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Posts Tagged ‘rivers’

While browsing the 1815 map of the Tamworth Timehikes area, I came across the name Dosthill Spa, between the then village of Dosthill and Two Gates on a bend of the river Tame and next to Dosthill house.

1815 ordnance map with orange arrow pointing out Dosthill Spa

Many of the ´discoveries´ in the blog were made by such browsing and cross referencing. It´s amazing how new information keeps coming out of these historic maps , the ease and the increasing  abundance of them online. This has resulted in an increasing backlog of places to write about. Originally I was going to try to weave routes around these places, as implied by the title ´timehikes´ but I haven´t figured out a way to put a route description with detailed descriptions of the places in one post, and then there´s my short attention span problem to contend with. Meanwhile I´ve connected a couple of routes on the googlemaps page, largely following public footpaths.

Dosthill Spa could be the perfect place for a well-earned rest for the Tamworth two, Abe and Ernst, away from guard dogs, shots, barwork, garden trespassing and more.

If the towel looks familiar it´s because it was stolen from Tamworth Holiday Inn.

Abe and Ernst are not the first to enjoy the waters of Dosthill spa. Back in 1816 there was a mention in  The life of William Hutton  F.A.S.S, 1816 accessible on google books of an excursion to the place with the words “With our friends, we made a party of pleasure to Dosthill Spa; held various conversations ; played at various games ; boated on the river.”

What is this place though and what makes it so special? There´s a clue in the Wells of Old Warwickshire by P.M and E.M Patchell written in the early 20th century in which it mentions a pair of springs one chalybeate and one strong brine, the old salt bath being between the footpath and river.

Chalybeate?

Wikipedia has a nice  entryon Chalybeate. Apparently chalybeate(salts) were all the rage in times gone by with the accommodated classes and Tamworth timehikes had it´s very own example.

picture of chalybeate springs in Tunbridge Wells in the 17th century taken from the aforementioned wikipedia entry.

The wikipedia entry goes onto explain the reasons for it´s popularity with this great quote about the health benefits  of Chalybeate baths taken from Dudley North´s physician in the 17th century which I repeat below

the colic, the melancholy, and the vapours; it made the lean fat, the fat lean; it killed flat worms in the belly, loosened the clammy humours of the body, and dried the over-moist brain.

Dosthill missed out a tourism slogan here,  ” come to Dosthill Spa and dry your over-moist brain!!!

No use for a slogan though if the spa  doesn´t currently exist? The place leads to all sorts of questions. What form did the spa have? what happened to it?

The above 1775 Yates map(from Staffordshire Pasttracks) on the left signals that the spa or ´bath´ as mentioned in the map goes back to at least the date of the map, how much further back? Was it associated with the building of the neighbouring 18th century Dosthill house. We do know that Dosthill house with it´s neighbouring curative waters was used a Spa hotel in the 19th century. In the 1899 ordnance map on the right it gets a mention as Chalybeate spa, but no idea if it was still a ´Spa hotel´

In the book Wells and springs of Warwickshire, Richardson, L, written in  1928  we can assume  that the spa or ´salt baths´were no longer in use. Here´s the quote from the book  below.

The old salt-bath is still in existence [between the footpath and River Tame west of Dosthill House], though much dilapidated, as is also a small reservoir into which ferruginous water oozes.

The spa placename appear on maps until shortly after WWII and then disappears, Whats the fate of the ´old salt bath´ Are there still physical remains of the baths next to the footpath? Maybe Dosthill Park Wildlife Group campaigning and working for bordering Dosthill park could shed light on  its fate?

I don´t know about you but I´m all for bringing the spa back, there´s a lot of over-moist brains, clammy humoured  people out there who could do with it!

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This post has the particularity(is that a word! it sounds Spanglish to me )that will probably be not much longer  than the title.  The previous post about Robin Hood´s Butts refers to Elford Lowe  a probable bronze age barrow, located by farm of the same name. The other butt mentioned, Wigginton butt (2 miles away) is a mystery, can´t find any more info either text or map based anywhere. Returning to  Elford Lowe, it´s entered into the scheduled monument database as a bronze age Lowe Bowl Barrow(I assume it´s the same one). Elford has got a considerable prehistoric material record(with bowl barrow, burials,etc). It´s location on a buff on the bend of the  river Tame would have made it a prized location for prehistoric agricultural communities.

Elford represents a sort of gateway to a stretch of the Tame and Trent Valley which  have been relatively well investigated by archaeologists and have turned up a lot of prehistoric material evidence.Take a look at this detailed project on the area called Where Rivers Meet: Landscape, ritual and Archaeology of River Gravels, researching  landscapes from Neolithic to early medieval.  At the same time its the way out for Tamworth Timehikes,  representing  the limit of the area covered in the blog.

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RIVER JOURNEYS

My search for ways to investigate and ultimately enjoy the surrounding area around Tamworth had led me to contemplate a while back, travelling on the areas rivers(a canoe not a yacht!). This has been held back by many things, thinking about it too much, lack of watercraft,lack of experience, the appearance of that series by Griff Rhys Jones and looking like a desperate copycat, the weather, fear, and the lack of a sancho panza to accompany me on the trip. But most of all is the doubt of whether it was legal or not. After looking at the legability issue it turns out that most rivers are non-navigable and thus considered trespassing if you venture out onto the river.The riverbed belongs to the person who owns the adjoining land. The river Tame and Anker fall into this category which is a great shame.All is not lost though as there is a heart lifting organisation campaigning for British rivers to be made navigable- The Rivers Access Campaign

They make some really good points and I´ll only highlight a few below:

i)In England and Wales unlike elsewhere in the world the public cannot assume the automatic right to access the rivers. Only 2% of rivers in England and Wales are accessible.

ii)Canoeists do not harm river fauna and English nature stated that is no significant impact to wildlife from the passage of canoes.

iii)The access situation is not a canoeing v fishing issue. All over the world fishing happily coexists with canoeing. In Scotland where access to rivers has been opened up there has been no harm to angling interests.

Tamworth and the surrounding area are particularly rich in rivers. It’s the very reason why Tamworth is situated where it is at the confluence of the Rivers Anker and Tame, and to illustrate this Tamworth derives its name from one of those rivers. Tamworth and the surrounding area like so much of lowland England is a sort of ´river-world´ it´s presence is everywhere, it shapes and defines its landscapes. Rivers were also very important economically and numerous mills were situated along the rivers, starting with the saxon watermill excavated in the 70´s on the river anker  and ending with Alders Paper mill. In Victorian and Edwardian times the Tame was an area for recreational boating, why did this stop?

The photo below shows boating on the river Tame back in the day, looks pretty appealing, taken from Staffordshire past track

Delving into Staffordshire past track archives here is more evidence of the fine tradition of  boating on Tamworth rivers

river Anker boathouse, Tamworth, 1900-1930

woodcut engraving, Tamworth 1843, notice the mill behind Ladybridge

river Tame near Tamworth, 1788-1855(c)

Canoeing down the river would be a great way to experience the landscape,the socio-economic importance of the river means many sites are along the rivers, imagine leaving alvecote pools, down the quiet unspoilt Anker, below the old railway bridges,sailing past the picture perfect castle and not  so picture perfect towers, onto the ladybank and moathouse and after somehow negotiating the ´waterfall´ onto the meadows and woods in Hopwas, Tamhorn, and Elford. All this with the right training and equipment as rivers like the sea shouldn´t be underestimated. Sounds perfect?  well you can´t do it.


one possible route  through Tamworth that a canoeist could take, journey stopped at dangerous looking  waterfall

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