This trail is situated in Sandwell Valley Country Park, 660 acres of woods, farmland, pools and streams located in the heart of the West Midlands. It follows the remains of a tramway that was used for delivering coal from the Sandwell Park Colliery Jubilee Pit to railway sidings and a canal wharf. It is an area of natural beauty with plenty of wildlife, scenic views, and roaming livestock.
Start at the Swan Pool Car Park and walk up to pool past the bath building of Sandwell Park Colliery. The building is now used by the Sandwell Valley Sailing Club and is the only structure from the colliery site that still stands.
Turn right and walk along the path next to the northern bank. This is the site of the Sandwell Saw Mill. The path then curves round to the left, you are now walking along the trackbed of the tramway used to transport coal from the Jubilee Pit of the Sandwell Park Colliery. If you walk onto the grass and look behind, you can see the embankment that was constructed for the tramway.
Walk south and enjoy the scenic view of Swan Pool and its birds. This area is known by the locals as the ‘Wasson’. When you reach a junction, continue straight. This area was known as ‘Warley Fields’. Continue along the path and then you will see a surviving footbridge that crosses the tramway trackbed on the left.
Walk around the bridge and you can get another great view of this little gem.
If you look closely at the ground, you can see the remains of loose stone and cast-iron bracings next to the tramway trackbed.
It’s difficult to continue along the track bed; however, there is a path that runs alongside. Keep following it south and you’ll eventually see remains of the iron fencing that existed either side of the tramway, most likely to stop the theft of coal.
Continue onwards and you’ll reach the remains of the another small footbridge, the way is now blocked by a fallen tree. Keep heading south and you’ll see more remains of iron fencing before reaching a path junction alongside an embankment for the nearby priory pool. This is where remains of the track bed start to become much more difficult to identify. It’s best to turn right, then left, which takes you back onto the main concrete path. At the end of the path, you’ll come to a T-junction, which marks where another footbridge would have existed over the tramway.
Because we cannot follow the tramway any further, at the T-junction, turn left and continue walking till you reach the remains of Sandwell Priory and the Sand Well, which is the how the borough got its name when formed in 1974.
Keep walking straight until you reach a road crossing on Park Lane. Before the crossing, turn left and continue on the path. Turn right at the end, then follow the path left. You will end up back at Swan Pool. Turn right and you are back at the sailing club building and the car park where you started.
The following remains are not part of the trail; however, we have provided details so visitors can find out more about what’s left of the colliery.
The track at the T-junction before Sandwell Priory did continue south where it joined another line from the main Sandwell Park Colliery pit, which connected to railway sidings and a coal wharf on the BCN Old Main Line canal. A billboard next to the canal marks the location of the concrete bunkers that were used to load narrowboats with coal. This spot is some distance away next to Summit Bridge.
The land has been heavily developed over the years, with the construction of the M5 J1 roundabout, various dual carriageways, and new industrial estates, not to mention the Sandwell Park Golf Club. This development has wiped out all remains of the tramway. In this photo, you can see the tramway as it approaches the Sandwell Hall Arch Lodge and continuing through Sandwell Valley towards the huge tip of the colliery.
You can approach the site of the main pit from Colliery Road off the A41. The road bridge over the railway line still exists, this would have been the main entrance to the colliery.
Head down the road and look through the metal fence at the end. There’s hardly any sign that this site was once a busting colliery.
There is a path to the right that leads down to the former Great Western Railway, which is now the Midland Metro. The brick abutments are the only remains left of the railway sidings that once existed next to the line.
Pay & display car park
How long does it take to walk the trail?
It will take you roughly one hour to walk this trail. If you wish to make the most of this area, consider visiting Sandwell Park Farm and Dartmouth Park which you can access via the footbridges over the M5 motorway.
What is the best spot for a picnic?
There are plenty of spots for a picnic. Our favourite would have to be the south-east shore of Swan Pool. It is a grassy bank and offers stunning views of the pool and its birds. Bear in mind this is a popular spot during hot days. If you prefer somewhere that’s a little more open, try the showgrounds in front of Sandwell Park Farm.
What wildlife does the trail offer?
