It made a change to be woken up not by the sound of rain on the roof but by the sound of bird song and bright sunshine streaming in round the curtains – could it be that the good day that the weathermen had forecast for Sunday had actually arrived 1 day late?
But by the time we actually got under way the wind had picked up a bit and there were some dark clouds starting to form. We did find that the good mooring by Hallemans Bridge No 53 was empty so we could have pushed on but it was probably better to be safe than sorry.
We made pretty good time to Tyrley Top Lock No 3 where we found someone cleaning the toilet block, and it almost felt wrong to dump the Elsan! There were a few boats working through the locks and a couple of the overflows were running very fast – specifically the one below Tyrley Lock 4 No 6 which, as I was trying to pass another boat coming up, pushed us onto the offside bank. I had to wait until the boat coming up hit the same flow, and shielded us from it, to use the barge pole and a lot of revs to get us back into the channel.
There were quite a few boats on the visitor moorings but luckily none opposite us and once I’d waited for a boat to come past we slid into the moorings and tied up.
So early Sunday morning I’m lying in bed listening to the rain hammering on the roof of the boat, then I fell asleep and when I woke up it was lighter and the rain was still hammering away on the roof of the boat. The forecast even as late as Friday evening was that the band of rain would have pushed north and east to Newcastle by Sunday morning… but obviously it hadn’t : sometimes you do wonder just what they do with all those very expensive super computers down at the Met Office because it apparently doesn’t seem to be doing a weather forecast.
By the time we got up the rain had stopped but it was still far from the nice day that had been forecast so we decided to head down to Park Lodge Winding Hole and wind there before starting our return trip – our logic being that if weather forecast was this wrong then we’d be better off doing a shorter journey and not get quite as soaked to the skin. There were a few more boats on the move and Wheaton Aston Lock No 2 was almost a hive of activity and most of the boats on the visitor moorings had obviously decided not to move and to just have Sunday lunch at the pub… but not us…. we had different plans.
The Royal Oak in Church Eaton can be approached either from High Onn Bridge No 25 or Turnover Bridge No 26 – we decided to stop just before bridge 25 which might have been a mistake as there is a bit of an underwater ledge, and the moorings immediately after the Turnover bridge do look a lot better.. It’s a shortish walk down the lane to the village and the pub is very easy to find. They had 3 real ales on : Bank’s bitter, a Blonde from Ludlow and Franc in Stein from the Flipside Brewery All three were in fine form and there were complimentary peanuts on the bar. They do do food, and the specials looked quite interesting, but it is probably worth phoning them to double check… and they are only open all day on Saturday and Sundays : the rest of the week they only open from 5pm.
We had been rather foolish and stupidly assumed that the blue skies and pleasant temperature were a sign that things had changed for the better – but how wrong we were because just after we left the pub the heavens opened and we were soaked by the time we got back to the boat, at which time it decided to stop raining again.
The rapidly changing weather became a feature of the rest of the afternoon and we had fleeces etc. hanging up in the “wet cupboard” with the blower running trying to dry them off before we needed them the next time.
The Cock Inn in Woodseves is well worth the visit but the road you have to walk along from the canal is very busy and very fast as has NO pavements until you reach the village. You can approach it from either Double Culvert Bridge No 40 or High Bridge No 39 – the route from Double Culvert Bridge involves less of the main road but more of a muddy track through woodland.
Things looked pretty busy at Anchor Bridge No 42 but we pushed on through the now rather nicer early evening to our stopping place for the night. You can get up to Cheswardine from three different bridges – the best one is actually Hallemans Bridge No 53 but the moorings there are quite limited so if you are approaching from the South then you are better off stopping before Fox Bridge (the bank between 51 and 52 isn’t very good for mooring) and making a slightly longer walk up into the village…. don’t forget to take a torch if you are going to be returning in the dark as there are no streetlights.
From Tom's Moorings to High Green Bridge No 14, a distance of 21 miles, 6½ flg and 6 locks.
After a rather pleasant evening in Market Drayton, where we only actually went to two pubs (The King’s Arms and The Clive and Cofynne), and a rather later return to the boat than we’d planned, we made a not quite as early a start from the moorings.
It had turned rather cool over night and the sky looked rather grey but not too ominous as we backed out of the moorings and headed south.
Tyrley Man has grown a couple of robins – ( think it’s great that people are doing something totally silly like this and lets hope that he continues to be looked after
and for once the locks were actually with us, and apart from one boat coming down, which we passed in the middle of the flight, there was no-one else around – not even the usual collection of dog walkers. I’ve never noticed the disclaimer notice on the wharf building before and I’m not totally sure that its genuine – but I could well be wrong.
We bumped into a boat in Woodseaves Cutting, or rather they bumped into us – it was from Norbury Junction and we met them just on the bend after the bridge, but no harm was done : no coffee was spilt, no bacon buttie was lost.
The caravan site by Goldstone Wharf looked pretty full and there were several people fishing in the winding hole but the moorings themselves were pretty quiet
The lack of boats on the move continued and by the time we had reached Black Flat Bridge No 47 you could still have counted the number of moving boats with one hand.
We decided to stop on the 48 moorings by the bridge and go and visit “The Haberdasher’s Arms” in Knighton. The problem is that the access path up to the main road at Newport Road Bridge No 45 has been fenced off so we ended up scrambling up the bank at Knighton Bridge No 46 and walking down a rather deeply rutted farm track to the road. The pub is a little way out of the village but well worth the trip – its a quirky little place and the landlord is very friendly (as is his dog) and the beer is very good. He told us the best way to go back was down another track and follow it round back to Black Flat bridge…. So if you want to visit the pub then stop on the 48 hour moorings, and take the bridge over the canal then follow the track down along its gentle right hand curve and you’ll find yourself on the Newport Road. Turn left (away from the factory) and head up to the crest of the hill and you’ll see the pub a couple of hundred yards away on the left hand side of the road- it has a post box outside and a campsite sign. BUT it only opens at 12:30 and does not do food.
The weather, which had been getting slowly worse, settled down to a rather cold wind and annoying rain and by the time we arrived at Norbury Junction it was all getting a bit depressing and the rain had really settled in making it a far from pleasant Bank Holiday Saturday. There was a festival on at Norbury and the place was very busy with boats everywhere but due to the weather not as many people as you’d want, and I can’t imagine the ice cream boat was doing much trade at all. We put in 100 litres of fuel (they let us do it ourselves as their staff were quite busy) and then continued on our way past a lot more moored boats.
I was expecting the moorings by Gnosall Bridge No 35 to be full given that it really wasn’t good boating weather and there are two pubs right on the canal but I guess the weather forecast had been bad enough to stop people from even getting their boats off their home moorings.
Even on a good day you find that that a lot of boats stop for the night at about 5pm and so it really was unsurprising that we made it to Wheaton Aston Visitor Moorings without seeing another boat on the move, and these moorings like Gnosall’s were half empty. By now we were getting a bit cold and considered stopping for the night and just going into the Hartley Arms and having something to eat there but the lure of several different pubs and a curry was too much to resist and so we headed on into the sunset – not that you could see it. The only positive thing you could say was that the rain had pretty much stopped and it even felt a little warmer.
We stopped just before Brewood Visitor Moorings and headed up into town for quite a nice curry at The Curry Inn and a few rather excellent beers at The Swan
The early May Bank Holiday weekend should see Mintball heading south down the Shroppie towards Brewood. Along the way we intend to fuel up and get a pump out at Norbury Junction, see what is going on at the boat gathering there and also spend some time investigating the pubs along the canal and in the surrounding villages.