It’s all in the timing…
Downhill, heading north and east along the Staffs and Worcs Canal.
Spring came on Saturday – what a delightful surprise. To be cruising minus numerous additional layers of clothing was sheer joy. The whole world was happy, it seemed: lambs played chase in the fields, anglers sat and smiled on the canal banks, families relaxed in a canal side beer garden, church bells rang in Penkridge, a hen party was partying on a trip boat near Teddesley and a wedding reception was under way in Acton Trussell.
What are 6 miles, 10 locks and a Penkridge shopping pause when the sun is shining? It was a grand day indeed – and even after mooring up there was enough warmth in the sun to fix the whirlygig washing line to the tiller so that newly washed towels could dry in the gentle breeze…
A cheering sight on route was the Bourne Boat Builders signage at Teddesley Wharf.
Since doing a partial refit of Cleddau in 2011 from their canal side base on the Macclesfield Canal they’ve moved on. They had great success at the Crick Boat Show last year – may their business continue to prosper.
Come Sunday it was another 6 miles and two more locks to Tixall Wide, a favourite mooring. The canal winds round Stafford, where something seemed to be happening. Large numbers of runners were streaming across Radford Bridge, urged on by applauding spectators. This, it transpired, was the Stafford Half Marathon, postponed from its original date in March because of the snow.
Onwards, the day disappointingly grey and chilly. Why did a boat career through a bridge hole, apparently out of control? The answer soon became apparent – a young child’s play heaven, created one suspects, by a doting grandparent.
Down Tixall Lock and (in rain) Cleddau cruised the last winding mile to Tixall Wide. There stands the Elizabethan Gatehouse (available as a holiday rental with the Landmark Trust, images here.) The Wide is a place of great natural beauty: wind and light playing upon the surface of the water, a reed lined edge offering safe protection for coots and ducks, a swan on her nest, her mate watching from close by, a pair of Canada geese, the sound of crows in the morning, the sleek column of a stately poplar tree, a simply stunning place as the sun fades away…
As for timing and time-telling: well, there was a boat trader selling clocks and barometers at Great Haywood Junction. During a Monday walk to the nearby Shugborough Estate* (run now by the National Trust) there were several clock sightings: a magnificent one above the Servants’ Quarters, a plain wooden-cased clock inside the kitchen, and a fascinating longcase clock (with a ship counting the seconds) within the Mansion House.
Why the focus on clocks? Well, these last few weeks the Cleddau crew have been watching both clock and calendar. There are nuptials to attend soon of Bristol Niece (mentioned here). She’ll marry at the church just 50 yards down the road from Pembroke Castle…
There’s been much talk of warm weather coming this week but it’s not here yet; high winds (steady at 20 mph, gusting at 25 mph) made the turn around on Tixall Wide on Tuesday morning interesting and the arrival at Great Haywood Marina particularly challenging. See the legs here of a marina staff member loaned as additional bow crew, wielding the long pole like the professional he is!
Distance and locks since leaving Aqueduct Marina: 66 miles, 43 locks
Distance and locks remaining to Bedford: 259 miles, 56 locks
*Since November 2016 the entire Shugborough Estate has been run by the National Trust. Much work has gone into making it a successful visitor attraction. Currently the Mansion House has the feel of a stage set, showing the stories of the eighteenth century Anson brothers, Thomas, a pioneer and adventurer, and George, a sailor and reformer. The exhibits on show are related to their respective travels.
A separate timed ticket exhibition allows access to the private apartments of Patrick, Lord Lichfield. This provides a fascinating view of a man whose privileged social and professional life was interwoven with both royalty and celebrity.