THERE ARE in total 606 rivers that flow through England, fifty or so of which reach the sea, and although here in the Black Country we are not blessed with any of the country’s great rivers, we can still boast the Tame and the Stour as being significant lengths of water in the region.
The River Tame is the main river of the West Midlands and from its source at Oldbury to its confluence with the River Trent at Alrewas, it is approximately 25 miles long. However, the River Stour is perhaps the river that champions the history of the Black Country more, and was once reputed to have had more industry per mile on its banks than any other river in the country.
Because of its close proximity to Bugle House (it forms a natural division between Cradley and Cradley Heath) the Bugle cameraman can often be found walking its banks down a well maintained path near Corngreaves Hall, once the home of the ironmasters of the 18th and 19th centuries, and passing by the site of the early 19th century Bellvale Tube Works, buildings of which used to straddle the river, where brick foundations and brick reinforcements along the river bank are still visible today.
In winter, especially when the weather is dull and overcast, this stretch of the river, with its clusters of overhanging trees, doesn’t receive sufficient light to inspire the taking of many photographs. But because the river is a continuous flow as it drains from the north facing slopes of the Clent Hills, features of its journey towards its confluence with the River Severn at Stourport are ever changing, and just before the recent snows swept the region, a cold snap had already made its presence felt.
Despite the river’s constant motion, the temperature had dropped enough to freeze water accumulations on fragments of debris that had been caught up in the flow, creating a magnificent array of icy sculptures, frozen features that made a dazzling spectacle amidst the gloom of mid winter.