Monday, 4 September 2017

The End of the Staffs and Worcs

Having come all the way from the River Severn at Stourport we have today crossed the River Trent on an aqueduct just before our arrival at Great Haywood where the Staffs and Worcs reaches a junction with the Trent and Mersey Canal.

Last Friday we came up to the summit of the Staffs and Worcs at about 340 feet above sea level.  The last 6 locks and a level section brought us to Autherley Junction.

Several locks produced heaps of bubbles when filling them.  Just like having Leo in a bubble bath.  This one is Wightwick Lock.

On the summit level there are two junctions.  First comes Aldersley where a canal turns right to Wolverhampton and Birmingham.  As soon as it leaves the Staffs and Worcs it starts its climb of 21 locks.  As all boating folk know, Birmingham is at the top of a hill.

Between Aldersley and the next junction, Autherley, there are loads of bridges as this picture shows.  Several of them hold huge water pipes carrying Welsh water to Birmingham.

We passed a boatyard called Oxley Marine (not sure about the 'marine' as it would be difficult to find a boatyard further from the sea).  As we passed, a large crane was lifting this narrowboat out of the water.

We moored close to Autherley Junction where the Shropshire Union Canal branches off left towards Nantwich and Chester.  We cycled to a nature reserve at Pendeford, which we found was closed.  So instead we visited Old Tree Nursery, a community project which proved to be interesting as well as providing cups of tea.  We watched these two month old piglets being fed. 

On a woodland walk at Old Tree Nursery, Helen met the Gruffalo!

On Saturday we crossed the 10 mile summit pound and started our downward trail towards the valley of the River Trent.

Soon after Autherley comes 'Pendeford Rockin'.  This is a very narrow section of rock cut canal with a few passing bays.  Other than these bays there is only space for one boat so you do need to keep a sharp look out for someone coming the other way.

The low sun of Autumn brings some excellent reflections.

A couple of miles before Gailey we passed another canal junction.  This is the Lichfield and Hatherton Canal which these days is just used for mooring as it only goes a hundred yards or so.  Perhaps one day it will go to Lichfield and link up with the BCN and with the Coventry Canals.  That really would be useful.

Gailey with its roundhouse is very pretty and here is the first of the locks dropping down towards the Trent.  At Otherton Lock, quite by coincidence, we met Daniel, the son of some good friends of ours.  He was travelling with friends on a boat going the  other way.

Saturday we stayed the night at Penkridge and patronised a super bakers as well as having lunch at the Star.  On Sunday we went down more locks and moored at Radford Bank where Sunday Carvery called us.  After a good lunch we walked it off by trekking into Stafford.

There used to be a lock here to take boats down into the River Sow and then up that river for a mile or two into Stafford.  Since we last came this way three years ago, this signpost has appeared and the first steps have been taken to restore this waterway.

This is the site of the lock house.

And this basin has been dug out.  From here an aqueduct crossed the River Penk and then a lock took the canal down into the River Sow.

This is what the Sow looks like across the meadows.  A bit of dredging is all it needs.

Here, in the centre of Stafford at Victoria Park, is where one day Leo might be able to moor.

We liked Stafford.  It has some fine buildings and an extensive pedestrianised area free of traffic.  There was a profusion of flowers both in planters in the town and in wonderful well kept gardens in Victoria Park.  This house is called the Ancient High House and is probably Elizabethan.

This is the Shire Hall, another fine building in the Market Place.

Here are some of the flowers in Victoria Park. 

Today the weather was pretty dismal as we cruised the last few miles of the Staffs and Worcs.

An aqueduct takes the canal over the River Sow ....

..... before you arrive at Tixall Lock, the last on the Canal.
Soon after the lock we crossed Tixall Wide where the canal widens into a lake.  It was built like this to improve the view from Tixall House for the local landowner.  Ironically the House has now gone though you can just make out its gate house in the left side of the panorama above.  Mooring on Tixall Wide is a pleasure but we decided we'd go a little further.

Here we are meeting another boat as we go under the bridge onto the Trent and Mersey Canal and turn right (south).

We moored just round the corner and this afternoon we visited the park of Shugborough Hall.  Helen is on the Essex Bridge which crosses the Trent and was built to take the  family of the Hall to church.  To Helen's right is the River Sow and to her left is the Trent.

The National Trust took over full management of this site last year from the County Council and have made many improvements.  A number of structures grace the park including this one called Hadrian's Arch.  Most, including this one, are based on structures in Ancient Greece.

So that's it for the Staffs and Worcs.  We have enjoyed this canal but we are now on the Trent and Mersey which, together with the River Trent, will take us to our winter mooring in a week or two.  Watch this space for our final blog postings.

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