Total Pageviews

Tuesday 31 July 2018

On to the Staffs and Worcester.

The rain stopped at 0700 and a lovely morning followed. I checked the level of oil in the gear box and then we were away.

Brewood Wharf is now home of Countrywide Cruisers. We hired a boat from here a good while ago. It looks like the original warehouse has been extended.

The church of St. Mary's and St. Chads at Brewood makes me think of the church at Braunston. Not quite os high on a hill but does indicate the approach of a junction.

There is a cutting, or 'valley' as the old boatmen called them, comes after Brewood and in the bright sunlight gives nice pools of dappled light.

Half way down the cutting is Avenue Bridge. It is a Grade II listed structure and is special as it cuts across the avenue leading to Chillington Hall. The estate has been in the same family for over 800 years. There have been three houses on the site but this one, Grade I Listed was built in 1724. The grounds were designed by Capability Brown around 1770.

Chillington Wharf is just the other side of the cutting and I assume served the Chillington Hall estate. There are plenty of moorings to be had nearby but very few boats moored there at the moment.

I'm not really sure why these narrows have been left in a couple of places between Brewood and Autherley but they remind me of the Llangollen but with no rocky sides. They aren't in very deep cuttings that may have been opened up tunnels.

As we pass under the M54 it is nice to see one of the original canal bridges too. The M54 was started in 1975 and costs £65 million, but is mainly dual carriageway. There are ideas to continue it through to Shrewsbury and also to link up with the M6Toll.

This little stop lock has been an added feature after construction and unusually has two gates instead of the more usual one.

A little further on is the Wolverhampton Boat Club, and below the foot bridge is another set of gates as a stop lock. Close by was an aerodrome during WWII. It was started in WWI but left until the start of the next war. It was built as a new fighter base but was only really used as an emergency landing ground for other nearby bases. An Advanced Training Base was also there and a big camp was built in the grounds for part of the Free Dutch Army. At the end of the war it was closed up but the army base was given over to a refugee camp for Poles, Latvians and Lithuanians until 1950. I wonder if the stop locks were added at the time of WWII in case the airfield was bombed and misses breached the canal. 

The toll house at Autherley Junction is still there but not too much made of it. In other places you would have lots of people coming to see the junction and the boats coming backwards and forwards along with the original buildings.

I'm not sure whether this was a later toll booth, or just a 'hovel' for the lock workers. Napton Narrow boats are installed in some of the other old buildings

The stop lock is just about 6" and after filling up with water and waiting for two boats to come through we worked through and turned right. We just went down the Staffs and Worcester and moored up before Oxley Marine. I hung the washing up and washed the other side of the boat. I was on a roll so I then went on to polish the st'bd side too. The first time this year. I have been using the Craftmaster carnuba wash liquid and I'm sure that it works very well, as there wasn't too much muck came off on the cloth but it really does look great now.

Monday 30 July 2018

Mills, pubs and wharfs

It had rained a little earlier in the morning but it was supposed to be all clear later, so we didn't rush this morning. Once sorted we decided to walk into the village of Gnosall Heath to get some milk before setting off.

Just near the water points at Gnosall Heath is this old steam mill that I think was built in the 1830's. I love the metal windows are pretty special and although very modernised I'm pleased that they have kept them as they certainly add character.

At the next bridge is the Boat pub that has a few different facades towards the canal. Apparently it started out as a farm workers cottage but when the canal was cut through next to it it was taken over by the canal company and it was thought that part of it was used as a stables for the fly boat horses. 

The other side of bridge 34 was an industrial area that started out as a coal, lime and salt depot. It then moved more to a sawmill and timber yard and a manufacturer of furniture etc. Henry Belcher was the owner and by 1880 120 were employed. Timber was brought via the canal and a overhead crane moved it to the saw mill. There was a massive fire in the saw mill and afterwards the emphasis moved to a brick works. By 1913 it became a milk depot that was supplying milk to the Cadbury factory at Knighton. Any surplus they made cheese etc on their own account and used the whey to feed their own 600 pigs. They had their own two narrow boats that carried 2000 gals each. It later became a council depot and was then sold for housing. This boundary marker must have been by the old brick works.

The south portal of Cowley Tunnel shows that it is cut right through solid rock. The tunnel is 81 yds long but it was intended to be 690 yds. After the remaining part that was through solid rock the rest was through unstable rock and so was opened out to form the cutting that we are now travelling through in the photo. Major work was done at the cutting in the late 1980's as it had unstable sides, worse than Woodseaves Cutting and the canal was closed for several months.

Bridge 26 is a turnover bridge. It is not quite as graceful as those on the Macclesfield but is a rarity here on the Shropshire Union

Lord Talbort's Wharf is a lovely building that was erected in the 1830's as transport point for goods in and out for the local land owner Lord Talbort. Surprisingly not converted to a house.