Swan Pool is a haven for wild birds, expect to see:
- Canada geese
- Mute swans
- Tufted ducks
- Lesser black-backed gulls
- Great crested grebes
- Black-headed gulls
- Grey herons
If you intend to feed the birds, please feed them responsibly. You may also spot grey squirrels and robins. The fields are usually full of cattle and sheep.
How do I get to the trail?
It’s convenient to travel by car to this trail been as it starts in a car park. If you are travelling by bus, get off at the stops on the Newton Road by the Sandwell Valley Crematorium, then walk down Forge Lane and its continuation as Park Lane. It will take you roughly 20 minutes.
History of Sandwell Park Colliery
The existence of the colliery is attributed to the discovery of deep seams of coal around The Black Country, which are part the South Staffordshire Coalfield. The construction of an ever-growing railway network connected the coalfield with distant markets such as London and this in turn fuelled interest in expanding mining operations in the area .
1870 – The site of the colliery is chosen due to its strategic location next to a railway junction with lines to Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Stourbridge, and beyond. The site is also near the Birmingham Canal Navigations Main Line. The first sod was turned shortly after, this is the term for groundbreaking.
1874 – Shaft one was sunk to a depth of 418 yards (382 m) where the famous thick coal seam was discovered measuring 6 yards, 2 feet and 6 inches in thickness (6.25 m). The first line of the tramway is constructed from the shafts to a canal wharf nearby. The 2 ft gauge tramway uses an endless chain haulage system driven by a horizontal cylinder steam engine.
1876 – A second shaft is sunk nearby to a depth of 425 yards, which also reaches the thick coal seam. The two shafts are linked underground to provide effective ventilation, output rapidly increases.
1877 – The first death occurs when J. Skidmore, a pikeman, dies from injuries caused by a fall of coal. The tramway is now delivering 600 tons of coal per week to the canal wharf, which uses a chute to load a narrowboat in 10 minutes. 18 boats can be handled at a time. This year also marks the completion of the railway sidings next to the colliery.
1878 – Henry Johnson, the mining engineer who ran the business made a wager with the other directors who lacked faith in the mine’s output capability. Henry bet 4,000 tons of coal could be raised in a single week, thanks to his loyal workforce, 4,167 tons was delivered. The next day, the men were rewarded with ale, cheese and loaves of bread.
1884 – A third shaft is completed and begins work before a miners strike occurs lasting 15 weeks. The strike was called due to a dispute over wages, which was triggered by three winters of declining coal prices. After the strike is broken, the coal industry continues to decline, the third shaft is closed, and the associated colliers are handed their notice.
1899 – The original pit reaches its production peak of 314,988 tons of coal for the year .
1897-1908 – A second pit is sunk 1.5 miles away (2.5 km) in the heart of Sandwell Valley Country Park called the Jubilee Pit because work started in the year of Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee . The decision to sink the Jubilee Pit was taken to extend production when the yield of the current colliery was estimated to run out by 1915 .
The remote location of the Jubilee Pit warranted extending the tramway. The line measured roughly 1.75 miles (2.9 km) in length and used a chain with power from a stationary steam engine to haul coal tubs in groups of three or four at a speed under 5 mph .
1914 – The original pit at Sandwell Park Colliery ceases production . The Jubilee Pit continues to operate.
1935 – Sandwell Park Colliery is taken over by the Warwickshire Coal Company who modernised the site by constructing new concrete loading bunkers at the canal coal wharf. They also replaced part of the tramway to the wharf with a conveyor belt and the chain that drove the Jubilee tramway with a steel rope powered by an electric motor . It is most likely that the bath building was constructed around this time as part of the Miners’ Welfare Fund, which levied coal from 1926-1951 to provide various improvements for miners including pithead baths .
1947 – Sandwell Park Colliery is taken over by the National Coal Board as part of industry nationalisation following World War Two.
1960 – The Jubilee Pit closes marking the end of Sandwell Park Colliery.
1970 – The section of M5 through West Bromwich is completed and much of the colliery tip is used as hardcore for the motorway .
- Nigel Chapman – South Staffordshire Coalfield
- Ned Williams – Sandwell Park Colliery Tramway, Black Country Bugle (based on the writings of Colin Betts)
- The National Archives – Miners’ Welfare Committee and Commission Records
- Nigel Chapman – The History of The Sandwell Park Collieries