Three Mile Post

There is one advantage of heading south on the Shropshire Union and that is that after Tyrley there is only the single lock at Wheaton Aston which means that the day can be spent relaxing, reading, listening to music or just watching the world go by.

There is one disadvantage however : the what feels like endless lines of moored boats on the offside. Still I suppose it does give you even more time to watch the world go by.

During the mad rush on Friday we’d forgotten to take some stuff out of the fridge and we found we had no butter – still thats not a problem we thought, there is a handy little store at Norbury junction so we can just pick some stuff up there when we pull in for a pumpout.

Just before we cast off from the moorings there was a small flurry of traffic and I did wonder if we were going to spend the entire day stuck in a traffic jam – anyone who has boated round Braunston over a bank holiday weekend will know just what I’m talking about. However things went quiet and we found ourselves making our solitary way southwards.

It was a perfect day for canal boating – the sun was shining but there was a slight breeze which stopped things getting too hot.

The Daimler was back by the boats near Grub Street Winding Hole – it seems such an odd juxtapositioning – rather smart classic car and really scruffy boats.

The moorings on the approach to Norbury Junction seemed to be pretty full, which surprised me as the forecast for the weekend was good and its really the last long weekend in the “season” so you’d expect more people to be out and about.

We called in at the boatyard at Norbury Junction for a pump out and a new front fender (which was pretty rotten). The store had everything but butter so we decided to wait until Wheaton Aston and pop to the store there.

Passing through Gnosall we noticed Tyseley moored up on the offside by Coton Mill and signs advertising that Mikron were playing there tonight. I have to say I was surprised to see them there as I’d expected them to be at the IWA National Gathering over at St Ives, but I guess they decided not to go – which in a way is understandable as the way there does involve a lot of rather desolate waterways and if your business is theatre there probably isn’t much financial sense in it.

The shop at Wheaton Aston (a couple of hundred yards up from the garage) had butter and quite a range of supplies so its something worth remembering.

Our “target” for the night was the stretch of 48 hour moorings by the three mile mile post near Hunting Bridge No 7 – primarily because we know we can get Mintball into the side properly on these mooring as they don’t have the rather annoying concrete ledge about a foot under water. I was expecting them to be quite full as the visitor moorings at Brewood were packed, but when we got there we found plenty of space.

Halcyon days

The next morning Kathy (who doesn’t often lie in at the weekends, compared to me who will lie in at the drop of a hat) got up early and took some photos, hoping to catch some atmospheric shots before the canal filled up with boats.

She took several photos which are on her Flickr site but the best one has to be of a heron sitting in Cowley Tunnel:

Heron in Cowley Tunnel

Although we didn’t have a long way to go to get back to the moorings we didn’t really need an early start but Tyrley locks can easil turn into a bottle neck and we did want to get home at a reasonable time.

We were the only boat on the move again – there seemed to be no sign of life on most of the moored boats, curtains were drawn, doors closed, padlocks in place. Hard to believe it was the middle of the summer holidays.

By the time we got to Norbury there were a few more signs of life: dogs on the towpath (blissfully unaware of the squirrel that was scampering along the fence above its head), a few people walking round and a couple of boats on the move. The Cafe at Norbury was open and we nearly pulled in for breakfast but decided to push on.

Kathy really wanted to see if she could get some better pictures of the bird in the cutting so she was on the back deck, camera primed.

I noticed the Kingfisher first – it darted down the canal in front of us which is normal behaviour. Then it went and stood on the bank. As we got closer it seemed to hop round a bit and seemed to be distracted.

Kathy zoomed right in on it using her zoom lens and got the following:

Kingfisher with a fish

The Kingfisher had a fish and seemed to be intent on eating it rather than flying away.

As we went through the cutting we kept a close lookout for the Kestrel. There was no sign of it and the whole cutting was still (even the cat wasn’t lying on the roof of the moored boat).

Just as we approached the end of the cutting the Kestrel zoomed in from overhead and vanished into the trees, and then a minute or so later crossed the canal and vanished again. It was obviously doing it just to spite us 😉

We kept meeting boats coming the other way, but they seemed to come in pulses, small batches of 3-4 boats, which is odd given that the locks would tend to remove grouping and thin the boats out into a regular spaced out stream.

Of course it was a given that we’d meet one of these bursts of boats going through Woodseaves cutting. It was fun but at least it shows that the channel is actually 14 feet wide!

