To say the weather was miserable when we got up would be an understatement – it was pretty foul and it actually got worse once we’d cast off but at least there aren’t a lot of locks so only the helmsman needs to get wet.
When the weather is nice this part of the Trent Valley is quite pleasant : now the big power stations have gone there’s nothing big to look at and the canal just meanders gently along the valley, following the contour and apart from Brindley Bank Aqueduct there is really no engineering of any scale on this part of the canal.
Colwich Lock No 21 tries hard to look picturesque but the railway line running close by spoils the whole illusion, and when its still raining a bit it really doesn’t work at all. The only advantage of the rain was it meant that no other boats were moving so there was no queue at all!
Fancy Bridge No 73A lives up to its name but I’m not sure if I really believe the story that it was made for the Lady of Shugborough Hall so she didn’t have to look at a plain old bridge from her carriage as she went to and from church.
Often when you get to Haywood Lock No 22 there is a rather pleasant smell of cooking food from the lock side tea room and cafe – but not this time as it looks like its either closed for a major refurbishment or has closed for good.
As there were a lot of moored boats I walked up the towpath to Great Haywood Junction and stood on top of the bridge so I could indicate if there were any other boats coming through. There weren’t : but immediately north of the junction is a water point and there were two boats moored on it, well I say two : One was moored right in the middle of it (for no reason) and the one behind it was sort of sticking back over the bridge hole, luckily enough our helmsman can steer the boat and so we swung round the corner with no problems at all.
The rain hadn’t really stopped but it had turned patchy which did allow things to start to dry out a little but of course it still decided to rain when we were working our way through Tixall Lock No 43 which really does need Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs re-instating.
The top end of the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal is similar in many way to the bit of Trent and Mersey it meets in that it meanders along the edge of the valley and manages to avoid pretty much everything. The scenery is pretty to look at rather than outstanding and there is little to note at all. Even as you pass the Staffordshire and Worcestershire – Stafford Branch Junction the industrial estate on the offside bank sort of passes you by and I think this is the only canal where I’ve seen hops growing wild along the towpath fence.
As we approached Radford Bridge No 98 we found a boat right across the canal. We pulled over and I got out and met the crew off another boat coming the other way who had also pulled in. We started to get the boat back into the bank when a person stuck their head out of cabin on it. He knew he’d come un-moored when a boat had gone past at high speed but hadn’t bothered doing anything about it. We got him back into the bank but his ropes were more knot than usable rope and I suspect the next boat past him was just going to break the ropes again.
Just below Deptmore Lock No 42 the canal goes over a stream and the offside bank has been trampled by animals and water was tricking out of the canal and into the stream – I suspect that sooner or later this is going to turn into another breach : only time will tell.
We arrived at Penkridge and did consider stopping for a few beers or probably the day but decided to continue onwards. There were a few boats moving and we had to wait for a couple of locks but it was pretty good going up to Gailey Top Lock. The canal from here through to Hatherton Junction is pretty deep and you can really make good progress and actually the good deep water continues beyond the junction but there are few unexpected shallow spots which catch you unawares.
We had phoned ahead and reserved a table at the The Anchor Inn and after eating there we walked down to The Harrows : it’s a bit of a hike down the side of the dual carriage way but worth it. If you are walking from The Anchor then turn RIGHT out of the carpark onto the Brewood Road – it’s a lot shorter than the way google maps will take you.