reasonable coverage of sphagnum.


Favourable condition means that the SSSI land is being adequately conserved and is meeting its 'conservation objectives', however, there is scope for the enhancement of these sites.

Latest assessment date

The date when the latest condition assessment was carried out.




Area (ha)



Date of assessment


Hednesford  Hills


Dwarf shrub heath

Unfavourable recovering



Restored 'Bleak House'


Dwarf shrub heath

Unfavourable recovering



Cuckoo Bank


Dwarf shrub heath

Unfavourable recovering



No Man's Bank


Dwarf shrub heath

Unfavourable recovering



Norton Bog


Dwarf shrub heath

Unfavourable recovering



North Shore Heath


Dwarf shrub heath

Unfavourable recovering



Dam marsh/bog


Fen, marsh and swamp




Heath south of canal


Dwarf shrub heath

Unfavourable recovering



Raceway Heath


Dwarf shrub heath

Unfavourable recovering



Brownhills Common


Dwarf shrub heath

Unfavourable recovering



Biddulph's Pool


Fen, marsh and swamp




Slurry Pool


Standing open water




Lake and Swag


Standing open water

Unfavourable recovering





Standing open water




Sandhills Heath


Dwarf shrub heath

Unfavourable recovering


The total area of the SSSI is 530ha

SSSI name: Chasewater And The Southern Staffordshire Coalfield Heaths

% Area meeting PSA target

% Area favourable

% Area unfavourable recovering

% Area unfavourable no change

% Area unfavourable declining

% Area destroyed / part destroyed







Target achieved!!!!

How can anyone who has actually visited the site say that the Lake is 'recovering'; its probably in the worst state of its 200 year history and I just don't believe that 'all the necessary management measures are in place'. How are they going to guarantee the quality of the water that will eventually refill the lake? How are they going to re-establish the quality of the flora of the littoral zone, the Floating Water-plantain and the 9 species of pondweed? Will attempts be made to re-establish the crayfish population? No wonder they refused to include the bird populations into the SSSI notification, despite qualifying in several respects, since I fear that it will be a long time before we see the Tufted Duck and Goldeneye numbers anywhere near the levels before the lake was drained.

Perhaps they will argue that as the SSSI wasn't notified till December 2010, the state of the lake at that time will be used as a baseline and not the way it was prior to this unnecessarily prolonged period of total drawdown.

G Evans

July 16th

'Next week' has clearly arrived and we have another update (dated 13th July) which reads:

Sorry this is a little late, here's a recent update. Thanks to you all for your patience:

  • The installation of the toe drain to the northern end of the dam continues to progress well.
    The review of the works to the nine-foot pool has been completed to enable construction to restart in this area.
  • During July a cofferdam will be installed in front of the inlet to the main reservoir drawdown culvert which will enable the culvert to be exposed, cleaned and inspected for damage. This will mean that no further water drawdown will be required in the reservoir, other than locally around the inlet.
  • It is hoped that within two to three weeks our team (county council) and Galliford Try will know what remedial works are required to the drawdown culvert. This will help us to provide an indication of when the reservoir can start to refill.


The county team

It seems that the review of the key elements of the works has been completed, apart from the matter of the drawdown culvert and large parts of the original plan are not now going to be undertaken. The toe-drain has superseded the sand filters, there is no mention of the French drain around the residential properties or any work at the southern end of the dam. The coffer-dam must be installed as soon as possible to allow the examination of the drawdown culvert and for decisions to be made by the first week in August.

The Toe-drain works (we hope!) - 13th July


Peaty mud is being excavated from between the foot of the dam and the sheet piles and stored at the north end. It is replaced by a depth of up to 2.5m of gravel.


Anglesey Basin -10th July

The silt curtains in the canal are now largely redundant since there will not be any further major draining of the lake and no need for any further fish capture.

The Nine-foot works (well it did but now it doesn't) - 10th July

The Nine-foot bridge and weir appear to be the major works requiring completion but not requiring the lake to be anywhere near so far drained.


South end of the dam - 10th July

There has been no mention of any works to this part of the dam since October 2010 when LDC stated: "In December, Galliford Try will start to install the filters to the downstream face of the dam (the face away from the water. We'll start work at the southern end, and aim to complete a small section before Christmas."

G Evans

July 8th

The Dam Blog for June 27th reads:

Here's the update from the county team this week:

  • The work behind the north embankment sheet piles is continuing and should be complete by early August.
  • Reconstruction of the weir in the 9 Foot Pool will begin this week.
  • Strimming of vegetation from the downstream face of the dam will be carried out shortly.
  • With the scheme review progressing well, we are now working with Galliford Try and the Panel Engineer to finalise the details and programming for the completion of the outstanding works.

More next week.

Well today is the end of 'next week' and so far there hasn't been an update. Yesterday evening I took these shots of the dam showing the sheet piles and the extent and depth of the 'filter material' which is very coarse and gravelly.

