Sunday, 9 October 2016

To the end of the Shropshire Union Canal

Friday 7th October 2016

First things first; before we could go and explore Brewood.  Monty and I went for a lovely long walk along the tow path heading south and Chris got on with some boat jobs which included fitting the new horn he purchased yesterday.  Not only does it sound better (the old one sounded like it had a frog in its throat), but it also looks better.

One of our canal guides states that Brewood is the sort of place that "makes you stay longer than you planned", and we would certainly agree with that.  It is a charming village that is large enough to have all major services without losing it's village feel.  This is the market square that is the hub of the village.

This is a must visit shop along with the butcher

Speedwell Castle is on the corner of the market square which purportedly was built with the winnings made on a bet on a horse called Speedwell - if you want to know more have a look HERE

It had always been our intention to have lunch out and we decided on The Staffordshire Grill which is part of the Lion Hotel in the Market Square.  It is classified as 'fine dining' and it certainly was.  Not the cheapest of meals, but worth every penny.

We had looked around the charming church, but it is very hard to get a good photo in the village and the interior was too dark for good photos, but from the towpath going south and looking back is the best place to take a photo of the church.

This is a village we will return to and one I think we could happily live in, but are unlikely ever to do so.

Saturday 8th October 2016
Brewood to Autherley Junction
5 miles, 1 lock

A short day for us and not the most exciting part of the Shropshire Union, but it was trouble free with very little traffic.  This one was of great interest - the first we saw was the lady on the roof removing the chimney to get under a bridge.  Then they blew their steam whistle.  Definitely a boat with a difference.

Bridge 10 is majestic - it leads to Chillington Hall and is so ornate to adorn an otherwise purely functional architecture of the new trade route to pacify powerful landowners whose land the new canal passed through.

Do here we were at Autherley Junction at the end of the Shropshire Union Canal which was a delight and one to be done again one day.

Where the signs of autumn are unmistakeable

And we came to the only lock of the day - a stop lock of a few inches with a boat coming up as we waited to go down

and as we left another boat waiting to take our place.

We moored round the corner and busied ourselves preparing for tomorrow which would be a very long day.

nb Chris's comment on seeing this picture 'who is that old chap with the white hair?'!!

Friday, 7 October 2016

The Straight and Narrow

Thursday 6th October
Gnosall Heath to Brewood
8 miles, 1 lock

Unbelievably the sky was blue again.

And this stretch of the Shropshire Union really is straight even if it is not (thankfully) particularly narrow

When we were not in cuttings there were some great views

Just one small tunnel at Cowley - all of 81 yards long

We stopped in Wheaton Aston to fill up with fuel which has gone up and is now 54.9ppl, but still the cheapest we have ever come across.  We pushed across to the other side of the canal to have lunch and slipped away just in time - we avoided grass all over the side of the boat as the grass cutters marched ever closer.

There was just one lock today at Wheaton Aston and as we approached this boat came out - good timing for us.

And so we ended another wonderful day moored up in the lovely village of Brewood, pronounced Brood, but more of that will follow

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Embankments, Cuttings and an Encounter

Monday 3rd October 2016
Audlem top lock to Market Drayton
4.5 miles, 5 locks

After all the events of yesterday we hoped for a quiet uncomplicated day today and thankfully that proved to be the case.  Once again the weather was glorious with plenty of sun and blue skies. 

The decision has been made to go home via Wolverhampton and Birmingham so we can call into Crafted Boats (formerly JL Pinders & Sons) to pick up the replacement window that we have asked them to order for us.  From the junction at Aldersley it will be 71 locks rather than 54, but only 38 miles instead of 53.  This next part will be done slowly as we do not want to be in Birmingham on Saturday night.  

Today we just had the flight of 5 locks at Adderley to do which did not present any problems.  We did decide that the moorings at the bottom of the flight are much nicer than those at the top of Audlem.  

This canal is a delight with far reaching views.  

Once we were moored at Market Drayton we walked the half a mile into town to find Asda.  Looking at the map I think there is another supermarket, but we did not discover what or where it is.  We had a mooch in a couple of charity shops and a few CD’s made their way home with us.  Neither of us had ever been here before and both felt it was a useful stop, but we did not find a lot to make us want to stay for too long.  Market Drayton is the home of gingerbread (or so our guide tells us) – I did find some locally produced, but they only came as rather large gingerbread men or animal figures, so I am afraid we have not tried it for ourselves.

The town is famed for its half-timbered houses which mostly date from a fire which swept through the town in 1651.  It would also appear to be the home town of Clive of India.  They say that Wednesday is the day to visit as the market is very much part of the heritage of this town.  

I was particularly taken by the excellent signposts to the town centre and then back to the canal.  For those of us who are navigationally challenged they are very much appreciated.

