Thursday 17 July 2014

Big Trip Home Day 6 - Whittington to Rugeley and much needed Shade

Last night was warm and some welcome rain cooled things down a little.  The sky cleared and the clouds lit by the setting sun looked most unusual.

This mornings start was later than usual at 9am (Chris 
rebelled a little) and as we left Whittington the canal narrows slightly and plays peek-a-boo with the railway that has never been far away for the last few days.  

This section is rather non descript until Huddlesford Junction which if it ever gets restored is the turn for the Wyrely and Essington canal.  The Lichfield and Hatherton trust have restored some sections, and notably, get the aqueduct over the M6 toll road built. The first stretch from the junction is currently moorings for the Lichfield Cruising Club.

Huddlesford Junction, just moorings for now

Looking back at the junction

Ever the optimist, the sign at the junction points to Ogley Junction
though it will be some time before you can get there by boat.
Here the canals love affair with the railway finally comes to an end as the canal swings away from it.  Further on Streethey Wharf gives interest from the very out in the sticks feel of this section.  Here the canal rubs shoulders with another freight only railway on one side and the A38 on its other bank.  After Strethey the canal passes under the A38 and continues towards Fradley.

Streethey Wharf,  a busy place with lots of work going on.

Welcome shade at a bridge 'ole
By now the temperature was beginning to soar into the upper 20s and the shade provided by the trees was welcoming.  At one point we could see another boat coming towards us through a bridge 'ole.  We were much closer but I waited and waved him through, only because we had stopped in the shade of a large Oak tree which was heaven.

We got to Fradley at 11.30am  and took advantage of clear moorings before the swing bridge.  We stopped for a look around as Chris wanted some post cards and a gift for our girls.  We got the cards but the gifts will have to be sourced elsewhere.

The Swing bridge marks the end of the Coventry canal

The famous Swan pub.  Great Haywood is to the left
Alrewas to the right.

Looking towards Alrewas

Looking towards Great Haywood and our route
After topping up with water in sweltering heat we were glad to get under way again and feel the breeze generated by our passage.    Through the swing bridge and left turn we had to go through two locks.  The first took us by surprise as when opening the paddles AmyJo shot forward and no amount of throttle would hold her back.  I just got her under control as she nudged the lock gate.  At the next lock I let AmyJo rest against the gate board in forward tick over as she rose on the advise of a fellow boater and this worked well.

From then on the Trent and Mersey passes into more countryside but gets quite shallow and narrower still.  In places AmyJo ran aground so progress was slow.  In the heat Chris and I kept  bottles of water and orange to hand to stave of de-hydration. At one bridge 'ole AmyJo scuffed an under water obstacle causing her to  swerve to the left. I corrected her course but we ended up passing under a tree and my straw hat (that had been Roy's) and being worn by Chris got knocked of by a branch and fell into the cut.  We tried to reverse to recover it but even under low revs so much debris was being washed up from the bed of the canal we gave up for fear of the prop picking up a passenger

At Hansacre  all moorings were taken as people tried to get relief from the sweltering heat so we had no choice but to continue on through Armitage.  Here we took advantage of the shade given by the huge and imposing Armitage Shanks factory for some blessed coolness.

Armitage Shanks factory gave lovely shade as we passed by.
A mile on at Spode house a board announces "Narrows!  Look ahead before proceeding"  Chris was about to go ashore and scout it out when a passing boat gave us the all clear.  The way ahead was open.  The sign was not joking there were indeed narrows. This is the Armitage or Plum Pudding tunnel that due to local coal mining subsided so had to be opened to allow passage to continue.  In places this was no wider than some locks with inches to spare.

Looking back as we exit the narrows
Finally we we arrived at Rugeley only to find again all the moorings taken, however, immediately after a bridge 'ole one spot was left on the 48hr moorings and AmyJo slotted into it nicely.  It was in the sun but we knew the houses on the offside would soon offer shade as the sun went down.

Tonight's Mooring

And our route today
Total distance:12.99 miles Elapsed time:7h9m34s Locks:3 Bridges:45 

Average speed:1.81 mph (2.23 lock/mph) 

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