This canal, sometimes referred to as the Marquis of Stafford's canal, was the first in Shropshire and one of the earliest in the country - construction started in 1765. Initially serving the purpose of transporting materials within the Leverson-Gower estate and facilitating drainage in the mines, the canal linked the mines at Donnington Wood with a coal wharf on the Newport turnpike road at Pave Lane. The canal was completed in 1768. It was later linked to the Wombridge Canal in 1788 and the Shropshire Canal in 1790, allowing goods and materials to be transported across the Shropshire coalfields, and along the national canal network and the River Severn.
Sometime between 1813 and 1816 an arm from the main canal was extended southwards to serve several new pits as shallower workings at Donnington Wood became exhausted and mining activity moved further. The Lodge Furnaces began operating at this time and the canal was an important means of transporting the basic raw materials (ironstone, coal and limestone) to the works as well as the iron products. This part of the canal was thought to have been out of use well before the end of the nineteenth century, although studies of old maps show that it changed in shape several times towards the end of its useful life. By the early 1900s the canal had become overgrown and flooded and remained in this state until reclamation work began in 1987.
In removing mature trees during this work the clay lining of the canal was punctured and water began to drain away. Preliminary excavation work revealed an earlier brick-lined canal below the present canal, which had been filled with ash and spoil in order to raise it to a higher level. This material was removed and a new overflow constructed.
Today the only part of the canal to hold open water within the nature reserve is that by the Lodge Furnaces. It is a rich haven for wildlife - look out for birds such as moorhen, coot and mallard. Water plants include the true bulrush (Schoenoplectus lacustris) - the large rush growing in the water. This grows with another plant, which is often called bulrush by mistake (the one used in flower arrangements) but its correct name is reedmace (Typha latifolia). The plant with round prickly seed heads growing in the water is bur-reed.
Other water plants include water mint that smells as good as the one grown in gardens and is found growing in the margins. The plant with the small oval leaves floating on top of the water is broad-leaved pondweed, and the plant with the unusual spike of white flowers is water plantain. Newts have been caught in the canal during pond dipping exercises in the past and there are recent reports of sightings of water voles. This is a species which is becoming increasingly rare in this country, so much so that it was recently added to the schedule of species that are specially protected under the Wildlife & Countryside Act.
Furher information and maps of the Granville can be found at www.shropshirewildlifetrust.org.uk