The moorings by the pub are always a good place to stop for the night – there are plenty of them and its usually quite quiet. Also if you are heading towards Autherley Junction they are really the last good place to stop before the urban sprawl of Wolverhampton swamps the canal.
The sprawl really starts at Coven Heath M54 Motorway Bridge which now it’s been widened to take in the new junction for the business park is almost as long as some of the tunnels on the canal. When you are driving on the motorway you hardly notice it going over the canal here and it takes a matter of minutes to get to the bridge where you pass over the Shroppie…. a trip that takes a few hours by boat.
We got through the narrows without meeting another boat and then flew along the straight by the Wolverhampton Academy. The tall trees here give the canal an almost French / Belgian feel to it, but the housing estate on the other side soon strips the illusion away.
All was quiet at the junction and, as the boatyard was open and their moorings were empty (yes they really did have all their boats out), we pulled in and got the loo tank pumped out, and then set off on our way north.
Like the M54 the A5 is one of those roads that if you are travelling along it the time taken between crossing over the Staffs & Worcs to where you go under the Shroppie is only a few minutes but a long time by canal. I often wonder as we pass over Stretton Aqueduct how many people hurtling along the road at 60mph are even aware of the canal they go under – I suspect the answer is very few.
Often when Kathy and I were out boating we’d head down this way and moor in the cutting near Lapley Wood Bridge No 17, have a fire and sit in the darkness just relaxing. Even during the day the cuttings along here are peaceful but there are no boats moored up – so maybe it was just us.
It was pretty quite above Wheaton Aston Lock No 2 but complete chaos below, but we managed to find a spot on the Wheaton Aston Visitor Moorings (South) and walked into the village to pick up some supplies and also have a couple of beers at The Coach and Horses They only had one beer on but it was in good form and the pork pies were extremely good. There are two small mini-market style shops in Wheaton Aston – one by the Church and one on the road back to the canal – between them they carry a reasonable range of produce – enough certainly to get you through.
We did consider a pint at the Hartley Arms but thought that maybe it would be a bit too much if we were actually going to get anywhere in the afternoon so we went back to the boat and cast off.
We decided that rather than continue to Norbury we’d stop at Gnosall and do a bit of a pub crawl and find somewhere to eat. There are 5 pubs in the area :
The Boat Inn and The Navigation Inn in Gnosall Heath
The Royal Oak, which is half way between Gnosall Heath and Gnosall
The Horns Inn and George and The Dragon in Gnosall itself.
The Boat Inn was closed for the afternoon when we got there but the Navigation Inn was open so we had a pint in there before deciding to head down the road to Gnosall itself
Gnosall is about a mile away – you can either walk down the side of the rather busy A518 from The Navigation or you can walk down the much quieter road from The Boat Inn – you still have to walk along some of the A518 (from the junction by The Royal Oak) but there is a lot less of it.
A quick check of the Royal Oak, which is a Greene King pub, meant we skipped it and headed into the centre of town and The Horns. We’d heard that The Horns did good food but when we got there it had no real ale and we thought we’d wasted a walk, but then we noticed George and The Dragon almost opposite it : now this is a pub worth visiting – quirky furniture, good beer, friendly locals and a good atmosphere. We had a few pints before walking back up to The Boat where we had a very good meal and then we walked back down to town and finished the evening off in George and The Dragon.