As is customary…
While moored at Tixall Wide for a couple of days there were some customary things to be done… A stroll through Great Haywood for instance. There are usually some decorative features in this well-cared for village. The Clifford Arms pub draws attention to its beer garden with crocheted strands suspended from the garden railings, while further up the street the wicker baskets of two bicycles clamped to the walls of a cottage are bright with summer bloom.
It was Monday, a warm day. From Great Haywood you can cross the canal bridge and follow the path via the Essex packhorse Bridge (see pictures here ) into the grounds of Shugborough Hall. Waders and paddlers were enjoying the cool waters in the River Trent shallows. On one bank a picnic was under way and on the other children played on a swing.
A Shugborough stroll and a Shugborough lunch is always an attractive option – but it’s a longer walk into the Estate these days – the pedestrian gate by the lodge just the other side of the Essex Bridge is firmly chained up so a half mile or so walk along the footpath to the Entrance Proper is needed. There are plenty of signposts and notices to keep the visitors informed.
Very near the Reception kiosk is the Walled Garden, an impressively large area used to grow flowers, fruits and vegetables for the Mansion. Archaeologists are trying to establish the layout of the adjoining walled areas. Meanwhile the dipping pond intrigued. It was for ornamental and practical use, the gardeners dipping their watering cans into the pond. A nearby notice states that the brick oval may have been used for lily cultivation or for a safe place for fish when the pond was being cleaned.
Would the shearers be on site soon for the sheep? Many very woolly-coated creatures were sheltering under a shady tree… Some of us have to contend with unruly hair – what do you do about a pair of out of control horns…?
Shugborough Mansion is a case of what some might call “extensionitis”, the earlier medieval moated bishop’s palace and an early 17th century house being demolished in 1693 and rebuilt as a three storey country house in 1695. In the 1740s the neo-classical pavilion-like wings were added. Further enlargement was made and an east front portico added in the 1790s. The core country house can be seen as the centre of the Mansion.
The Shugborough grounds are peppered with classical and neo classical ruins. On the Monday stroll just two were observed, Hadrian’s Arch high on the hillside on the Stafford side of the Estate and the Tower of the Winds, thought to have contained a show dairy and a gambling den, but now it’s shrouded in scaffolding, undergoing restoration…
One other customary visit while at Tixall Wide is to the Canalside Farm Shop. From a Pick Your Own strawberry farm has grown a superb farm shop (fresh produce, bakery, butchery counter, preserves, plants, homeware) and look, in 2020 the business was awarded Small Farm of the Year at the Farm Retail Awards.
Just by the Great Haywood Junction another sign has appeared; towpath upgrade work has been started below Haywood Lock and long stretches of mooring above and below the lock are not to be used for several weeks… That will cause some mayhem during the busy summer weeks. What sort of surface will the towpath have? A newly re-laid surface of very fine grey grit in Stone near Newcastle Road lock leaves (boater unfriendly) white dust deposits outside on boat decks and inside boat cabins…
So – left turn at Great Haywood on Tuesday morning, to join the Trent and Mersey Canal, heading north. There was the Canalside Café and beyond that the rows of covered polytunnels. Plenty of strawberries there… Up Hoo Mill Lock and on through quiet countryside. There were few people, but plenty of Canada geese, some horses in shade, a few cows, the odd caravan (or is it a revamped shepherd’s hut) and bee hives at Weston. Squinting into the sun, a structure could be seen on the skyline – was it in the grounds of Sandon Hall?
Though the day’s destination was Stone – why continue when quiet sunny spots beckoned…? A night near Burston was disturbed (if that) only by one towpath walker and three canoeists. Nearby is the juvenile River Trent and the pretty, tiny Burston village, on the Two Saints’ Way.
Onward on Wednesday, in strong sunshine, passing The City of Durham (hallo!) – a mile further on to join the queue at Aston Lock! There was an overnight mooring at Stone, a wander, past Oatcakes and Milkshakes, up the High Street, the atmosphere enhanced by a busker, and then, great treat, a whisking away by Staffordshire Friends to a proper house, for an Afternoon Tea. Splendid it was!
As then is customary, the cruise continued, up through the 4 locks in Stone. Just before Yard Lock there was the refurbished image of Christina Collins, and above that the new Joules development, including the Wharf Theatre, . That looks Proper Interesting…
What was it about Cleddau’s appearance on Thursday? It started with a “Are you from Wales?” as the boat was rising in Star Lock. A conversation ensued about the location of the Cleddau river, “Cleddau” as meaning “sword”, then the beaches of Pembrokeshire and dogs on beaches.
At the next lock (Yard Lock) with some confidence a man announced: “The red rose of Yorkshire”. The rose reference was unravelled – it’s the red rose of Lancashire, the white rose of Yorkshire, and Cleddau’s rose being neither, but a combination of the two, ie, a Tudor rose…
Onwards, up through two more Stone locks, then the 4 Meaford Locks and on through Barlaston towards a favourite pleasant rural near Wedgewood. This would do very nicely before the final long push back towards the Macc…
By then tied up, there came another rose remark. “Ah, the white rose of Yorkshire…?” said a towpath walker. He was partly right, given the previous misapprehension…
Maybe one should print out information cards to give out to puzzled bystanders? Now that would be a winter project…!
Tixall Wide (Staffs & Worcs Canal) to Wedgewood (Trent & Mersey Canal), 14½ miles, 12 locks.
2021 Monkton Moments*- 5
(Monkton Moment*- a reference to / recognition of Cleddau’s Pembrokeshire connections)
- Passing boaters on Audlem Lock flight: “I’m from Hav’fodwest…”
- Nb Serena crew at Market Drayton: spent winter lockdown with family in Narbeth
- Towpath walker above the Bratch Locks: “I’ve got a house in Freshwater East – the best beach in the world…”
- Towpath walker at Stourton Junction: “Ah, Pembrokeshire…”
- Not really /strictly a Monkton Moment* – a boater at Kidderminster Lock said: “If you put ‘Aber’ in front of your boat name it would be Milford Haven…”