Sunday 14 August 2016

Day 34 - Gailey Top Lock to Weaton Aston

Wow what a long day today!  Looking at our travel log I would not blame you if you accused us of speeding.  The reality was an early start, few locks, no queues and a late stop.

I was up at 7am having been woken by a passing boat.  To be fair this boat was going slow, not a sound from the crew and so slow AmyJo never moved,  it was a hire boat.  Its just that I was half awake when it passed and fighting the call of nature so as to stay in bed.  I lost.

Viking Boat enters the top lock on its return to its hire base just above the lock

As we prepared to cast off at 8am two more hire boats passed by.  We should have realised earlier it was Saturday, handover day.  It was going to be busy above the lock.  The second of the two hire boats pulled in to wait their turn at the lock whilst the first went in.  The crew of the second boat kindly offered to let us go next as he too knew what was coming above the lock, plus, I don't think he actually wanted his holiday to end judging from our conversation with him.

I guess everyone passing by takes this photo of the round house.
 Sure enough as we rose in the lock the mayhem was being played out in front of us.  Hire boats were all over the place, across the cut, drifting in the middle unsure where to go, and amongst all this, the manager doing his best to sort it all out single handed.

We waited patiently in the lock for 10 minutes whilst he cleared a way for us, apologising.  "No worries" we called back with a smile from the lock.  I do feel for them when they give boaters instructions that are not followed by those hiring the boats.

Once clear we proceeded on our way with a wave and a thank you to the manager.
Looks quite calm in this photo.  It wasn't 15 minutes earlier.

A common sight now, every mooring on both sides taken up, the cut is really busy now.
 Finally we cleared all the moored boats and could get up to cruising speed.  The sun came out and rounding the bend at bridge 78 we came across this lovely spot of suitable, but empty moorings.  It may look idyllic but those of you that know this canal will know there is a chemical works hidden behind the trees and signs displayed, "No mooring under any circumstance even if a siren is heard"  Enough to put anyone off.  Never mind we're not stopping here anyway.

Too good to be true but no mooring here under any circumstance.
 We made good time to Hatherton junction passing few moving boats and cautiously turned  under the bridge.  Last time we did this in 2013 we were nearly T-boned by a speeding boat coming out of the junction.  Is there a theme starting here perhaps?

Hatherton Junction thankfully clear as we turned.
 From now on the canal becomes straight but with the odd tight bend every so often to catch you out.  The cut is good and wide here and at Slade heath these interesting garden chairs were seen in this canalside garden.

Wheely nice garden chairs (sorry)
 The Fox and Anchor had very few boats moored outside, in fact we noticed a distinct lack of boats moored or moving today, wonder why?  We would find out later in the day.

The fox and Anchor bereft of moored boats.
 After passing under the M54 we came to one of my fave spots on the Staffs, Pendeford Rockin.  This is particularly narrow as Brindley's navvies had to hew their way through solid sandstone by hand to complete the canal.

Pendeford rockin, narrow and shallow.  No one can speed through here.

Another view.  Its so narrow Chris could get off AmyJo for this photo whilst we were still under way.

At the other end two boats wait to come through after we exit the Narrows
 Its not long after the narrows that we come to Autherley junction.  This is our most Southerly point of the trip, From now on we head in a Northerly direction.  The stop lock was clear so we swung AmyJo through the junction and started the last leg of our trip back home on the Shropshire Union Canal and home.

Autherley Junction, straight on to Stourport and right the Shropshire Union canal.

Autherley Stop Lock and the start of the "Shroppie"
 One abiding memory of this end of the Shroppie is its wide, deep and straight. So straight in places you can see a mile ahead.  Another aspect are the lack of locks.  Apart from the stop lock there are no locks until Wheaton Aston some 8ish miles further on.

Last time we came through here we passed this lovely old wooden cruiser and I'd swear this was where we saw her then,  looks like she'd never moved far.
Must spend hours varnishing but then its worth it.  She looks gorgeous.
For a few miles there is not much to keep the boater interested apart from the occasional glimpses of distant views between high tree lined banks and the high and ornate bridges like this one. 

