Daisypath - Anniversary

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Big Trip Home Day 12 - Up with the Sparrows

The merest mention of a market and Chris grabs her shopping bag with a purpose.  Our destination today was to be the market at Market Drayton.  We still had some distance to travel so unusually we upped pins at 7am and slowly passed the moored boats on tick over. One gent wiping down his boat roof commented he never heard us coming so I did not feel so bad about making any noise.

I quite like cruising at this time of morning.  The sun is up but the morning air still has a chill about it and everything seems still and calm.  We crept past Shebdon Wharf, formerly a chocolate loading facility but now home to historic boat moorings

Shebdon Wharf

Early morning sunshine through the trees

Views out from the raised sections of the canal
Next we came upon  Woodseaves Cutting, yet another section of the canal hewn through sandstone 100 feet high in places.  Many landslides blighted this section in the past and occasionally now so a 2mph limit is required.  Like other cuttings Woodeaves is narrow with passing places but in the shade of the cutting we could not help feel just a little bit like Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn in Africa Queen as the the hugely tall over hanging trees, ferns, mosses and narrowness of the cut gave the area a slightly jungle like feel.  At least I did not have to jump in and haul AmyJo through the water like Bogart did with Africa Queen.

Bridge 57, a portal marking half way through Woodseaves Cutting

Could not help wondering if the natives were watching.
Finally after bridge 58 (not unlike 57) the cutting comes to and end and Tyrley locks (pronounced Turley) block your way.  These 5 locks descend into more sandstone and overhanging trees so the cool shade makes working the lower locks in heat comfortable.  Beware the by washes of these locks as the currents from them can catch the unware with force.  I found steam out on full power the best and then slow when clear, but do not attempt this unless the next lock is available to you. 

Tyrley Top lock

Descending in to shade and more sandstone

Cheeky chappy an his dog fishing as you leave the bottom lock
Not long after the locks we found a mooring at bridge 62 outside Market Drayton.  From our mooring steps descend to the road below for the walk into town.

AmyJo is moored on the bridge on top right of picture
The river Tern runs through the arch below left.

Funny looking deer they have in these parts

The market awash in sunshine

The towns corn mill with small bells on roof

Quite a sizeable market full of interesting stalls
After lunch to get out of the heat in the local Weatherspoons we retreated to the cool cabin of AmyJo and dozed for the rest of afternoon.  At tea time we were delighted to watch historic boats Aquarius towing butty Ilford pass by, both laden with coal.  It was then we learnt there is a historical transport rally at Audlum over the weekend.  Looks like another up an a sparrows f.... tomorrow to get through before too many boats arrive.

Aquarius and Ilford pass by laden with coal

Our mooring for tonight

our route today

Total distance:8.63 miles Elapsed time:4h12m17s Locks:5Bridges:22
Average speed:2.05 mph (3.24 lock/mph)

Big trip home Days 11 - Late due to no internet.

I will try to continue blogging over the next few days but if we disappear of radar its because as we travel up the Shroppie the internet is getting weaker.

We had a really good night last night and despite being moored directly below the Bridge Inn we were not disturbed once. In fact after enjoying some Thatchers Gold last night it was 9am before we surfaced.

The journey from Brewood (pronounced Brewed) was an absolute delight. We could see why people love this canal as in places the scenery is stunning.

Whilst boring in its straightness the cuttings though tree lined woods and lovely bridges make this a joy to travel through, and, whilst being on the four counties ring boat traffic is much more in evidence now the schools are breaking up for the summer.

One such bridge we have passed under by car countless times on the A5 to and from Crick and we always said we would love to traverse it by boat. Today our wish was granted as we crossed the Stretton Aqueduct. The bridge is one of many built by Brindley's workers but now we can say we travelled it the way it was meant to be travelled.

Stretton Aqueduct as we have often seen it from the A5 by car

AmyJo "Floating over" as a boater put it to me today
New perspective of the aqueduct for us.
Welcome relief from the now hot sun was to be had as we passed along Lapley wood cutting. The trees offering the traveller much shade.

At Wheaton Aston we joined the queue for Wheaton Aston lock (our only one of the day) and were fifth in line. Here in full sun we sheltered best we could whilst conversing with the others waiting their turn. Chris now prefers to lock wheel as she finds it’s mostly the ladies that do this so has a great time nattering to them whilst they share the work turning the locks.  I don't mind queuing at locks as its a great time to meet other boat owners and hire crews.  Lot of good information can be gathered and the more experienced skippers of historic boats are only to pleased to impart their knowledge on to others.  I've learnt a lot queuing at locks on the Shroppie. 