Tyrley locks turned out to be the bottle neck that it can so often be. There were 3 boats in front of us and a few coming up. It didn’t help that some of the boats going down had never seen a lock before in their lives and didn’t have even the basic idea on how to use a lock.

So with novices heading down the locks the last thing you need is arrogant “I’ve been boating for ever” types coming up and stealing locks off people. Chaos – at one point there were 4 boats in the pound between the top and second lock. We got one coming up as we were going down – turns up, opens the paddle on the near side (without checking that we were ready) which meant Kathy had to walk over to the far side of the lock (I usually do that side on the way down to avoid her having to walk over) and then of course she was on the wrong side of the lock so had to walk all the way back round again when she was heading down to the second lock.

Waiting between the 3rd and 4th locks wasn’t exactly fun due to at least two wasps nests in the bank and I don’t think they were too happy to have boats right outside their front doors. Maybe BW could put some notices up saying “Please do not moor outside the Wasps Nests”, they seem all too keen to put similar notices up for people who choose to live in properties that overlook the canal.

The public moorings at Market Drayton weren’t too busy and we were able to turn and back into our moorings with no real difficulty

The Great Fire of Wheaton Aston

We arrived at the moorings on Thursday night at about 9:15 having left Cheltenham just after 7pm – we’d been held up by a couple of slow vehicles after we had come off the motorway.

As it was too late to move we stayed on the moorings and sat on the front deck of the boat drinking coffee as darkness fell. It was very pleasant, apart from the hire boat on the short stay moorings who were rather noisy and one of them (a woman I think) decided that using the hedge at the bottom of the garden as a toilet and then throwing their toilet paper in the canal was an acceptable thing to do.

Still we gave them a bit of a fright in the morning when we cast off and moved out of our moorings and missed them by about 1 foot as we swung the front round and headed off towards Wheaton Aston.

As it was our anniversary weekend we didn’t have any real destination and we were going to play it all by ear.

Tyrley locks were pretty quiet until we got towards the top end when we met a Challenger “Stealth Hire” boat coming down. Now I don’t know what it is about Challenger boats but I guess you have to have a lobotomy before they will let you on one. They filled the top lock without checking we were coming up and then when they came out of the lock they spent about 2 minutes getting all their crew back on (I assume it took them a similar length of time to get them all off at the second lock). I think its time for a new canal “law” – if the boat is painted black is apparently being crewed by idiots its a “Stealth Hire” boat.

As it had been quite a while since we had last watered we decided to pull in at the top of the locks and fill up the tanks. The moorings are restricted to 30 minutes – I suggest that if this is the limit then BW do something about the water pressure (or rather lack of it) at the water point.

Still it was very relaxing sitting there watching the world go by and a cat on a boat on the short stay moorings was only too happy to come and say hello in return for lots of tickles.

After we had filled up with water we cast off and made our way sedately through Woodseaves Cutting which was, as ever, extremely damp.

We went the full length of the cutting without meeting another boat and we were at Goldstone Wharf before we saw any other signs of life – with a small flotilla of boats heading past us towards the lock.

There has been a lot of debate recently about linear moorings. Ignoring the “passing speed” arguments and the effect it has on your daily progress I have to say that I find passing what feels like endless lines of moored boats extremely boring – especially if its on a stretch of canal that you do quite often. You can of course pass the time by playing “spot the licence dodger” – but again if its a stretch you regularly do its rather like playing pub sign cricket on an often travelled road.

We stopped just short of “The Anchor” at High Offley for lunch.

Almost immediately after the Anchor you enter Grub Street Cutting. It is nowhere near as narrow, damp or gloomy as Woodseaves and is actually quite interesting to steer through.

There is a small cluster of boats just after you enter the cutting and although there never seems to be any sign of life on the boats there is usually a white Daimler two door coupe parked in a makeshift car port. It wasn’t there when we passed through and Kathy and I were commenting on this when a bird flew over our heads and into the trees. Previously when we’ve been coming through this cutting we have seen a large bird of prey flying round and settling in a tree but we’ve never been able to get a good look at it. However as there were no other boats around we backed up and Kathy took some photos of it. Looking at them later and using a 30+ year old bird book we identified the bird as a Kestrel.

Kestrel

If we’re wrong then please let us know!

Things were as busy as ever at Norbury Junction so we didn’t pull in and mention the weedhatch incident 😉

I know it was Friday and mid afternoon but Gnosall was suprisingly quiet. To be honest, apart from a couple of bursts of boats it had been pretty quiet all day – not that we were complaining, its nice to go boating sometimes and not be in the boating equivalent of the M6 on a Friday evening.