It will be fascinating to find out how much variation in cost and design there will be from the original plan as a result of the scheme review (GE).


June 17th

The Dam Works - well it has for over 200 years!

The works on the dam are in a state of hiatus whilst Staffordshire County Council along with a newly appointed team assess what is needed to be done to ensure the dam's safety. Works that have been started such as the causeway culvert and Nine-foot bridge and weir will be completed but it would appear that the rest of the works are in a state of re-assessment and revision. The pile driving at the foot of the dam has stopped and rumour has it that the piles could even be taken out if the revised programme dictates. The pipe from the 'plug-hole' to the valve house needs to be inspected before any repair work can be decided and efforts are being made to get access to the outlet without having to drain the rest of the lake as Staffs CC are mindful that the more they drain out the longer it will take to re-fill.

It goes without saying that the Sailing Club and other water users are increasingly concerned about their ability to survive if the lack of water continues beyond two years.

The Dam Blog for June 13th reads:

Here's the update for this week from the county team:

  • The sheet piling to the toe of the northern end of the embankment is complete.
  • Excavation and placement of filter material behind the sheet piles will start this week along with the removal of the bog mats.
  • The tops of the piles will then be trimmed to match the ground profile.
  • Installation of additional silt curtains in the canal will commence this week.
  • There are still some minor works outstanding at the causeway which will be completed over the next couple of weeks.
  • The review of the remaining key elements of the works is progressing. 

Clearly all is progressing well and we will soon be on the road to normality. (GE)


BTO Atlas

Every 20 years, the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) organises a survey of the breeding and wintering birds of Britain and Ireland. The results have been published in two superb volumes which include distribution and abundance maps for every species based upon the 10 square km square of the Ordnance Survey. The current survey has been covering the last 4 years and will be finishing at the end of July. The square SK00 covers the area of Chasewater, Clayhanger and Stubbers Green as well as the rich farmland and woodland of Little Wyrley and the Stonnall area and so far 74 species have been proven to breed.

However, proof of breeding is still need for the following species: Ruddy Duck, Barn Owl, Little Owl, Kingfisher, Pheasant, Grey Partridge, Red-legged Partridge, Yellow Wagtail and Stonechat, all of which have probably bred in the last 4 years. For example, did anyone see any young Stonechats on the North Heath in 2009 or Ruddy Ducks on the Slurry Pool in 2008?

It would be great to get as accurate a picture of our local birdlife as possible and any new information would be greatly appreciated. Its well worth logging on to and registering with the BTO Atlas site in order to access an amazing array of information and be able to add any additional records.

Most of Cuckoo Bank lies in the square SK01 which also includes Gentleshaw Common, the eastern half of Cannock Chase, the Trent around Handsacre and Hill Ridware and the farmland around Chorley. Proof of breeding is still needed for Tufted Duck, Red-legged and Grey Partridges, Pheasant, Kestrel, Lapwing, Collared Dove, Cuckoo, Little Owl, Tawny Owl, Nightjar, Green Woodpecker, Garden Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Willow Tit and Jay.

Proof of breeding can include seeing adult birds carrying food or faecal sack, seeing newly fledged or downy young, distraction display etc.

G. Evans

May 26th
The track is now in place (GE)
But still plenty to do (GE)
Really good progress appears to have been made on the causeway with the track now relaid over the new culvert by the specialist company Trackwork. Presumably its now up to Galliford Try to make safe, if not complete, the area in time for the Bank Holiday weekend. Let's hope that there are no last minute problems and at least one of Chasewater's users can return to a degree of normality.

Several information signs have been posted along the South and West Shores regarding the Little Ringed Plovers, at least 5 pairs of which have now hatched young (GE).

May 23rd

On Wednesday 18th April, Lichfield DC passed over control of Chasewater to Staffordshire County Council. However, it was not until Wednesday 18th May that the deal was finally announced through the following press release.

Chasewater Country Park and its reservoir have been transferred to Staffordshire County Council in a strategic move set to secure and strengthen the long-term future of this key regional resource.

Chasewater Country Park is home to one of the largest reservoirs in the West Midlands and a country park that attracts around 150,000 visitors a year.

County Councillor Mark Winnington, Cabinet Member for Environment and Assets, said: "Chasewater Country Park consists of 360 hectares of open space, and is a fantastic fit for the county's property portfolio.

It will join our network of 12 country parks and open spaces which are run as leisure attractions and havens for wildlife.

We are already looking at potential ways of developing Chasewater further as a cultural and economic facility. The county council operates the Chasewater Innovation Centre which has tremendous development potential. The site also lies very close to where the Staffordshire Hoard was discovered, and we are keen to work with our Mercian Trail partners to see what opportunities could exist for telling the story of this breathtaking piece of our local history at Chasewater.

We are also keen to develop relations with all the many community groups that currently use Chasewater and seek their views on the site's potential. This will include Chasewater Railway, the sailing club, wildlife group and other stakeholder groups. There is also the county council run Outdoor Education Centre that could benefit. We will look at all options to draw more people to the area and benefit the local economy.

