Sunday, 12 June 2016

Summer Cruise Week 1 - Destination Stratford Upon Avon

Overwater to Wombourne

This is our summer cruise with our destination being Stratford Upon Avon.  We aim to be cruising for about two months, making a big loop and taking in the Ashby Canal if we have time.

Monday 6th June - We made a good start this morning, loaded the Landrover with our bags and were at the Marina, unpacked and ready to go by 10.45am!!

The weather was amazing, warm sunshine, light breeze and brilliant blue skies.  Who could ask for more? 

We made our way out of the Marina and turned right - the first time we have ever done this - and I do believe turning left is always easier!!  We set off up the Audlem flight of 15 locks and moored up in the long pound just before lock 2.  Here there are open views across the Cheshire countryside with Cox Bank in the distance.  When we were looking to relocate to the West Midlands we looked at a house there and we could see it from the canal. 

It was a short cruise for our first day, just 2 miles and 13 locks, and we met lots of lovely people and enjoyed passing the time of day with them.

A beautiful sunset from our boat with a single crow sitting on the telegraph wire.

Tuesday 7th June - another gorgeous day and we made an early start to our day.  We cruised up the last 2 locks and at the top lock there is a house with a  canal side stall selling homemade cakes and bread.  We treated ourselves to some lovely looking pieces of cake!  

We then did the 5 locks at Adderley and at the top lock there is a farm selling meat products and we bought a pork pie for our lunch!  There were many boats going up and down and many of the locks were left ready for us to enter which made the whole trip very pleasant indeed.  

Further on we had to pull over for a short while as there were 2 cows in the canal and a rescue was under way.  Glad to report that mother and baby were safely removed from the canal with the aid of a narrowboat called n/b Betty.

Happy ending all round, Mum and baby reunited and safely on the bank!

Continued and to my delight saw a family of swans and cygnets.  

Cruised on into Market Drayton, 

past Betton Wharf, we looked at a flat there when we were house hunting.

Past Talbot Wharf and n/b Afon Briant a famous little narrowboat who delivers Father Christmas to Talbot Wharf just before Christmas.

n/b Afon Briant.  

Moored up for the night in open countryside just outside Market Drayton and enjoyed the lovely sunshine and a walk along the towpath.

Wednesday 8th June - set off in warm sunshine and straight into Tyrley Locks.  Fortunately there was a CaRT volunteer to help out at the first two, the second of the locks has a very vicious sidestream which will sweep the boat onto the off side bank unless you take evasive action.  I know boaters tackle this in different ways, but I put the power on and hoped for the best - no damage and only one bang!!

n/b Ella coming up the last lock at Tyrley.

The iconic view of the Tyrley Top Lock, the paint work has changed and the boat, but well known on the Shropshire Union Canal.

Down into Woodseaves Cutting, a majestic deep cutting with a fairy like feel in the dappled sunlight.  It is incredibly deep, with very tall bridges.  The man in the photo gives some idea of the height!!

Evidence all along the cutting of the bank slipping and the measures being taken to address this issue.  The greenery was very lush and delightful.  I am always amazed that this cutting was created by men alone without any powered machines.

Just before approaching Shebdon Embankment is a wharf and a factory which used to produce chocolate products that were then taken by canal to and from Bournville for Cadbury's.

Shebdon Embankment was the last part of the Shropshire Union Canal to be completed, it took over 5 years and suffered greatly from slippages and erosion.

We were delighted to see the lady volunteer from Tyrley Locks taking a well earned rest on board her own n/b Hope.

Moored up at the Anchor Inn, High Offley just past an old pub run by Olive who always used to walk down the steps to the cellar to collect the beer in a jug for her customers.  She has recently had taps put in, as she is finding the steps a little difficult - she is in her 80's!

Baby ducks came to see us beside the boat, closely guarded by the parents.

A beautiful sunset at the end of another wonderful day.

Thursday 9th June - today we set off for Brewood where we are meeting up with friends, Anne and Steve, in the evening.  

On this stretch of the canal there are some interesting bridges.

Double Culvert Bridge has a footpath and a stream going over this bridge.

High Bridge has a masonry strut built across it's tall arch which has a short telegraph pole on it.  

We saw many heron, but today we saw this one who took off 

and flew in front of the boat, several times.

Then finally took off and sat at the top of a tree to watch us cruise past!!

We moored up in Brewood for the evening and walked into the village to do some shopping.  Spent a lovely evening with Anne and Steve in Codsall, many thanks for collecting and returning us to our boat!!

Friday 10th June - today we travelled to the end of The Shropshire Union and the junction with The Staffordshire and Worcester Canal. 

The vegetation is lush, creating a tunnel of green for us to cruise through.

As we approached Autherley Junction we could see that the dredgers were working on the far side of the canal.  The CaRT man opened and closed the tiny stop lock (6 inches, 15 cm) to get us through to the Staffs and Worc Canal.  This lock was insisted on by the Canal Company to stop the Shropshire Union stealing their water!!!

We turned right and headed towards Stourport.  For us this is very exciting as we have never cruised this part of the canal before.  In fact much of the trip is new territory to us.  

We cruised past Aldersley Junction where the Birmingham Canal Navigations join the canal.  This is the first of 21 locks - sounds like hard work!

Our first lock was Compton Lock which marks the end of the 31 lock climb from Stourport, a rise of 294ft.  We shall be going down these locks over the next few days.

It is also thought that Compton Lock was James Brindley's first narrow lock construction and it has a distinctive circular weir peculiar to this canal. 

We moored up at Wightwick and decided to visit Wightwick Manor Gardens.  The house is a beautiful late Victorian dwelling furnished by the Artts and Crafts movement and the 17 acre gardens are stunning.


The house glimpsed through the formal gardens.

Beautiful hydrangeas and copper beech beside the small lake.

A splendid end to another delightful day.

Saturday 11th June - today we are having a rest day.  In the afternoon we walked back along the canal to Tettenhall to a tearoom called Cupcake Lane.  The tearoom is set up inside the disused railway station and we sat along the platform and ate the most amazing afternoon tea.  Well worth finding if you are ever along this way. 

Sunday 12th June - woke to rain and decided to delay our departure until it stopped.  Set off at midday and worked our way through to the Bratch Locks.

We passed a beautifully looked after cricket pitch - no cricket as it was too wet!

There are three locks which initially look like a staircase, but are in fact three separate locks with their side ponds hidden behind the towpath hedge.  

Carl the lock keeper and Andy the volunteer, helped us through the locks.  Much appreciated!!

A smart octagonal toll house acts as his office and you can get odds and ends from there.

Bill the resident tame robin sat on the lock gate and watched as we worked our way down.

The third of the three locks is over 14ft deep and is quite awesome when looking back on it.  The trick to operating these locks is something to do with the coloured paddles, red and blue, but fortunately we didn't have to worry ourselves about that! 

Our final lock before mooring up was called Bumblehole Lock - I just liked the name!!

We moored up in the village of Wombourne for the night.  We have now completed our first week of cruising - we have gone from hot sunshine to heavy downpours and the often challenging locks on the Shropshire Union to the gentle almost sleepy locks on the Staffs and Worcester.  

Next week, all being well, we experience river cruising for the first time, a mixture of excitement and trepidation!!

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