Clocking up the miles on a clockwise route

Tixall Wide (Staffs and Worcs Canal) to Norbury Junction (Shropshire Union)

Up! Up! Up!

The Staffs and Worcs climbs steadily by 12 locks from Tixall Lock (east of Stafford)   along about 11 miles to the summit at Gailey.  Initially it is the railway line that shadows the canal     – and then the railway crosses the canal and swings north. ….

Soon though the sound of road traffic from the M6 becomes a background sound.

Some of the locks have wonderful names: Shut Hill Lock, Bogg’s Lock     and Filance Lock

A pretty place is Acton Trussell – and it was at a bridge hole just south of the village that a surprise third Monkton Moment * occurred.

”Cleddau, that river goes through my home town – ‘Av’fud’west,” called the young man from the back deck. Like ships that pass in the night the boats drew apart and no more conversation could be had!

With holiday options severely limited this year by the Covid -19 crisis canals are particularly popular – and queues at locks a regular feature of the day.

There are anglers too, both real   and mock…

Houses are always interesting to look at, houses for humans that is,

as well as houses for ducks…

There was a night stop at Penkridge, a well kept and proud village.

And then 6 more locks to the summit at Gailey   

The hedges are ablaze with red berries    and beware mooring under an acorn-laden tree. (Acorn and oak tree lovers see references to ‘a mast year’ here:

On this attractive canal weaves, past a couple of marinas, through farm land,  past a chemical works, through more farm land,   under the M54, eventually, on the outskirts of Wolverhampton, to The Narrows. Passing along this way feels as if you need to take a deep breath – and to hold it for a long time until you reach air and space again some half mile later. Luck was out though – Cleddau ran out of air and space half way along.    Road travellers in the wilder parts of Scotland will know about backing up to a passing place – this occasion involved not only backing up a boat but the Captain scrambling up onto a high bit of towpath to enable an approaching boater to squeeze on forwards…

The canal broadens then into suburbia and Autherley Junction. There’s a 90 degree turn under the graceful bridge    to proceed north on the Shropshire Union, heading for Chester. 

Autherley Stop Lock – last time here, southbound in April 2018, delicate pink blossom was dancing from that tree;   in September it seems inconspicuous!

The Shropshire Union – who lives in these parts, one might wonder, witches 

or wealthy types..?

On a route less frequently travelled boat names have provided plenty of passing interest:


Glyndwr (the name of Boatwif’s school house)



An overnight mooring at Wheaton Aston was to put Cleddau within a morning’s distance of Norbury Junction, this after filling up with “the cheapest diesel on the system” at Turner’s garage. There was an 8am start down Wheaton Aston Lock  but the well formulated plan was sabotaged by a queue of three boats to get fuel  – and the loss of the garage owner’s keys to open the gate between canal and garage…

Northwards, then. The canal threads from south to north, on embankments above fields,  through tree-lined cuttings hewn through hard rock.  There’s a tunnel treat at Cowley: it’s high, wide and short,    the canal then emerging into the pretty village of Gnosall..

Onwards to Norbury Junction,   for a liaison, a planned Towpath Encounter. From the south by canal came Cleddau and crew; from further south by car came the Tentatrice crew – accompanied of course by the Tentatrice boat dog.     Monty’s owners harbour the notion that the boat dog has spent all their cruising summer on the look out for Cleddau… and he was as watchful as ever…

It was a good reunion, joined by chance by passing former boaters, Carol and George of wb Still Rockin’ .

Wow! Did this make The Airhead Society formed back in January 2015 at Cowroast quorate?!   Thoughts and fervent best wishes of course are with dear Jaq, formerly of nb Valerie , now living in the US amid difficult wildfire conditions in Oregon.

Next time – locks, locks, locks…

Tixall Wide (Staffs and Worcs)  to Norbury Junction (Shropshire Union): 35 miles, 14 locks, 1 tunnel

Since leaving Higher Poynton on 2nd September: 84½ miles , 45 locks

Monkton Moments*- 3 (Monkton Moment*- a reference to / recognition of Cleddau’s Pembrokeshire connections)

  • “Aargh, Cleddau – Pembrokeshire – Haverfordwest”
  • “Oh, Cleddau, know where that is, have rowed longboats at Aberaeron…”
  • ”Cleddau, that river goes through my home town – ‘Av’fud’west”

Bow deck Pimm’s: 1







You may also like...

6 Responses

  1. Jaqueline M Biggs says:

    Lovely pictures, even lovelier memories!!!

    Biggs big love and loads of hugs all around,

    Jaq xxx

  2. Sue says:

    Oh, how we remembered the Airhead Gathering at Cowroast!
    Hugs to you too, Jaq. We are all thinking about you.
    Sue /Boatwif

  3. Pip says:

    Memories of earlier this year, before the world changed for us all.
    When you get to Hurleston Junction, you couldn’t just stick your head through the hedge before bridge 97 to see how our ‘Lockdown Home’ field is doing? Keep an eye out for the wheelie shoppers around that area too!

    • Sue says:

      Hi Pip,
      I’ll certainly try to check out “your field” at Bridge 97. An unexpected pleasure of Lockdown for us was watching the changes on a particular field – tilled, seeded, crop growing and months later harvested…

      Sue /Boatwif

  4. And another Cleddau reference – the Cleddau River in Fiordland, obviously named after the one in Pembrokeshire by early settlers here in NZ. I’ve been working on a programme for the Dept of Conservation, and one of the projects is the repair of the Cleddau Flood Protection Scheme – parts of it got undermined in the big storm (known as a rain event …) when the rainfall was 827mm in 2 days, and the river flooded and peaked at 6 metres above normal twice in 48 hours!
    So even though we have never met, I am vastly interested in your boat!
    Virtual hugs to all of you, Marilyn & David, nb Waka Huia (but at home in NZ instead of boating this year).

    • Sue says:

      Hi Marilyn,
      Thanks for your Cleddau reference from over in NZ! It reminded me that a few years ago an acquaintance who was visiting New Zealand sent us a photograph of a CLEDDAU STREET but I don’t know where it was taken…
      Is the Cleddau River anywhere near Milford Sound (Milford Haven being a very significant estuary in Pembrokeshire into which the east and west Cleddau rivers flow…)
      Maybe next year we’ll meet afloat somewhere…?!
      Best wishes,
      Sue /Boatwif

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.