We will build on the good work Lichfield District Council has carried out up to this point.

To date Chasewater Country Park and reservoir have been owned and managed by Lichfield District Council, which inherited the park in 1994 following a local authority boundary change. Since then, millions of pounds have been pumped into the park's transformation, thanks to the work of the district and county council, together with external grant funding.

The reservoir provides British Waterways with essential water to maintain levels in the Birmingham Canal Network, and beyond. The reservoir is currently empty, as essential multi-million pound improvement works to the dam take place."

Councillor Val Richards, Deputy Leader of Lichfield District Council, explains: "It is most unusual for a small district council like ours to be responsible for managing such an integral part of the nation's infrastructure. Managing an asset of this size places a huge burden on the district council and our small number of council tax payers. We are incredibly grateful to the team at Staffordshire County Council for working alongside us, and for agreeing to take over the future ownership and management of the park and dam.

Under the move Chasewater Country Park will continue to be managed by a team at Lichfield District Council for the next three years and the county council will lead the completion of the essential improvement works to the dam."

Councillor Mark Winnington continued: "We have a broad range of skills within the county council that include complex engineering project management such as the dam improvements.

Staffordshire County Council and Lichfield District Council are committed to ensuring that the public will continue to be able to enjoy the attractions of Chasewater in coming years, and that through the works to the dam, the safety of all those living nearby will be secured. There will be no additional costs to the tax payer as a result of the transfer, and once the works are complete local people and visitors will be able to enjoy Chasewater Country Park at its very best once again."

The Stakeholders' Meeting that immediately followed this announcement followed its usual course with only rather vague estimates given by Galliford Try for the completion of any stage of the works.

There was rare optimism from the Chasewater Railway that the causeway culvert works will be completed in time for them to use the whole line during the Bank Holiday weekend (May 28th-30th). Let's hope that this is the case, though I'm not the only one with serious doubts. The change in gradient means that all the drivers will have to be re-trained!

The pile-driving was started during the afternoon of the 18th May and by the weekend 16 had been driven into to area below the dam, just upstream from the SSSI sphagnum lawn. After the 120+ piles have been installed the ground behind them will be excavated in readiness for the filter sand, the source of which has yet to be 100% confirmed.

The main lake will, after all, have to be drawn down to at least 2m below the level of works which means it will be practically emptied and British Waterways will conduct another fish-capture in roughly a month's time. The coffer dam can then be constructed around the 'plug-hole' and the pipe leading to the valve-house relined.

The works around the Nine-foot culvert are progressing slowly but the rock wall designs have been agreed and work will start on them in around 3 weeks time.

At the time of the meeting the silt curtain, to protect the rare plants in the canal, hadn't been fully installed but would be soon.

LDC knew of one pair of Little Ringed Plovers and they had put a sign on the pier to warn people that they had just walked over the breeding territory in order to read it. This pair is now trying again a little further towards the castle. Clearly none of LDC officers read this web-site and have not communicated with The Ecological Consultants with whom I had a meeting and sent them a map showing 9 Little Ringed Plover breeding territories.

Everyone I have spoken to has been very concerned and fascinated by the rare, protected plovers and have wondered why the Council hasn't put up information signs or fencing this year. I have now decided to describe in the diary precise details of the nesting Little Ringed Plovers since the threat of accidental disturbance through ignorance is far greater than that of deliberate vandalism. I will also be in regular email contact with the site manager, Kevin Yates and I urge everyone with any concern to do likewise.

G Evans.


May 11th

There's a strange atmosphere around the site at the moment with many of the regular walkers, joggers, anglers and birders carrying their own versions of just what's going on. I didn't receive an email with the revised date for April's Stakeholders' Meeting so I missed out on the latest LDC version of developments and its only been in the last day that, after a break of nearly 3 weeks, the Dam Blog has been updated and here it is:

Sorry we've been a bit quiet with Easter, the Royal Wedding and last week's elections, it's been a bit busy at the DC. But we're back now and here is our latest update.

Since the last update, we've progressed with the following:

  • We've continued work at the causeway, the issues regarding levels and wingwalls now seem to have been addressed and we hope to get the railway back and running by the bank holiday.
  • We've laid foundations and the culverts for the new bridge on the eastern dam the have been laid.
  • The track has been laid to the toe of the dam and the piles have been moved to the toe, ahead of the arrival of the piling rig. We expect the rig to arrive later this week, and we hope that the piling can be completed in about 4-5 weeks.
  • We will also be installing the silt curtains in the canal this week.

A reply to someone's concern regarding reports in the press that the project has been delayed was answered with:

We anticipate finishing before the end of the year and, depending on rainfall, it'll take 2-4 years to completely re-fill.

The 'plug' will go back in as soon as the outlet pipe has been re-lined. We're hoping that this will be completed by the middle of summer, but we'll keep you posted.

