Brewood (SU Canal) to Bratch Locks (Staffs & Worcs): 10.23 miles, 7 locks Cleddau arrived at Autherley Junction just after midday. A lady materialised and insisted on working the (3”) stop lock while her husband turned their boat round at the Junction, so as to return back down the Shroppie. A mile or so later at Compton Lock, the first Staffs and Worcs lock after the Junction, a local walker materialised, put his red rucksack down on the ground, pulled out a windlass and proceeded to help. “You can get back on the boat,” he said. “I’ll finish the gates off.” He had acquired a windlass – and most days found he could use it. A lock or so further on a sort of, well, hobbit materialised, muttering something incomprehensible apart from the word “Shaayide”; he closed the offside gate and then squatted down in the shadow beside the hedge. There were a few other spectators of course, mostly ladies. On the cruise went and memories returned of this delightful canal, its weaves and twists, its circular lock weirs,
its faces marked out on towpath notice posts.
Then came Ebstree Lock. The Captain signalled that there was a delay. He helped two boaters down through the lock, returned and collected a boathook. As the lock filled he hooked out their fourth snapped off fender. Gradually the damsels’ tale unfolded: one understands locks, the other had sailed, could steer and do things with ropes.A calamitous day had left them tearing off four fenders, crashing into a bridge and buckling the rudder and snapping the wood insert for the tiller. At the top of the Bratch flight one fender was returned – and the Captain set to work… An hour later they were on their way, aided by the Captain’s brute force and ignorance, which straightened the rudder and reattached the wooden fitment on the end of the tiller arm. The rescued fender was spliced and reconnected – a short course on knot tying was given – and off they headed for Kidderminster.
The older girl, a Pennsylvanian Master’s student at East Anglia, claimed to enjoy both British weather and British food. So, both knights and damsels on the Staffs and Worcs… The sun, slow again to appear this morning, continued to shine throughout late afternoon and the evening. Deck chairs and a table, Pimm’s and the first outdoor dinner of the season!
“But what of Brewood?” you might ask. It was worth the 20 minute hike back along the (sometimes) muddy towpath. There was the church prominent beyond the meadow,
from where the embanked canal can be seen.
Inside the church was a font surprise: there are two fonts, the one from the 1600s now back in use,
it having been dug up from a local garden in about 1927.
The other, the Victorian one, remains in the church, though now not used.Above the West Doors the bells’ ringing chamber is open to view. There are church schools here and down an alleyway a new housing development is called The Choristers.
No visitor will miss in the Square the facade of the Swan Hotel
– and perhaps the water pump and trough will catch the eye too
Then back along the towpath for a mid-morning departure. Despite both stern and bow of Cleddau being double pinned a speed merchant (or two) had torn the stern pins out from the bank – and there was Cleddau swaying across the cut…
It was Captain to the rescue – a foretaste of the day to come!