From Gnosall all the way through Cowley Cutting, through High Onn, Little Onn and Rye Hill cutting, and towards Wheaton Aston we saw maybe 3 boats on the move.

As we didn’t know what state the vistor moorings at Wheaton Aston would be like we stopped short of the moorings themselves and moored up just north of Dirty Lane Bridge. We were able to get right into the bank and the moooring pins went in well – so it is worth remembering if you don’t want to risk going to the visitor moorings and finding them full.

After we’d moored up we got a visit from one of the local ducks who decided to go for a walk along the roof. I hope the quacks were quacks of approval!

Duck

I assembled a new Barbeque (all metal construction) which we had bought from Sainsbury for the princely sum of £2.99. I’m not sure how the economics of it work as it seems to be quite well constructed but is cheaper than one of their rather useless tin foil disposable ones.

The title for this blog entry comes from the Official web site for Wheaton Aston which states:

It is said that two of the major events in Wheaton Aston’s history directly affecting the size of the village, have been the great fire in 1777 which destroyed half of the village houses and the installation of better sewerage in the 1960s and 70s which had the opposite effect of allowing more houses to be built.

Which is depressing really – you would have thought that the canal clipping the side of the village would have had some impact – but then again I doubt the original boaters stopped to eat at the pub or top up with fuel

Back at “Home”

Well the BSS work was finally complete (See Steve’s Blog for more info ) so today we headed up to Norbury Junction to pick up the boat and return it to its moorings at Market Drayton .It was nice to see some sun and to be back on the canals. There was a moderate amount of traffic but not what you’d expect for this time of year. Most of the traffic seemed to be heading to the Wharf Tavern at Goldstone Bridge No 55 and if we hadn’t had plans to be elsewhere we might have joined them.Even Tyrley locks were quiet and we arrived in Market Drayton about 4 hours after we left Norbury.The boat now has new gas lockers and a new alternator setup which hopefully wont eat belts every few weeks. Apart from a minor incident involving an insecure weedhatch (I really must ask Simon at Norbury about that) it was a very pleasant day out and made a change from live in Cheltenham

Due South

From Tom's Moorings to Hunting Bridge No 7, a distance of 23 miles, 7¼ flg and 6 locks.

We had arrived at the mooring on Thursday evening – it took 90 minutes from Cheltenham and we used the motorway (M5 and M54) all the way to the A41, but as it was after 9:30pm by the time we’d finished loading up we decided it wasn’t worth moving for the night so we stayed put.

[ Google Route Map embedded here ]

Friday morning started a bit damp : that sort of misty drizzly rain which soaks everything in seconds, which didn’t bode well for the weekend although we could see that the sun was trying to break through the clouds.

The visitor moorings were all very quiet – not many boats on them and of the ones that were there seemed to be no signs of life, and we chugged quietly on by.

We met a couple of boats on the Tyrley lock flight but apart from that it was quiet.

Woodseaves Cutting was much greener than it had been at Easter and by now the sun was occasionally breaking through the clouds but still there seemed to be no boats moving. When we had come through the cutting at Easter we had met a couple of brave souls who were walking along the towpath. Nobody was doing that this day and by the state of the towpath no-one had done it for a bit.

When we passed The Wharf at Goldstone Bridge No 55 “Missus Mouse” was moored in the odd mooring that I mentioned previously and the field just before the Pub (which had been full of caravans at Easter) was pretty much deserted.

The cafe at Norbury Junction offers a wide range of food and drink and also Wi-Fi access which is good news for any passing boater who needs to check on their emails or update their blogs. In fact with a boatyard offering full boat services (fuel, gas, pumpouts, engine repairs etc.) and a pub that serves Banks’s it’s hard to find anything negative to say about the place… although the large number of moored boats can be a bit of a pain.

The moorings just by Gnosall Railway Bridge seemed a sensible place to stop for lunch and they were pretty full and most of the boats seemed to be on the move rather than just dumped there.

Cowley cutting was pretty overgrow – if the rock had not been so faulted Cowely tunnel would have been quite impressive.

The run up to Wheaton Aston Lock No 2 was easy – hardly any boats on the move and apart from one boat at the lock (who was very slow) there wasn’t a queue.

The slow boat going through the lock was single handed and was also steering rather erratically as we followed it down towards Brewood .

As we had been on the move since just after 7:30am we decided to call it a day when we got to the 48 hour moorings near Hunting Bridge No 7