All in all there's a lot of 'hoping', 'seeming' and 'anticipating' but bearing in mind that the original legal deadline for the completion was October 2011, then clearly there are problems.

Perhaps the one most evident at the moment is the new culvert in the causeway, which apparently was installed at a level that didn't allow for the required depth of ballast to be laid on top and the photo below shows the activity currently going on trying to rectify the problem, including the arrival of a new mountain of ballast.

The Chasewater Railway lost its lucrative Easter holiday schedules and the Swag cannot be allowed to refill until the problem has been rectified. The Swag is an important repository of ecological resources and it was hoped to be able to retain it in as optimal condition for as long as possible but the extended duration of this relatively minor part of the overall project has led to the Swag being drawn down for far longer than anticipated. One of the effects is that there is now the possibility of the specially protected Little Ringed Plovers attempting to nest on the Swag's exposed shore, which could result in the refilling being delayed even longer and possibly causing irreparable damage to its ecology. So now we have a rather contradictory situation where signs have been put up informing the public that they should not disturb the plovers but posts have been stuck in the mud to attract crows so they can predate any nesting attempt. The ecological consultants have really been put into some incredibly difficult positions due to the failure to complete the project anywhere near the original timescale and their recommendations for the Swag are completely understandable and are prioritising the long-term future of the pool.

 However, the problems at the Swag are only a small element of the damaging environmental issues facing the whole site as a result of the unfortunate delay in completing the job.

LDC has decided not to protect the breeding Little Ringed Plovers and Ringed Plovers this year by fencing off the shoreline due to last year's loss of fencing and they have, for some time, assured the ecological consultants that signs will be put up. However, the plovers have now been on territory for the past month and I have seen no sign of any signs apart from those at the Swag. I am spending much of my time trying to inform and redirect people away from the nest sites which tend to be on the raised, pebbly areas of the shore and not on the water's edge. This photo of a nesting Ringed Plover shows just how difficult they are to see and this particular nest was almost trodden on by a visiting birder and two dog-walkers in a matter of ten minutes yesterday.

Ringed Plover (GE)

Temminck's Stint (GE)

I had to break from writing this piece when I received the news that a Temminck's Stint had been found on the sailing shore. It was the first Chasewater record of this rare wader for 31 years (last seen on 19th/20th May 1980) and I went to enjoy seeing the bird. However, the occurrence of such a rare bird was bound to attract a large number of birders if we released the news and we've been trying hard to minimise disturbance but it was decided that as long as everyone was made aware of the breeding plovers and where it was safe to view from then spreading the news would cause no harm (GE).

A much better day than has been the norm lately was tarnished by the sight of smoke rising from near the Nine-foot and fire-fighters were soon on the scene to fight yet another heath fire (GE).


March 16th - Stakeholders meeting

A much more positive meeting tonight since the last couple of weeks have seen the start of a lot of activity on the dam. The Nine-foot area has seen the greatest activity recently and whilst work is in progress valuable soil and vegetation is being stored on the site of the former stadium which is now part of the new SSSI.

The Swag is currently being lowered to allow the new culvert to be in place before Easter and around the end of March the lake will be pumped down a further metre to 143 AOD to allow the coffer dam to be installed around the 'plug-hole'. The planned date for 'putting back the plug' is mid-June but, of course, it will very much depend on the summer weather whether the water-levels go up or further down!

The filter sand has been sourced fairly locally and appears to be of the correct type and quality but the Inspecting Engineer is currently on holiday and so the final decision cannot yet be made (GE).


February 16th - Stakeholders meeting

'Tough going' is now the expression used to describe the works on the dam. Every effort is being put into completing the operation as soon as possible but no-one is now daring to mention dates beyond the realm of hopes and wishes. At least there was a genuine atmosphere of regret and concern and a lot of worried faces, particularly from the representatives from the Sailing and Waterski Clubs. (GE).


February 10th - SSSI (G Evans)

I thought I'd better start making a few comments about the SSSI notification as its now nearly two months since it was made and we have until April 18th to make an official reply. These will be very much 'thoughts' that will be developed as time allows.

Firstly, we are pleased that, at long last, an extensive corridor of open land between ever expanding urbanisation has been given the protection afforded by SSSI status. An example of how important this is was demonstrated back in the 1980's when the Bleak House opencast application was made. The initial application in 1983 was to work about 19 million tonnes over a period of about 23 years, affecting 533 hectares from Rawnsley in the north to Norton Canes in the south. Concerns were expressed regarding the size and duration of opencast operations (but not particularly the ecological damage) and a scaled down application was made in 1985 to work 6.3 million tonnes of coal, affecting 334 hectares over a period of 12 years. The restoration plans involved the creation of farmland with patches of woodland and a nature trail through a recreated pool at the former Biddulph's Pool!  After frantic work by the Staffordshire Nature Conservation Trust, Nature Conservancy Council and local action groups the Biddulph's Pool and No Man's Bank SSSI's were notified on 28th November 1986, just at the very start of the Public Enquiry. Without this SSSI designation the outcome would have been very different and our local environment would have been massively poorer than is currently the case. The prime areas were saved and large areas of what was mined had to be restored to a range of wet and dry heathland; something not even considered in the original application. The success of the restoration is reflected in the fact that all the recreated heathland is included in the new SSSI and is a beautiful, diverse and uplifting area to feel part of.

