Thursday, 28 May 2015


As planned we departed Coven at 8 am this morning. A little over an hour later we approached the narrows prior to Autherley Junction. Fortunately, we had received a tip from our winter neighbours on the blog yesterday to send the crew ahead. This proved effective, as we met the only oncoming boat at one of the few passing places.

                             Entering the narrows which are cut out of the sandstone.


                                    Looking back towards the boat we met in the middle.

It was not long after exiting the narrows that we approached Autherley Junction. This is where the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal meets with the Shropshire Union Canal. Straight on was towards Stourport and the river Severn, a journey for another day. We were turning right towards Chester.

                            Approaching Autherley Junction and the Shropshire Union Canal.


                                                         Entering the stop lock. 

                                         Grooves cut into the metal by the towing ropes.


The stop lock at Autherley Junction is necessary, because the Shropshire Union Canal is about one foot lower than the Staffs and Worcs Canal. This was because the different canal companies at the time wanted to protect their own water, as it was a precious resource. It is possible to see how busy this junction was in its day, by the way the horse towing ropes have cut grooves into the iron work over the years. Just after the junction we stopped for water and to visit the Morrisons superstore for supplies.
After lunch we resumed our journey, now heading steadily north west. A couple of hours later we arrived at the village of Brewood, pronounced Brood. A feature of this canal is that it has some deep sided, and heavily wooded cuttings, which feel as if you are in a different world as you travel through.


The visitor moorings at Brewood only allow 48 hours stays, so we passed through the village centre and moored on the far side where we can remain for up to 14 days. 

              Mooring pins required here. Sainsbury carrier bags providing trip hazard warning.

We have also encountered for the first time the infamous Shroppie shelf. For anyone reading this not in the know, this canal has a concrete shelf running almost its entire length conveniently submerged about one foot under the water. Consequently any attempt at mooring tight into the bank is doomed to fail, and movement of the boat results in a constant annoying banging and scraping noise.

                    The solution, wheelbarrow wheels to hold the boat away from the shelf.

We are now settled for the weekend and will aim to move early next week, subject to the weather. Depending on our timings we may deviate on route along the Middlewich Branch to visit the Middlewich festival.

Totals 10 Miles 1 Lock

Running total 241 Miles 100 Locks 10 Tunnels

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Coven, bridge 74 Staffs and Worcs.

Yesterday we departed Acton Trussell. This was nice spot and whilst here we met the crew of Barolo No. 3 as they passed. We had not seen them since the Hudson open weekend last year. It is great having a catch up and you never know who is going to be round the next corner. Our first stop was by Park Gate Lock, where Midland Chandlers have a shop. We had walked here the previous day purchasing a pair of outdoor folding chairs, due to the fact they were offering a discount whilst the Crick Show was on. Not wanting to carry the chairs 2 1/2 miles back to the boat, they agreed to put them aside ready for collection. We also wanted a pump out at the boatyard just beyond the lock. We won't be using them again, they charge double if you want the tank rinsed which is normally included in the price. It was then on to the village of Penkridge. Both of us needed haircuts and this village has six hairdressing establishments. Unfortunately for the crew all the lady hairdressers required a booking whereas I just sat and waited my turn. The village also boasts an excellent bakery, and a very tempting old fashioned sweet shop. Thank god we don't live in Penkridge. Back at the boat we refilled the water tank and had lunch, then we were off again, aiming for somewhere south of Gailey. 


Approaching Gailey lock with its iconic round tower which was used by the toll keepers. This was to be the last of ten locks we did that day.

                       One of the crew peering over the edge to make sure I am doing it right.

There we lots of visitor moorings at Gailey but we pushed on and were soon passing a chemical works with warning signs of No Stopping or Mooring and guard dogs patrolling. Even without the warnings I have to say that parking next to a chemical works would not be high on my list of preferred spots. We passed Hatherton Marina and shortly after found a rural spot just prior to bridge 74.
At 11 am today we set off for a short mile and a half walk to the pub at Cross Green. Whilst taking refreshments a pair of old working boats pulled in and moored outside the pub. The boats were Nuneaton (motor) and Brighton (butty).