Just the other side of the bridge is another wharf that was owned by Cadbury's, another collection point for local milk. It is now a private house with a lovely timber extension to it.

 The Shropshire Union is a late canal and so has the many cuttings and embankment and the dead straight sections too. Between Low Onn  and Wheaton Aston there is a straight that is about 1.75 miles long.

The trees in Lapley Wood Cutting made me think of a Tolkein story as they leaned in to almost meet above the canal.

We were soon at the Street Wharf and aqueduct over the A5, Telfords road to Holyhead and the old Roman Watling Street. It would seem that this stretch has not been adopted by a local group otherwise I would have thought that it would have been smartened up by now.

When I lived near Birmingham we came under this aqueduct many times and it looks even busier now.

By Watling Street is the Belvide Reservoir it was built to supply water to the building Birmingham and Liverpool Junction Canal. It opened in 1833, but as the canal was busy they needed more water so the reservoir was enlarged in 1842. The canal is owned by the C&RT and is also a nature reserve and the public are not allowed access. This is the feeder from the reservoir into the canal.

We stopped not too much further down, and before Brewood. It was a nice afternoon so I got started on washing the port side of the boat. Of course there were a couple of little showers but I did finish it.

Sunday 29 July 2018

Cut and fill thrill.

It had started raining about 0430 and continued until about 1200. We had already decided to stay put until it stopped and we would then be able to catch up with the Archers Omnibus. The highlight of our week!! We set out just before 1200 and we didn't get wet at all, well a little spitting but no need for a coat.

We were soon approaching Knighton and passing through a short cutting, You can see two bridges Knighton Bridge, Newport Road bridge and the works canopy. Somebody, probably the Friends of the SU Canal, have been out and about and painted all the bridge abutment tow rope protectors.

I think the Cadbury's Depot at Knighton opened in 1911 to be the base of the collection of milk from the area. Later cocoa and sugar were brought from Bournville to mix with the milk to make chocolate crumb and then sent back to Bourneville, all by canal. The last chocolate related cargo was in 1961. The factory survived and in 1963 spray drying equipment was installed and the production of Marvel powdered skimmed milk commenced. Birds Custard, Smash instant potato, Angle Delight and coffee were all made here at one time. These days custard powder is made for manufacturers along with cheesecake mix, instant Chai, hot chocolate powder, sprinkles and instant Frappe powder. Knighton Foods is wholly owned by Premier Foods.

Shebdon Embankment is well above the surrounding countryside, but despite the windy conditions the trees made it a nice crossing. There was a breach on the embankment in August 2009. The canal was closed until the end of October that year.

At the southern end of the embankment is Shebdon Wharf that now is home to Bethsaida Covers who will do repairs whilst you wait. On the other side of the canal below the level of the canal is the Wharf Inn.
From there is reminded me of Golden Nook moorings further up the Shropshire Union towards Chester, seemingly miles of offside moorings that keeps you at tick over. A hire boat didn't find it so easy in an exposed spot and seemed to be rubbing along the length of each boat as he passed. I did tell him to use more speed.

The cuttings and embankments seem to be fitted with stop gates just in case there is a breach along their lengths. They don't seem to be maintained so maybe they would just rely on more modern stop planks.

The tower of the St Mary's at High Offley has been seen across the area since the 15th Century and is a good landmark.

The Anchor In is a well known watering hole since it was built with the canal about 1830. It used to be known as Lily Pascall's and has been run by the Cliff family for over 100 years. There were no hand pumps last time I visited, it was drawn from the barrel in the sitting room behind the little bars at the front. Pretty unchanged since it was built I would think.

I thought I was witnessing a high speed crash as we were entering Grub Street Cutting. I thought it was a 70' higher boat from Norbury Wharf that seemed to be disappearing into the trees, but it turned out that it was the trip boat and was getting into the winding hole to return. Here they are passing under bridge 40 in the cutting

The next bridge is the famous one due to the telegraph pole with insulators still being there. The cross piece that it sits on was added as the two sides of the abutments were being pressed together. If you look at the previous picture it looks like that is suffering the same fate.

This is the Junction of Norbury Junction and was where the Shrewsbury and Newport Canals were accessed from the main system. A large system of tub canals had been built in the area that connected down to Coalbrookdale on the Severn. It wasn't until 1835 that a branch to Newport was extended from the Birmingham and Liverpool Junction Canal and then through to connect to the Shrewsbury tub system at Wappenshall. The locks to Shrewsbury were widened to the 7' from the 6'2". The last working boats left Shrewsbury in 1936 and in 1944 the route was abandoned. There is a Trust dedicated to resurrecting the route.

After Grub Street Cutting comes the Shelmore Embankment. This caused immense problems for Thomas Telford and he died before it was finally stabilised. There were frequent slippages under it's own weight making it the last part of the Birmingham and Liverpool Junction Canal to open fully. It took 1.5 million cu yards of material, much from the Grub Street Gnosall cuttings and much more besides, to gain the 60 height required and there were still several slippages until September 1834 the first boat crossed over and the full length was opened.