So how does all this relate to the new Chasewater and the Southern Staffordshire Coalfield Heaths SSSI?

In 1987, the Chasewater Heaths SSSI was notified and the controlling local councils have been responsible for the management of the designated areas to the north and east of the reservoir.

The SSSI designations in the 1980's prevented 'development' from destroying scientifically important land or where mining was permitted the restoration had to be to very exacting standards. This surely must be good news for the much more extensive area covered by the new SSSI but upon close examination very little of the designated area is under any threat of 'development' but the following areas have been deliberately omitted from the SSSI despite their biological importance and ability to satisfy the requirements made in the following statement from the SSSI notification guidelines:

The Guidelines state that:

'When one...habitat...on its own is regarded as being of SSSI quality... the addition of an adjoining different habitat (even though this might not qualify as an SSSI on its own) will often expand the value of the first. Considered as a single site, the value of the whole is enhanced and not diluted by this addition.'

The omissions are:

Plant Swag: only separated from the SSSI by the by-pass and home to at least 13 species of dragonflies (by Guideline definition an 'outstanding assemblage'), the scarce Dingy Skipper butterflies, several scarce plants such as Greater Spearwort, Lesser Reedmace and Gallingale as well as the UK Biodiversity Action Plan species Willow Tits, Reed Buntings and Bullfinches. It could qualify as a SSSI in its own right and certainly satisfies the Guideline statement above but it lies in an industrial/commercial development zone and it could pose planning problems if it were part of the SSSI.

Land between Milestone Way and Church Street: designated a Site of Biological Importance (SBI) but LDC want to build 425 houses on this land (click here for details) and are currently cutting down all the trees and scrub to ensure that all the Whitethroats, Garden Warblers, Blackcaps, to name but a few, can't start nesting this year. I wonder why?

Church Street Open Space: part of the above SBI but a Greenfield site and a real gem that brilliantly adds to the bio-diversity of the whole area. It supports many thousands of Adders-tongue ferns, a regionally scarce plant that is a good indicator of undisturbed, uncultivated ground. There are good populations of butterflies and moths, breeding Willow Tits and warblers including Lesser Whitethroats and at least 12 species of dragonfly have been seen. LDC intend to build houses on this site.

Ironstone Road Heath: a strange omission from the SSSI as it's the only part of the Cuckoo Bank area of heath to fall within Lichfield District Council. No lesser area of heath than much of that included in the SSSI and absolutely adjacent to it but excluded.

Highfield Farm (between the motorway and A5) : currently in the Green Belt and adding another habitat type to the site and increasing the bio-diversity. LDC want to take it out of Green Belt and use it for housing.

Brownhills Common (south of the Chester Road): this important link in the ecological corridor through to the Clayhanger SSSI and Wyrley Common has been omitted from the SSSI despite being within the area of search. This is the one area of Brownhills Common that has had little management since the fires of 1976 and unlike the more 'tamed' areas (ie mown and planted with conifers) either side of The Parade it has a very diverse ecology with a wide range of ferns including the scarce Intermediate Polypody, an excellent dragonfly population, including Red-eyed Damselfly, breeding Willow Tits, herds of Red Deer and a good range of heathland plants including Cowberry, Bilberry, Bell Heather and Heath Rush as well as sphagnum filled bog pools. Admittedly there has been a prolific growth of birch over the past 35 years but a well designed and implemented management plan could restore this area to an excellent area that would enhance the whole SSSI. Could the reason for its exclusion be anything to do with the wishes of some who would like to opencast the coal and fire clay under the site? Planning permission was actually granted in the 1950's so the threat is still there and, without SSSI status, if mining were to be granted the restoration of the site could be for football pitches or even housing, so much for the wildlife corridor!

South Shore, West Shore and the Dam: it is understandable why these areas were left out of the SSSI since they are either in well established 'development' zones or in need of extensive repair. However, it's a pity that the patch of Bog Pimpernel on the South Shore is just outside the SSSI. The control of the constant erosion of the West Bank and the 'development' of the adjacent land will be interesting to monitor over the next few years.

(There is much more to follow - there's hardly been a word about the birds yet but there wasn't any mention in the SSSI notification either - I wonder why that is?)


February 8th - Dam/Causeway News

A pleasant chat today with a couple of the Galliford Try chaps resulted in the following useful news:

  • The installation of the causeway culvert will now take place after the Chasewater Railway's Spring Gala on 19th/20th March but drawdown of the Swag by 1.24m from its current level will start in early March in preparation for the works.