On return to the boat we had lunch and waited for the old boats to come chugging past. I have enough trouble controlling one boat sometimes, never mind two. The boats are heading back to Alvecote and expect to be there on Friday. That's some going as it's taken us nearly three weeks to get here from there.


Tomorrow we plan an early start, hopefully passing through the narrows prior to Autherley Junction and the Shropshire Union Canal without meeting any boat traffic. Either way we will then be on the home straight for Chester and a wedding at the end of June.

Totals 11 Miles 10 Locks

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Acton Trussell Update

Our daily walk took us into the village of Acton Trussell. It is a very pleasant village, with a mix of older original houses and cottages that have been added to over the years. What is nice is that most of the new additions have been built in a similar style to the original buildings. As we walked through the village we spotted a  gentleman in his front garden going about his business. You can tell it is an upmarket village as he is reading the Telegraph and not some red top newspaper.


A bit further on it became apparent that Acton Trussell competes in the Best Kept Village competition, and also holds awards for best scarecrow and best hanging basket.


Here are a few more contenders for the championship.


During our return to the boat we met the Canal and River Trust enforcement officer travelling the towpath on his bike. The area he has to cover is vast, including 5 canals and 2 rivers logging boats. Today he was checking from Gailey on the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal, to Great Haywood on the Trent and Mersey canal. He aims to cover each section once every 14 days, so this would indicate we were probably last logged at Tixall Wide.
The weather has been a bit hit and miss lately. Too warm for the solid fuel stove, but cold enough to need some heating. We have a hurricane diesel heater to run our central heating and this has been working well to take the chill off. It is however more expensive to run in both diesel cost and battery power consumption. The remainder of the day has been spent reading the freeby papers Towpath Talk and Crick Boating Times. 

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Acton Trussell

Yesterday the crew returned from their weekend jaunt, so this morning we were up bright and breezy ready to move off. First we settled our bill with the Stafford Boat Club and I am sure we will visit them again on our travels. The crew went top up shopping to a large co-op store in Wildwood, whilst I filled the water tank and prepared the boat. The forecast today was for heavy showers and occasional sunny spells. We set off with a potential mooring spot 200 yards ahead through the bridge. This was only going to be used if the weather was really foul, it was not. We continued on to the lock about half a mile away and were fortunate that a boat had set it for us. Through the lock for a further half a mile and we reached our intended mooring spot. Just as we were tying up the heavens opened with a mix of rain and hail. Five minutes later, just as we finished the sun came out. We have enough supplies to last at least a week, so we will probably stay here till after the bank holiday weekend as it may get busy.



As you can see from the above pictures of our mooring spot we are once again in a picturesque rural setting, just prior to the village of Acton Trussell. The M6 motorway is about a mile and half away but is shielded by trees and not bothering us at all.

Totals 1 Mile 1 Lock

Monday, 11 May 2015

Stafford Boat Club

Today we finally left Tixall Wide to continue our journey. We only had three miles and one lock to navigate today. Our destination was Stafford Boat Club on the outskirts of Stafford. We need to be close to the trains this weekend, so the crew can go to another birthday celebration. We arrived at 11 am and had a short wait before we could access the services pontoon. We then nipped across the entrance of the marina and moored on the linear moorings. Here we could also plug into the national grid, and we have water on tap. No need for conservation for the next week. The boat club is very small and run entirely by volunteers. It has all services and a club house, renowned for the low cost of its ale. The people here are very friendly which explains why there is a long waiting list for potential moorers. By the time we had tied up the sun was out and the day ended up being very warm. We took the rest of the day easy, and will explore our surroundings over the next few days.

                                              Viewing from the starboard side hatch.

                   Viewing from the other side across the landscaped grounds of the boat club.

