Up – along – and down
The Bratch – Laches Bridge – Penkridge – Tixall Wide: 26 miles, 18 locks
From The Bratch moorings at Wombourne to the Great Haywood Junction at the northern end of the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal is about 27 miles.
Then there were five further locks spread over about three miles before the canal’s summit level was reached. On a hot afternoon a locking rhythm developed, doing turn and turn about on locks and helm. After Compton Lock it’s ten miles of summit level before the descent begins at Gailey.
Now it was the summit pound. Aldersley Junction came and went.
From here rise the 21 locks to Wolverhampton.
from where starts the northbound Shropshire Union Canal that heads for Chester and ends at Ellesmere Port .
Onward on Friday, happily, quietly – until the roar of reverse power brought Boatwif to the bow deck. There, at a blind bend in the canal, through a bridge hole was ploughing not one, but two boats, the first towing the second, the Duke and Duchess hotel boats on the move…
It’s not all rural idyll – it comes as a bit of a shock to read these notices.
What is the work on the other side of the canal?
The downhill route starts at Gailey Lock. It’s always a curious sight, Gailey Tower, constructed as the lock keeper’s watch tower.
It’s seven locks down to Penkridge, near the M6 at one point, over a small aqueduct at another, squeezing under small brick bridges, to be joined on Saturday by extra crew. They’re dab hands now at locating a parking spot, jumping aboard, grabbing a windlass or a tiller – and finding their own way home. At the second lock a nervous single-hander was glad of the help and mindful of his own recent unplanned immersion in canal water. Onward – through the pretty village of Acton Trussell, onwards to Deptmore Lock where the once abandoned lock cottage has been brought back to life, past the Stafford Boat Club, to the jumping off point for the Stafford campanologists at Radford Bank.
There are park homes and a wonderful play train in a garden, quiet countryside, Virgin mainline trains nearby and an aqueduct over the River Sow. The canal creeps on, Shugborough Estate close by, creeping onwards to pretty Tixall Lock. But – cranes…?! Serious construction – of what? “Gas pipes,” said a local walker, “and tunnelling equipment.” It looked a Very Important Project…
Then Cleddau cruised round the long curve to Tixall Wide and a mooring right opposite the Elizabethan Gatehouse .
Nightfall at Tixall is special, magical, as the swans, ducks and geese retreat into the reeds and the sun throws vibrant colours across the water.
Such views sustain the soul – and draw these boaters back time and time again…
Stats since Higher Poynton: 384 miles, 6 tunnels and 204 locks
Monkton Moments*: 15
Number 13: at Tixall Wide, passers-by reported just returning from a holiday in Tenby, with visits to Freshwater West and Bosherston lily ponds
Number 14: hailed by a boater on a permanent mooring above Weston Lock with “Bore da – St Dogmael’s…”
(Monkton Moment*- a reference to / recognition of Cleddau’s Pembrokeshire connections)