  • The coffer dam around the 'plug-hole' will not be in place till much later in the year to allow the level of the lake (<144m AOD) to be controlled as usual and works on the dam filters can be undertaken at this level. The coffer dam can then be installed and the pipe relined.

  • Once the filter sand has been sourced (I'm not sure whether it has been yet) there is a period of 2-3 weeks for testing before the Inspecting Engineer, Rod Bridle, can give the go-ahead for its installation.

Its interesting to scroll down to the October 20th entry (copied below) to see just how the schedule has changed;

In December, Galliford Try will start to install the filters to the downstream face of the dam (the face away from the water. We'll start work at the southern end, and aim to complete a small section before Christmas. We'll be monitoring this work closely, so we can make sure we learn all we can from installing the first few filters, and use this knowledge to best effect as we continue laying filters along the rest of the dam in the New Year. We'll also complete the fish rescue.
In January, work will really start in earnest. There will be a flurry of activity on site. The culverts in the causeway will be built during January and February, and between January and March we hope to start and complete works to the bridge and spillway, as well as lining the pipe that runs through the dam. We hope we can put the plug back in by the end of March, which is when the streams that feed the reservoir will start to refil it.

We will also be implementing the filter works to the northern end of the dam, which we hope to complete in the run up to summer.

 None of the work planned for December and January appears to have been started, apart from the unnecessary fish rescue! (GE)


February 4th - Warning for car drivers!

Last Saturday (29th January) evening two regulars who had been watching the gull roost found themselves locked in the park due to the barrier refusing to work when driven up to in the usual manner. Only a very careful and potentially damaging manoeuvre over the kerb between the two control boxes allowed an escape to be made. It later became clear that the reason for this failure was caused by a parked car several metres away on the left side of the road which was activating the barrier's locking system. There is no signage telling people not to park at this place but I was told tonight by the park manager that there was no point because 'people round here can't read'. He did, however, agree there may be a need for yellow lines and blamed the situation on the previous park manager Amanda Craig, who left several years ago!

So please don't park within 30 metres (to be sure) of the barrier but rest assured if you do get locked in all night you 'won't be charged extra' - somehow I get the feeling LDC can't wait to get out of the place. Why is it that whoever in authority you speak to, and try to help, you walk away from feeling angry and patronised? Perhaps I've just lost my sense of humour. GE

March 6th

Its good to see 'Keep Clear' boxes have now been painted on the road to stop people parking too close to the barriers. GE


Latest thoughts on the Dam Saga by Graham Evans

2nd February 2011

The Chasewater Dam Blog has now confirmed that water levels will not need to be drawn down below the level of the canal (144m) and it is implied that this will be the case even when installing the coffer dam around the 'plug-hole'. No mention is made of lowering the levels of the other discrete lakes to form effective overflow catchments so the fish populations appear to be reasonably safe, apart from natural predation. The relocation of the fish caught a couple of weeks ago can now be seen as nothing more than payment to British Waterways for doing an unnecessary 'fish rescue' - unless they kindly donated them back to Chasewater but I think we would have heard about if that had been the case!

It is said that the culverts are 'on their way' and that they hope to start work on the causeway 'very soon'. However, there is no mention of how much the Swag will have to be lowered to safely install the new culvert between the Swag and the main lake. A metre or so has been mentioned (but plans seem to frequently change) and this water will obviously add to the level  of the main lake and will have to be drained into the canal before the coffer dam is built.


21st January 2011

The Fish Rescue

The second phase of the fish rescue has now been completed by virtue of 2-3 sweeps of the net catching a handful of mature Pike, Perch and Roach a couple of days ago. The need to remove these fish off site on environmental or compassionate grounds has to be questioned as it seems likely that the water level of the main lake may now not need to be lowered any further than it went during the summer (144m AOD - canal level).

The only time it may have to go lower will be when the coffer dam around the 'plug-hole' is installed but this is so close to the present shoreline that hopefully a sizeable lake will still exist during this period. However, to ensure there is a viable overflow from the main lake during the works, the other large and discrete pools will be drained down so that water can be pumped into them from the main lake to maintain levels at 144m AOD.

It is said that these pools were effectively cleared of fish during the first phase of the fish rescue but the many Goosanders currently feeding on fish from these pools seem to indicate otherwise. If this proposed procedure goes ahead the fish populations of all the pools will have to be carefully monitored. Very few Cormorants have been present recently which probably indicates a paucity of medium sized fish as shown by this week's rescue efforts. However, it is likely that the Goosanders will continue to have easy pickings as they prefer to feed on smaller fish.

Why was the lake drained last year?

I'm just wondering how enthusiastic the water-sports people were when gleefully told on the Chasewater Dam Blog to look at the aerial photograph on Brownhills Bob's Blog of the empty lake taken last summer during the time the dam repair had been scheduled to be undertaken and completed. Yet a whole sailing/water-skiing season was lost whilst nothing significant appeared to have been achieved.

