‘Ever forward, but slowly’

High Offley to Brewood: 14.2 miles, 1 lock
   “Investigate the pub,” the Captain had suggested yesterday afternoon. “See if it does food.” The Anchor Inn had looked closed, seriously closed, though map books declared it a boaters’ pub. At about 6.30 a potter along the towpath confirmed its CLOSED status.

       “Opens at 7,” called a lad from the front deck of a boat. “We know, we’re local.”

         Intrigued, there was a repeat potter along the towpath mid-evening.  Indeed the place was open, the beer garden was alive with happy campers (yes, there’s a camp-site attached to the pub) and several boaters.  The pub is the two front rooms of the house; a grandfather clock stands in one corner and tall-backed settles provide the seating.

 A 6X and a half of cider taken outside were, after all, rather pleasant…
        Grey cloud obscured the church this morning; the sun will burn off the cloud was the Captain’s opinion… but by 1pm gloves had been requested and Boatwif pulled on an extra layer!  
        It was another day of straight lines, with long embankments and long cuttings. And where the short aqueduct crossed the A5 at Stretton it was over the course of the dead straight old Roman road.

Was the entire cruise being spent inside a chilly green tunnel?  The boat crept along Grub Street Cutting.  A heron swooped in front, dived, plucked a fish from the water – and retreated to the bank to digest it.

In the trees behind some elderly boats were parked a classic black Austin, a Fergie tractor

and a beautiful claret coloured vehicle (Hillman?)

The crew remained watchful for this canal’s most unusual sighting, High Bridge,

with its masonry strut and shorter than average telegraph pole.
        Just before Norbury Wharf a proud but hard-pressed mother duck guided her brood off the bank into the water.

“There was fifteen of them, fifteen!” a local dog walker insisted. Through the bridge-hole the wharf hove into view: a major boatyard, hire boats,

chandlery, services, tea-rooms, pub – a place of gentle but focused activity. After topping up water and fuel (77p per litre) Cleddaumoved off. A boat roof was being painted. What a splendid name  – and what an appropriate “port of registration”.

Next was nb James

and then the pretty Petronella.

         On towards Gnosall (pronounced Knows-all). Boats lined the moorings; there was The Navigation Inn,

where about three years ago the Cleddau crew came upon a folk night – and overheard distressing talk… After Gnosall comes this canal’s sole tunnel, all 81 yards of it.

Do others feel an irritation at signs like these?

Moored boats, along with garden sheds, a paint dock and Father Christmas.

        Late afternoon Brewood was reached. There is no sign of this lovely village from the north; moorings are in a deep and dark cutting but Boatwif had a vague notion of a sunny open meadow to the south. Happy voices from the middle school playing fields drifted across to the canal; the church looked splendid but the water was far too shallow to moor. Onwards, slowly; turn at the next winding hole and go back? A mile or so further on, in a more open situation, just past the winding hole, a mooring beckoned.

        Tomorrow: there’ll be a hike back to Brewood (check out if it is still as pretty as remembered), a hike back and then onward towards The Bratch (on the Staffs and Worcs Canal).



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