We stopped at Gnosall for water and decided that we would just pull back and moor up on the visitor moorings there. And still we haven't got wet, but things are looking a little greener.

Saturday 28 July 2018

Drayton done and on our way

I'm not sure if it was the turn of the weather that prompted me to have a look at the stove after mooring up yesterday but as the catch to close the door had seized up and broken I thought I had better fettle it as I had bought the bits a couple of months ago.

The old one came out much easier than I was expecting after a liberal dousing of WD40. The old one is at the bottom and you can see where the nut on the end of the spindle has sheared off.

I have a spare glass too as I thought I may break it getting the handle out. The glass is a little loose so I may have a go at it later, after letting some more WD40 soak in. I'm not sure whether I should replace the rope too.

Last night we went to the Red Lion, the brewery tap of Joules Brewery, and had the Chippie Tea special. fish and chips and a pint for under £10. This allowed me to try three of the beers on offer.

We walked back into town as Helen wanted to get some of the Billington's Ginger Bread. We had read that Market Drayton was famous for it's gingerbread, but there appeared to be no sign of it when we were here the last time but they had a stall at the Nantwich and Cheese Show. She wanted them for presents. It was first made here in 1793 and may have had something to do with Clive of India, a local lad, and the Spice Trade routes, but the commercial operation started in 1817. The recipe has been passed down and sold on . It is called Billington's but this name didn't happen until 1864. It is now made on an industrial estate in the town.

Once underway we were soon passing the new moorings on the outskirts of Market Drayton. It is all relatively new but used to be the site of Lady Line that ran a hire business, boat sales, chandlery and moorings before going bust. The land has been sold for housing and the moorings have been revamped. It is quite unusual as the pontoons etc are all open to the housing next to the wharf.

Betton Mill was built in 1905 for James Henry Jones as a warehouse for corn. He later also became a miller and there was a engine attached to the building to drive the machinery. In 2000/01 it was converted to offices and apartments. I love the ventilation grill at the apex of the building.

Next to the mill was the old Market Drayton Wharf. It has always been split into two with one half been run by the Birmingham and Liverpool Junction Canal Co and the other half occupied by a coal merchants. Part is now called Talbot Wharf and it is here that in the 1950's British Waterways manufactured the concrete sections that go to make the shelters for the stop planks found by locks and bridges in the area. I love these old buildings and they look like they would make an interesting conversion.

Just the other side of the bridge is the pill box that was one of many by the canals of the system as the waterways we used as 'natural' stops to advancing enemy, and afforded time to regroup and recover and pin the enemy down.

The run up to the Tyrley Locks is cut through a sandstone cutting. The locks were constructed from rock from Woodsheaves Cutting. The grey and white beams at the locks are painted grey and white in this area, rather than the more usual black and white, and have been so since about the 1920's.

the bottom couple of Tyrley Locks are well known for their vicious by washes and unforgiving rocks sides to land on. We had a lucky trip up as there was a boat to cross with at each one. I lingered until the boat was well clear so that I could cram on a bit of speed to get me through this torrent. 

Tyrley Wharf was built by the Twemlow family of nearby Peatswood Hall. The canal company forced them to build it above the lock to save water. It developed into a little community and the Canal Co. built a stables on the tow path side, since demolished, but traces can be seen in the car parking area. In 1911 it was used to load churns of milk from the estate to take on to Knighton and the Cadbury factory. Other farms brought their milk here too, or loaded at the other locks. Cadbury's leased the wharf from 1917 to 1932.

Is this the smallest complete narrowboat. It looked like there was just enough room for somebody to lay down and an engine.

Next comes Woodseaves Cutting. This is the longest cutting in all the canal system and was all dug by hand. It was not actually opened up as wide as it should have been and so is too steep and has continual avalanches, in the past as today. It is a SSSI for its geological interest as it is a good site to study the late Cambrian sandstone that was laid down in a major river channel.

The depth of the cutting requires tall bridges and a speed limit to reduce the chance of a wake washing out the base of the cliffs. Passing should be done with care. It is narrow enough as it is so I reckon a little offside tree pruning is required this winter.

The land opens up into rolling hills with extensive views across to The Wrekin. Combines were in the fields but there was plenty of uncut wheat waiting them. I hope the weather dries up again to help the northern farmers get their crops in.

There are plenty of bridges on this section of the canal and many of them are 'accommodation' or 'occupation' bridges that had to be provided when the canal cut a farmers land in two so that he had access to both parts. You can also see the rubbing bars on the edges of the bridge parapet to protect the stone from the tow lines. They are particularly deeply grooved on this section so whether this means the iron was softer or the traffic was greater I don't know.