The blame has been put squarely on the shoulders of the Inspecting Engineer, Mr Rod Bridle, who in a letter dated 28th January 2010 said:

 "This is to confirm the urgency of commencing to release water from the reservoir in order to make it safe to carry out safety works this year, which is essential to comply with the requirements of the Reservoirs Act.

This would take us to mid-April. The contractor would then have only one month to install pumps and empty the reservoir to commence filter construction at the toe above the SSSI swamp on 17th May 2010, as planned to allow completion of the filter works during the summer months."

Quite clearly Mr Bridle only ordered the draining of the lake because he thought the work was going to be completed during the summer of 2010 and the only safety concern was regarding the carrying out of works not the imminent failure of the dam. I just hope that a whole year of drying out hasn't caused the dam to shrink and crack!

LDC's Dam Blog gave a different interpretation:

"Rod gave the instruction because the chance of the dam failing at that point was at a higher than acceptable level. By not draining the reservoir when we did, we would have been putting the public (towns, houses, villages) downstream at risk." 


 "Ultimately we had no choice, but more importantly, we realised the urgent need to do so, to protect local communities and the dam itself."

Comments like this from the Chasewater Dam Blog are sensationalised and self-damning (pun intended). Of course initial plans and schedules become amended for good or unavoidable reasons but a little bit of humility and concern for those inconvenienced along the way wouldn't go amiss. It appears that the only sense of urgency is to complete the repair by the legal deadline of October 2011 and if it means hardship for the users of the lake then so be it. I hope this is not the case and some sort of compensation is being offered to the Sailing Club, Watersports Centre and Outdoor Education Centre or even just an apology for taking a year longer than initially planned.


December 16th

Today is the official notification date for the new Chasewater and the Southern Staffordshire Coalfield Heaths SSSI. The maps below show the extent of the area and we will add our thoughts over the next few weeks - we have that many!.
Map showing the extent of the new
Chasewater and the Southern Staffordshire Coalfield Heaths SSSI
The green hatched area show the extensions to the previous SSSI's around Chasewater.
December 11th

Follow the links from the LDC's Chasewater Dam Blog to see the new leaflet that has been published to show the recommended footpaths during the works to the dam. It's good that the site's value for wildlife has been mentioned but what an incredible selection of species has been chosen! The following is a copy from the leaflet:

A great place for nature lovers

Flora and fauna

Wet lowland heathland has a unique mix of year-round damp conditions and highly acidic soil. This provides a wonderful place for rare plants to grow including English orchids, carnivorous Round-leaved Sundew and medicinal cranberry - traditionally used to treat kidney infections.


Chasewater is also the ideal habitat for rare animals including Nightjars, Great Crested Newts, and Water Voles. You may also spot Brown Long-eared Bats, Common Kestrel, Short-eared Owls, Grass Snakes, Common Lizards, Emperor Moths and Red Deer.

The average 'Nature Lover' would be hard-pressed to 'spot' most of the named species. In the 42 years I have been visiting the place (<10 000 visits) I have seen only 3 passage Nightjars, 1 Great Crested Newt, no Water Voles for 10 years, no Brown Long-eared Bats, 1 Emperor Moth and no Grass Snakes (although I have heard of two sightings in the past 6 years). And as to what an 'English orchid' is not even Google knows! There is no mention of any wildlife associated with the Lakes (regionally important flocks of Tufted Ducks and Goldeneye etc) and no butterflies or dragonflies. A main attraction of the general 'Nature Lover' are the swans which have recently been kept alive at great expense by a devoted group of people such as 'The Swan Lady' but the Council would have preferred them to have flown away to find their own food - so much for encouraging caring attitudes and respect for life. At least through the initiative of the excellent Rangers the profits from the sale of corn to the public throughout the year has allowed the purchase of extra feed during the winter. As usual, finances dictate which ethical code is followed.

'The Swan Lady'  (G Evans)
Part of the new 'information' board which is a large version of the leaflet (GE).

I suppose it can be claimed that Chasewater is 'the ideal habitat for rare animals' - let's hope that with the imminent extension to the Site of Special Scientific Interest and probable new control by Staffs County Council there may be better knowledge, commitment and management to encourage the rare animals to make a home in this ideal habitat. You never know there may yet be hope for the Willow Tits, Reed Buntings, Snipe, Lapwings, Little Ringed Plovers, Little Grebes, Green Hairstreaks, Dingy Skippers, White-clawed Crayfish and Round-leaved Wintergreens to name but a few of the UK Biodiversity Action Plan species we have at Chasewater (GE).


September 15th

Provisional date for contractors to start work on Dam.


After several months of waiting we now have a 'pencilled in' start date of October 4th for the commencement of works on the dam.
Galliford Try, the appointed contractor, is currently working on a revised programme and may undertake some preparatory works before October 4th.

October 1st

The start date has now been postponed to:

 'No later than November 1st'

October 20th

Copied below is the latest 'draft' programme of works as published on LDC's Dam Blog


Throughout November visitors to the site will see contractors erecting fences, and setting up compounds and on site. Materials like the culverts and sheet piles will be ordered, and we'll also start pumping the rest of the water out of the reservoir.