Totals 5 Miles 1 Lock

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Tixall Wide Update

We have been at Tixall Wide now for five days. Initially we planned to move off today, but the weather forecasts for the next two days are not favourable, with high winds and frequent spells of rain. We were aiming to be at Gnosall on the Shropshire Union Canal for the weekend of 15/5, but have now revised our schedule. This will allow us to spend more time on the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal. Over the past few days we have explored the area. On Saturday we used our National Trust membership to visit Shugborough Hall, the former residence of the Earls of Lichfield. This passed into trust ownership in lieu of death duties. The last resident was Patrick Lichfield, photographer. 



The estate also contained a rather grand farmhouse and water mill. The mill was working when we visited, however it is due to undergo some substantial repair to the main shaft. Traditionally made from a single piece of oak we were told the new one will be steel, clad in oak for effect. The reason is the shaft has a working life of about 20 years, and in order to fit it, they need to remove an entire brick wall to access the 5 metre wheel.

                                                        The water wheel gearing.

                           The oak shaft with not so traditional temporary stainless steel bolts.

On Sunday we went to the Top Lock restaurant and barn for a roast dinner, and on Monday we had a look at Great Haywood Marina. The moorers here are certainly spoiled, as on site is a very well stocked farm shop, with butchers, bakery and deli. We bought some seeded rolls and apple chutney for lunch.

In the early hours of this morning the wind struck. It was blowing across the wide uninterrupted, and as a result small wavelets were slapping the side of the hull. The satellite dish was knocked over and this despite the use of the very special satellite dish retaining string. During our morning walk we saw that at the further end of the wide there was shelter provided by some trees. On our return to the boat we made the decision to move the 200 yards or so to the south west end of Tixall Wide. We are now nice and secure and out of the worst of the wind. We will probably stay here till Thursday or Friday, but may have to top up with water back at the junction by the Anglo Welsh hire base.

Friday, 1 May 2015

Tixall Wide

Yesterday morning was a very early start for us. At 6.45 am we quietly slipped away from our mooring and made our way to the water point. The tank was filled by 7.15 and then we turned right onto the Trent and Mersey Canal. We had three locks to navigate, then a couple of hours cruising until we reached our intermediate destination, the town of Rugeley.

                                   Looking back towards the junction in the morning sun.

                        Spotted this British Waterways vehicle in the depot yard at Fradley.

On arrival at Rugeley we were lucky to find a spot on the visitor moorings, nearest to the bridge and the shops. This was handy as it was to be a big shop, topping up the supplies we had used since leaving Yelvertoft a month ago. We were also spoilt for choice between Tesco, Morrisons or Aldi. Tesco won. Rugeley is also famous for some other facts. In the 1800s the Rugeley Poisoner was at large and also an infamous canal murder took place. Christina Collins was kidnapped and murdered by some barge men when she tried to hitch a lift to London. It is also currently the home to possibly the worlds largest producer of toilets, Armitage Shanks.

                                                    The Armitage Shanks factory.
                                           Ceramic toilets awaiting transportation.

After the shopping was completed we had a quick lunch, then set off on the second leg of our journey. This would take us to Tixall Wide on the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal, six miles and two locks away. On route we passed the National Trust owned Shrugborough Hall, which we will visit tomorrow. After passing through the second of the two locks we arrived at the junction. Straight on was north, towards The Potteries and eventually The Mersey. Left, the way we were going was heading south west towards Wolverhampton, and the start of the Shropshire Union Canal (The Shroppie).


               Junction of the Trent and Mersey with the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal.

Once through the junction we had a mile to go to our planned mooring location of Tixall Wide. This area of the canal is four or five times wider than normal. This was apparently because the landowner, did not want a scruffy industrial canal crossing his land, so would only allow construction if it was dug out to look like a lake.


                                                       Views across the wide.

The former Tixall House was a medieval building no longer standing. At one time it was used as a prison for Mary Queen of Scots. Although long since gone, it is possible to imagine how it must of looked when you see the surviving gatehouse.

                                                                 Tixall Gatehouse.

Today we went for a walk around the nearby village of Great Haywood. It is well served by two general stores a post office and a pharmacy. There are also two pubs and a restaurant.

                                            This evenings view from our side hatch.

Totals 13 Miles 5 Locks