Tuesday 4th October 2016
Market Drayton to Shebdon Wharf
7.75 miles, locks

Unbelievably we still have blue skies and sunshine!  First jobs this morning were for me to go back to Asda for the paper and a couple of bits whilst Chris moved the boat under the bridge to the water point to fill up and empty as required.  On my return Monty and I walked ahead the one mile to the bottom of Tyrley Locks – once again a flight of five and our only locks of the day.  As I approached I could see a boat in the distance coming towards me, so as the lock was full I opened the gate for them to enter.  I knew we were likely to cross paths today and what better place to do so than at a lock when you have at least a short time to chat!  Yes it was Tom and Jan on nb Waiouru.

It was a short meeting, but it was good to see you both again.  I will watch the blog to see if you are anywhere near us over the winter. 

We appear on their blog  HERE.  Tom questioned when we last met and yes it was the K&A last year, but I think we were both going East.  I think we leaped frogged each other quite a lot - if you look HERE we are both at The Cunning Man, Burghfield and were trapped there for two nights due to very heavy rain.
The rest of the locks went very smoothly with boats coming down in two more and the other two were empty, so a very easy passage with minimal winding and gate pushing and pulling.

At the top of the locks is Tyrley Wharf with this really elegant grade II listed property.  

And a disclaimer notice long before today’s litigious society and our H&S culture.

There is an opportunity to stock up with some goodies, but sadly the baskets were empty today

This part of the Shropshire Union is a series of cuttings with tall elegant bridges

And embankments 

Plus our first view of The Wrekin

For the most part the towpath is okay, but both of our guide books warn about the path through Woodeaves Cutting and I am glad I heeded the warning and kept Monty on board!  

We had thought of stopping at bridge 47 past Park Heath Wharf, however the moorings were rather exposed and as the wind was quite strong we moved on another mile past Knighton Wharf to moor at Shebdon Wharf.  As I typed this at 5pm the sun was still shining in a wonderfully blue sky.  We have, however, lit the fire again as there is a definite nip in the air.

Knighton was formerly a factory owned by Cadbury to process milk from the local farms.  The churns were collected by boat from wooden landing stages at each farm along the canal.  Cocoa and sugar crumb were brought by boat to Knighton to be blended with the milk to make the raw chocolate.  This in turn was transported by boat back to Bourneville to be made into the finished product.  Today it is owned by Premier Foods and I believe it now mostly produces powdered milk and even Birds Custard.  

Wednesday 5th October 2016
Shebdon Wharf to Gnosall
6.25 miles, 0 locks

Dare I say it, but the sun was still shining this morning.  With a short journey ahead of us we had a leisurely start getting a few domestics done before we headed off.  The plan was for Monty and I to head off leading the way so we could walk the first couple of miles.  Chris gave us a head start, but we did not allow for lines of moored craft.  With no sign of him we carried on and ended up walking the three and a half miles to Norbury Junction where we found a bench in the sun to wait for 20 minutes until he caught us up!!

It is still a pleasant canal and although the going is muddy in places it was easy enough to walk.  You could be a million miles away from civilisation as there are very few people and only the birds and the wind whistling through the trees to accompany you. 

The moorings at The Anchor, bridge 42 looked rather nice, so maybe next time.  

The pub itself looks intriguing – according to one of our guides it is open lunch and evening from March to October only and the only food on offer is sandwiches, so you do wonder how it keeps going when it is so far from anywhere.

As we walked through the tree lined cuttings there were plenty of opportunities to climb to the top and 'shout' at squirrels that may or may not have been in the trees!

For the most part the path was quite good

And then at Grubb Street I came across what must be one of the most photographed telegraph pole in the country, if not the whole world.  The A519 goes across the top of this bridge - the cutting is 80 foot deep. The small telegraph pole is the sole survivor from the line that used to go along the Shroppie.

Due to the position of the sun I thought I might get a better shot from the other side, but the angle is wrong making an abandoned canoe the main feature of the picture!

Some 1.25 hours after leaving Monty arrived at Norbury Junction some 3.25 miles from when we started out.  This used to be the junction with the Newport Canal going to Shrewsbury, but was abandoned in 1944.  Of the original 17 locks the only one remaining is now a dry dock at the end of the arm.

It is a delightful place to sit in the sun and watch the world goes by whilst waiting for Chris to catch up with us.

After using the services at Norbury Junction, Chris headed across the canal to visit the chandlery, closely supervised to ensure he went the right way!

Just a few more miles and we stopped at Gnosall, firstly before bridge 35

but we soon moved through passed this rather jolly garden

to finally moor before bridge 34.  Just a few hundred yards difference, but here we have internet, phone and television.

We just popped up to the convenience store that is close to the canal for a paper to find a very handy map the other side of bridge 34.  We may go and explore further in the morning.