In December, Galliford Try will start to install the filters to the downstream face of the dam (the face away from the water. We'll start work at the southern end, and aim to complete a small section before Christmas. We'll be monitoring this work closely, so we can make sure we learn all we can from installing the first few filters, and use this knowledge to best effect as we continue laying filters along the rest of the dam in the New Year. We'll also complete the fish rescue.
In January, work will really start in earnest. There will be a flurry of activity on site. The culverts in the causeway will be built during January and February, and between January and March we hope to start and complete works to the bridge and spillway, as well as lining the pipe that runs through the dam. We hope we can put the plug back in by the end of March, which is when the streams that feed the reservoir will start to refil it.

We will also be implementing the filter works to the northern end of the dam, which we hope to complete in the run up to summer.

Whilst these milestones represent our current programme, we are mindful that factors like design changes, adverse ground conditions, weather and availability of materials can all impact on our progress. But we are confident that we are starting to make real progress.

Comment on latest draft programme

The current water level is a result of drawdown to canal level (144m AOD) by April followed by a dry spring and wet summer/autumn.

The draining of the lake will probably take the level down to around 142m AOD and it is thought that the plug will go back in by the end of March. Therefore from a lower starting point than this year it will need a very wet summer to even bring levels up to what they are now by the deadline date of October 2011.

The many thousands of willows that have invaded the lake bed will have another year of uninterrupted growth and the inspectors will have a rather bizarre scene of a dam holding back a sea of willows and an Outdoor Education Centre, Sailing Club and Watersports Centre wondering how on earth they will ever safely use the water again.

At least LDC are confident that they are starting to make real progress. But always remember that Chasewater is a place they 'had no real desire to own' and one 'they have taken as far as they can'.

Floating Water-plantain Luronium natans

From the LDC's Chasewater Dam blog for November 12th

Rare floating water plants from Chasewater will be spending this winter 'getting Matey' in unusual surroundings! During the works to the reservoir, the plants have been relocated to a number of covered and insulated baths at the Buxton offices of our ecological consultants Penny Anderson Associates.

Because of their protected status, we have had to get the permission of Natural England.  The plants (known as Luronium natans) are a rare aquatic species of floating water plantain, which is under threat in the Britain. There are only 18 known locations of populations in Britain, including Snowdonia, mid-Wales and areas of north-central England.

Despite its rariety, over 200 specimens were recovered from Chasewater, and they are set to remain in their temporary home until the reservoir starts to refill. The plant is not easy to spot unless it's flowering, when its delicate white flowers sit above the water surface. It's not terribly hardy and is sensitive to competition from other aquatic plants and algae. It is also vulnerable to high levels of nutrients entering the water from sewage or  agriculture. Chasewater has very little nutrient enrichment sources, and is a low nutrient type of lake (Oligotrophic) which experts believe is why it has thrived at Chasewater.

Photographs from our experts show that the plants are settling in well into their new homes, although there were some initial arguments about who was going to be placed at the tap end!

Ever since reading in E. S.  Edees'  Flora of Staffordshire (1972) that there were old records of Luronium in the Chasewater area I have been been fascinated by the plant and have found it in a number of locations and forms. Edees  states that 'in 1918 [Luronium was] abundant and flowering' at Cannock Chase Reservoir and at Norton Bog, around 1925, it was 'plentiful in shallow water'.

The only time I have ever found it flowering was in the early 1980's in the stream flowing into the Swag from Southacres Farm, but I can't find the photo I took at the time. It also occurs in the canal at the Anglesey Basin (where it was found in flower this summer and where 200 plants have been taken for safe-keeping - see LDC blog above), in Fly Bay, the Slurry Pool and Jeffrey's Swag where in the summer of 2005 it appeared to be abundant with much of the shoreline flotsum being composed of both the grass-like submerged leaves and the spoon-like floating leaves (see photo below).

(G Evans)

It also occurs in the Cannock Extension Canal from Pelsall North Common to Yate's Boatyard and this stretch has been designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and there is a very strong case for the same designation to be given to Chasewater (G Evans).               

Click here for more information from the Botanical Society of the British Isles.

The following information is taken from the above website as is the map which shows all the hetrads (10km x 10km squares)where the plant has been recorded this century (rather more than the '18 locations' mentioned by the LDC article but I suppose if 'Snowdonia' is regarded as a single location then we might as well say that the UK is one of the few 'locations' in the world where Luronium occurs!):

Luronium natans is protected in UK law under Schedule 8 of the Wildlife & Countryside Act, which makes it illegal to uproot or damage plants, or to collect them without a licence.

It is a priority species in the European Habitats Directive, legislation, which means that all native sites for it are designated SSSI or cSAC which, under the CROW Act, the landowner is obliged maintain in favourable condition. It is one of the most highly protected plant species in Britain.


The Chasewater / Cannock Extension dot is at (4,3)