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A hidden world in the heart of the Black Country will now be brought to life thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The Dudley Canal Trust, which operates public Canal Boat trips exploring the lost industrial underworld at Dudley Canal Tunnel and Limestone Mines, has been awarded a confirmed grant of nearly one hundred thousand pounds to build a brand new Learning and Access centre.

To be known as the Portal, the new visitor centre will enhance the connection between the Dudley Canal and Limestone Mines and the Castle Hill Development Project including the nearby Black County Living Museum which will give Canal Boat Holiday guests access to both attractions and new opportunities to explore both sites.

In addition to new car parking, a water borne swing bridge across the canal, there will be a covered area for people embarking on Canal Boat trips.

Reyahn King, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund for the West Midlands said: Visitor facilities at this special site are currently very limited and this much needed grant means that the Dudley Canal Trust will now be able to maximise the heritage potential of the area, encouraging many more people to come and explore the delights of the Black Country Canals, Limestone Mines, and nearby Wren's Nest Nature Reserve.

Dudley Canal Tunnel and Limestone Mines, the site forms part of a vast network of complex underground tunnels and some of the largest man made caverns in the UK originally created by mining limestone for use as a flux in smelting iron ore in hundreds of local blast furnaces during the Industrial Revolution.

Built in the 1770s as a branch from the Birmingham Canal at Tipton to Lord Dudley’s limestone mines beneath Castle Hill, Dudley Canal Tunnel had over 40,000 working Narrowboats a year passing through by the 1850s, before finally closing in 1962.

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