After the lock once again the canal continues in a relatively straight line with a few gentle bends until Cowley tunnel is reached, however, the views across the fields as one carries on remains as beautiful as ever. At 81 Yards long Cowley tunnel is probably no longer that the expanding M54 bridge we went under yesterday but still the fun of a tunnel remains.

A boat following us at Cowley tunnel

More evidence of the cutting by navies to build the canal.
Many cuttings like this adorn this stretch of the canal hereabouts.
By now it was so hot the heat was getting to us so we took the opportunity of grabbing the only free mooring in shade at Gnosall. Here we stopped for lunch on board and to cool down for an hour or so. We did not leave the boat to enjoy the coolness offered in the shade but it looks really pretty from where we were. We definitely want to explore this more next time. Whilst there the police training helicopter from Tern Hill nearby was doing some sort of exercise and buzzed round at low altitude shattering the serenity of our position

Our stop for lunch and much needed shade.

Duck!  No dear its a helicopter
Tern Hill, home of 632 Volunteer Gliding Squadron, was a helicopter base but is now principally used as an outpost for the tri-service helicopter training establishment at RAF Shawbury. Training flights use the airfield (as do gliders at the weekends) but many of the buildings and some local Ministry of Defence housing (much of which was sold off) are now part of the army base known as Clive Barracks (after Robert Clive).

Chris found out its market day at Market Drayton on Wednesday so we pressed on further for a few more hours past Norbury junction and the junction pub packed to the gunwales with gongoozlers and boaters alike. The line of moored boats after the junction seemed to go on for miles.

Norbury junction itself, sadly no more than an arm of moorings

Norbury Whaf

Moorings off into the distance for at least a mile
After the junction we carried on a little further and entered the reputedly haunted Grub Street Cutting which, according to Pearsons, is supposedly haunted by a monkey like creature after a boatman died there in the 19th century. Despite this it’s a beautiful and quiet spot, cool and not the least spooky during the day but at night…. Early on in the cutting a double ached bridge marks the start of the main cutting (bridge 39) that gives one a better idea of the depth of the cutting. This bridge has, unusually, the remains of a telegraph pole in its upper arch. This, a survivor of days when telegraph poles followed the canal for much of its length. Modern technology now means these are now replaced with fibre optic cables buried beneath tow paths.

Bridge 39 and its telegraph pole.  Now one see how deep the cutting is.
Leaving the cutting behind we found us a lovely spot by the Anchor pub. What a little gem of a pub it is too. Walking in through the door the bar is no more than 4 feet wide and the saloon the size of your average dining room. In fact the pub probably was at one time just a house its so small. The elderly bar maid only has two beers on tap to serve, Carlsburg or 6X. A delightful little place and beautifully kept beer.  

The Anchor Inn.  All it needs is that 19th century boatman to set the scene.
Our mooring seen from the Anchor Inn garden
Total distance:12.71 miles Elapsed time:7h17m44s Locks:1Bridges:29
Average speed:1.74 mph (1.88 lock/mph)

Monday, July 21, 2014

Big Trip Home Day 10 - A great brew in Brewood

We left Gailey at a slightly late time of 9am with the aim of reaching the moorings by the Bridge Inn in Brewood.  This was perhaps asking a bit much but we were happy to stop short if necessary.

The lovely picturesque canal soon turned industrialised with storage depots and a large chemical plant dominating one area we passed through.  For the lads at work, no I'm not missing work one bit but.....
Familiar sight and sound of work.
The canal is less interesting for a while until Calf Health where a really tight turn and sweeping bend brings you to Hatherton Junction.  With Chris as look out in the bows I slowly began the turn.  Suddenly before Chris could warn me another boat came barrelling through the bridge 'ole.  By now AmyJo was right across the turn and in the way of the other boat turning in our direction.  My only option was to apply a little more power and move forward into the junction as he left it but unfortunately my prop wash stopped him completing the turn and he was force to stop and wind round.  The owner scowled fiercely at me as he tried to complete his turn.  Was I in the wrong by turning slowly into the junction or should I have set Chris ashore to check first?  I did think of sounding the horn but simply did not have time to do so before the other boat appeared at a rate of knots through the 'ole.

Hatherton Marina, the junction is to the right out of shot.
We did not get chance to photograph it because of the other boat.
After this the canal returned to its prettier side with some interesting gardens along the way.  Clearly money lives in these parts.

