The Dudley Canal Trust was established in 1970 but the true origins of the tunnels date back to many years before then, about 420 million years, in fact to the Silurian Age. Its sounds almost too old to be true doesn’t it? That’s what we thought too.
However during that period, geological evolution created rich limestone and coal seams beneath the West Midlands. These valuable deposits laid the foundations for the Industrial Revolution, when the Black Country became the manufacturing cockpit of the world and for the spectacular network of underground canal tunnels carved beneath the region to mine the raw materials that powered industrial growth.
The Dudley Canal Trust was created to protect and preserve the tunnels. They run regular guided boat trips through the tunnels, accompanied by videos, lifelike reconstructions and stunning music and light shows.
Since 1970 there have been improvements made to the site so that it is now a wonderful and quirky place to visit. The improvements include:
• The reopening of Parkhead Locks to form a through route in 1973
• In 1984 the building of the first new tunnel for 126 years, connecting with the Singing Cavern
• The completion of yet another tunnel in 1989, allowing the passenger boats to offer a unique underground round trip.
The tours of the tunnels can last from 45 minutes up to a full 6 hour tour.
You can travel the full 2888m length of the mighty Dudley Tunnel, where you will get the chance to experience the traditional art of “legging” where boats were propelled through the tunnels using only leg power. There are remarkable Limestone Mines and Caverns where you can watch an entertaining video show in the Little Tess Cavern explaining how the limestone was originally formed and emerged from the earth’s crust.
If you like fossils then they are clearly visible in Castle Mill’s coral reef which once lay under the sea bed.
There is a lifelike reconstruction in Hurst Cavern, with mannequins depicting how miners worked in the tunnels during the 18th century.
To cap it all there is a fabulous music and light show in the Singing Cavern.
Sounds like a fabulous way to spend an afternoon if you ask me.