Straight lines on the Shroppie
Market Drayton to High Offley: 9 miles, 5 locks
For the last two nights Cleddau and crew had enjoyed a luxury berth: there had been easy pedestrian and vehicle access, with plug in electricity and a tap right by the stern. It was farewell to Tom’s Moorings this morning.
The canal rather skirts Market Drayton but it was interesting to see how via frequent information maps and footpath signs the canal does its best to entice visitors into the town. At a canal services point is one of Busy D’s launderette posters
– may it bring her plenty of business!
On the edge of town a pillbox is a reminder of World War 2 defences:
They are frequent on the Kennet and Avon but this much further north…? After a string of what look like long term moored boats the canal enters a wooded straight, leading towards the bottom of the five Tyrley Locks.
Ahead at lock 4 there seemed to be a congregation of sorts: refreshments taken, the walkers slowly streamed in the sunshine down the slope. Fifty or sixty walkers along a narrow towpath on a shuffle, it seemed, rather than a brisk health walk…
The words emblazoned on a C&RT van
at the attractive top of the locks is a reminder still that this is border country.
Onwards in another straight line cutting. While the sun shone warmly above it could not sufficiently penetrate the foliage to dry up the muddy towpath. High Bridge
in Woodseave Cutting towers above the canal. Walkers and boaters can see for themselves the rocky sides – and the places where the banks have had to be stabilised. To the right and to the left young copses of trees have been planted in regular lines.
On boats moored on the offside folk sat and read, or painted canal ware or, in one case, the top of a boat.
Only once was life imperilled. Pirates from Norbury
were sharpening cutlasses, their chief boastful of his harem… Peace prevailed otherwise, dancing cow parsley in the foreground, the Wrekin and Long Mynd in the background
to the west. Ducklings swayed on a fender tyre,
yellow rape fields shimmered in the sunlight.
One notable feature in these parts at the northern end of the long Shebdon Embankment is the wharf at Knighton.
For fifty years until 1961 boats would bring cocoa and sugar by boat to the works where “chocolate crumb” was made and then transferred, again by water, to the Cadbury’s factory at Bournville.
More straight lines: is this the reddest boat on the waterways?
Then, when the canal at last began a gentle curve, at High Offley, there was a fine place to moor, right by the Anchor Inn. Over the canal bridge and up the hill… the road was narrow, narrowed further by the wild flowers and thickly grown verges.
Traffic was hardly heavy, just three tractors and two cars in an hour’s walk. On the hilltop is High Offley Church, its porch door unlocked,
the nave accessible. Sturdy Norman pillars
and ancient roof timbers indicate a long past.
For how many years have worshippers sat in these neat box pews? Back down the hill, past the horse in the stable yard, past the muck-strewn stretch on the road to the Anchor Inn. Is it open – or closed? Closed for ever – or just till later? Wadworths 6X it says, a beer brewed in Devizes.
Mid-evening the Captain wishes to investigate…
Tomorrow, towards Brewood.