Novel use for a wagon wheel
On through Slade Heath's tight turns and on to Cross Green where the popular former boatman's pub the Fox and Anchor provides excellent overnight mooring if you can find a spot.

Next we pass under the M54.  The bridge here is currently being widened as part of improvements to the slip road and with its multitude of scaffolding and support trusses one cannot help but feel you are entering the bowls of an alien space ship straddling the cut.

Felt like saying take me to your leader at this point

Now more a tunnel than bridge, should we put the tunnel light on?
 A bit further on between bridges 68 and 67 is the narrows.  Pearsons Guide writes.  "Peneford Rockin is the old boatman's name for a shallow, but tellingly narrow cutting hewn by Brindley's navvies through a solid belt of sandstone.  The cutting half a mile long restricts the channel to such a degree that you begin to wonder if you have taken a wrong turn.  There are however, passing places like on a single lane road".

They were not kidding.  At this point I would like to point out after leaving Gailey and travelled 6 miles we only saw one boat coming the other way  After entering the narrows and travelled only 60 yards we were confronted with no less than four boats in succession!

Entering the narrows at bridge 68

boat No.1

boats 2 and 3

No passing at this point

boat no. 4

Safely passed.
Once out of the narrows and further on we passed a long line of huge popular trees standing guard at a large school, presumably to mask the canal from distracting pupils from their classes.  A few moments later we arrived at Autherley Junction.

I have to say I was both relieved and a bit disappointed not to find a throng of boats coming and going.  After putting Chris ashore to scout the junction was clear we only had to wait a few minutes for one boat to clear the stop lock before making the turn onto the Shropshire Union Canal and into the lock.

The arrow pointing towards the camera says "To Chester"

Waiting for the all clear to make the turn
The Junction itself.  Stop lock is just beyond the bridge portal
After the turn and entering the stop lock

Napton Boats and Chris disappeared for an Ice Cream and gifts
  Just after the lock is a water point so we stopped to top up. Whilst doing so AmyJo's latest non paying passenger boarded via the mooring line much like a tourist boarding a cruise liner.  It made itself comfortable on the stem post and did not even move when we untied and got under way.

We travelled at least half a mile before our passenger decided it had arrived where it wanted to be and jumped off.

At Pendeford itself I took the boat out of gear and coasted through the bridge 'oles as on the tow path at each one was a collection of rusting shopping trolleys, bicycles and other unrecognisable objects.  Not wanting to play trolley roulette I took no chances until clear of the neighbourhood.

From this point the canal turns from the familiar Oxtail soup brown of the last week to a very dark bottle green and for the first few miles is incredibly clear.  Since we left Crick we had got used to cruising at a throttle setting of between 12 to 1400 RPM to maintain a comfortable speed, however, since turning onto the Shroppie we have had to throttle back to 900 RPM to keep the speed down to the same level, as there is definitely a flow in our favour.

At one bridge we found a good way to sand and paint your boat in the cool shade under such and a few boats were making good use of this.  The bridge walls resembling the colour swatch of many a good brand of boat paint.

Cool spot to paint your boat out of the sun

For Jo and Keith.  The owner knew of Hadar but we did not have time
to get his name.
Whilst on a particular straight stretch of the canal we were met by a young C&RT lad who looked at our C&RT number, whipped out a tablet and proceeded to stab at it with a stylus.  "Ah AmyJo" he , proclaimed, took a photo of AmyJo's name on her side and added after consulting his tablet "Good, good, have a nice rest of the day" and sauntered off.  I can only assume he was indeed a C&RT official as he was wearing a white C&RT polo shirt and was simply checking we had a valid license.  At least I hope so.

Just after our encounter with the C&RT lad we came across
this beautiful old lady, clearly well looked after.

Ornate high bridges seem to be popular on this reach.

Lovely leafy vista but muddy tow path makes mooring a problem.

Or mooring tonight below the Bridge Inn, Brewood

Looking behind us

Our route today
Considering we moored up at 2:30pm we covered a surprising distance today and are now only 36 miles from Nantwich.  After enjoying a walk round the beautiful village here and acquiring a lovely looking pork pie from the local butchers, it would have been rude not to stop off at the Bridge Inn for a pint of excellent Thatchers Gold.  Now question is do I have another?.......

Total distance:12.60 miles Elapsed time:5h48m1s Locks:1 Bridges:40 

Average speed:2.17 mph (2.35 lock/mph)