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King’s Bromley to Taft Bridge: 7.1 miles

             Deployed Google and maps late last night. It had come to mind that a dear boating friend had recommended a nature site of some kind in the area of Wolseley Bridge, after Rugeley. Where was he talking about? Maybe readers aren’t too familiar with Rugeley either…  Cleddauand her crew are now a couple of miles north west of this town in Staffordshire. There’s been a growing feeling too over the last couple of days that maybe this is the North Midlands. The Trent and Mersey Canal, coming from Shardlow in the East Midlands, has now begun its swing north. A mile or so back in Rugeley was the first sighting of the River Trent, about a ten foot drop below the level of the canal.

As yet it’s a sparkling youngster, still to grow into the tidal river that later tips with the Yorkshire River Ouse into the Humber Estuary.

               What was seen in the few miles travelled today? A pigeon loft,

a canal side water feature in a garden, first view of Rugeley Power Station,

a shed fit for a skeleton’s residence,

the Ideal Standard plant at Armitage and its stockpile of toilets,

nb Potteries and its amazing decoration

– and the swimming pool house alongside the canal in Rugeley is still for sale.  

              Challenges of the day?  The narrows just after Armitage (hand held walkie talkie sets in use again),

strong cross winds, long lines of fishermen (one of whom thanked the Captain for his considerate boating),

a luggage strap trapped on the prop necessitating a stop on Brindley Bank, and for once being an observer rather than a participant in a spectacular tree pruning episode (“But I did it with panache,” said the lady at the helm.)

               After Rugeley the canal takes a sharp right hand bend over the River Trent. Here the scenery becomes positively glorious. The power station is out of sight, behind the stern, the river valley is to the left and ahead rise the hills of Cannock Chase.

There are sheep, there are pigs, there are cattle but road traffic is banished and the train line is a safe distance away beyond the farmland. 

              Why risk not finding somewhere to moor later on? became the collective thought. So, just before the little Taft Bridge (and its egg selling platform)

Cleddau pulled in.

              Later, during a quiet towpath stroll there was this

– and bees busy inside flower heads. Some distance ahead the canal was crossed by another bridge – was this Colwich Lock? Apparently not.  A traffic roar grew and a path up from the canal led to a fast road, the A51. To the left were brown visitor signs: a trio of “attractions”, right there at the roundabout. There was the Craft and Antique Centre and right inside were two shelves of elephant ornaments

and all manner of salvaged fireplaces and hearths…

                 Opposite was a garden centre (ignored) but beside that was the Wolseley Centre (run by the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust).

The Visitor Centre is quite a walk in from this direction. Paths weave through a wildlife friendly garden and beside a wetland area. A plaque on which is written the words of a poem once learned as a school homework resonated: ‘What is this life… The Jewels of Staffordshire proclaims a wall panel:

this Trent Valley canal stretch, Shugborough Hall to come, Tixall Wide, the canal length up to Stone – all are jewels still to come in this north-bound cruise…

Tomorrow: to Great Haywood and hopefully a glimpse of Tixall Wide…

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