A Braunston style Spire in the distance heralds the arrival at Brewood, pronounced brewed. 

This spire reminds me of that iconic one seen at Braunston
 As we approached the visitor moorings this little boat came past.  She's so small at only 10 foot she looked a little top heavy.  I'd love to see the engine room of this boat as I could not see where one would fit.  I reckon she's all electric with the battery bank being the ballast!

Looks taller than she is long,
 At the visitors moorings in Brewood we came across the leather belt boat.  An odd vessel with an additional bow section strapped to the mother ship.  This small addition served as a shop and workshop for the owner.  We have long wanted a decent windlass belt so after finding a vacant spot to moor we walked back and both got a belt each.  Their website is

The belt boat and additional work boat section.
 Back on our way again and past Countrywide Cruisers with their very well kept boats

Countrywide Cruisers wharf
 Now I could not resist another of my poor joke photos.  This boat must be the least cruised of the fleet as it must smell awful judging from its name (if you say it quick anyway)

Is that pronounced Smelly house?
 More straight runs of canal and we crossed over Stretton Aqueduct.  I've mentioned this in our big cruise home posts that we travel under this aqueduct every time we drive to and from Essex.  Its far more impressive from the road than canal.

The A5 passes under the Aqueduct between Telford and Cannock

The view from the canal

The view from the road taken in 2013 on our way home
Not long after the Aqueduct we spotted this lovely looking boat at Stretton Wharf.  I reckon it is a great restoration project.  Wonder if I could persuade the owner to part with it.  Would be ideal for the River Dee in Chester.

Another "Would like to restore that" boat
 After rounding the bend below the canal is as straight as an arrow to Wheaton Aston a mile or so away.

Its views like this I will never get fed up seeing
 Wheaton Aston Lock is located just before the village as if to halt the boater from proceeding past until one has sampled the village.  Here a rather large goose stood at the by-wash watching us like a sentry, undisturbed as we entered the lock.

Fine figure of a goose.
 As we descended the lock we could hear much shouting and hollering of many men's voices.  Sounded like a battle was being raged.  We also found why there was little traffic on the cut.  Seems the Hartley Arms pub here was having a beer festival and the shouting was the tug of war.

The moorings here were absolutely chocker with boats and the pub was doing a roaring trade by the looks of it.  Seems every man, women, child and dog and anything else living was attending.

Leaving Wheaton Aston lock

Working boats breasted up on long term moorings.

Boats as far as the eye can see and the pub just up on the right.
 Now we knew the cheapest diesel on the cut was to be had here and as we passed under bridge 19 nb Sandloy was just mooring up at the diesel point.  Although about to close we were invited to raft up alongside by the owner and would be served despite the closing time of 4pm being long past.  At 51.9 pence a litre we did not want to miss out if it could be helped!  With grateful thanks to the Owners of Nb Sandloy I backed off to let them on their way once we had both had our fill of diesel and then pulled in whilst Chris settled the bill.  On her return we too continued on our way and look for a mooring.

Still no mooring space long after the lock.
 nb Sandloy managed to find a mooring spot a little further on but offered to give it up for us as they were only 50 foot long and he thought as we were longer we would fit into the space and they would find a smaller spot.   They had been so accommodating at the diesel point I did not have the heart to accept in case they could not find anything further on.  Making the excuse we would not fit and thanking them for their kind offer we crept on.

We did find the last spot before bridge 20 and snuck in there with a foot or two to spare.  We had been cruising for a good 8 hours almost non stop.  Another early one tomorrow too.  Good news was there was live music in the evening and the pub but we were far enough away for it not to keep us awake.

The last free mooring on Armco before the bridge 'ole though more are beyond but pins would be needed.
Almost forgot.  Yesterday we spotted the smallest work boat and today saw the smallest narrowboat so now we reckon we've also found the smallest barge.  Our Enterprise dinghy at 13 feet is longer than this.

Not sure what this tiny barge would be used for but I wonder if its pulled by Thor the little workboat?.

Total distance:16.13 miles Elapsed time:8h18m58s Locks:3 
Bridges:47 Average speed:1.94 mph (2.30 lock/mph) 

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