North by North West

From Fazeley Visitor Moorings (Tolson's Mill) to Rugeley North Visitor Moorings, a distance of 18 miles, 4¼ flg and 3 locks.

Unlike central Birmingham it was nice and quiet over night in Fazeley, and although the weather wasn’t perfect when we woke up it wasn’t raining.

You exit Fazeley almost as quickly as you enter it and you are soon back in the open countryside, which is pleasant rather than outstanding, as the canal meanders its way through Hopwas and on to Huddlesford Junction.

It was just beyond the junction when a boat pulled out behind us – he never slowed down past moored boats but seemed unable to get through bridges without really slowing down – so we’d pull ahead at points and then he’d come right up behind us : it was extremely annoying and completely pointless because if we had let him past us we’d either to have had to slow down or we’d have kept catching up with him.

We were coming through Fradley Bridge No 90 when we met a working boat coming the other way – it went into reverse to give us space to slip past and we indicated to the boat behind us that there was a boat coming the other way… and what did he do? Did he slow down and let the working boat through? Of course not – we’d told the working boat that there was a boat behind us but I don’t think he imagined this meant that the person was going to charge through the bridge without checking if the way was clear… it was all a bit chaotic.

About halfway along the section between Fradley Estate Access Bridge No 90A and New Bridge No 91 there was a C&RT work boat moored up who were doing some work on the bank edge, we could see a boat coming the other way but we were closer so we made our way past the boat and then said Hello to the boat going the other way. By now the tailgating boat was catching up with us and, once again, they decided that they had the right of way… however they realised at the last moment that they didn’t have the space and had to basically nose into the bank.

We felt a little sorry for the boat coming up Junction Lock No 17 because in the space of about 3 minutes they went from being second in the queue to go up the rest of the locks to fourth. As it was lunch time the volunteer lockies had knocked off for lunch so it was just us and the crews of other boats working the locks. We stopped immediately above Shade House Lock No 19 and walked back down to The Swan where we had a rather good pint of Everard’s Tiger.

A large amount of reed had got stuck in the gate paddle at Wood End Lock No 20 and as it only has one ground paddle it made getting through the lock a little slow and a queue was starting to build up. Various attempts with boat hooks etc to pull it out didn’t work but at least it was possible to close the gate paddle so you could empty the lock. The only good thing about the reed slowing the lock filling down was that we weren’t stuck in a convoy once we’d got through the lock. As we were making pretty good time we decided to stop at The Plum Pudding PH and have a drink – we don’t think we’ve ever stopped here for a drink, or if we have it was a long, long time ago.

We managed to get through Armitage Tunnel with absolutely no waiting, and without another boat wanting to come in at the other end, which for us was rather unusual.

We have no idea what was under the water right by Rugeley Railway Bridge No 65A (disused) but it tipped the boat quite dramatically and made a rather unpleasant grinding noise as we slid over it. Rugeley Visitor Moorings were completely rammed, as usual and so we cruised on to the always vacant, and rather neglected visitor moorings at the north end of the town where we stopped for the night. After eating on board we went out into town to explore the pubs where we managed to have a few good pints of beer.

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