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.
Despite being moored opposite the long term moorings (a couple of boats had had their engines running into the mid/late evening) it was a very quiet night.
We decided to make an earlish start just in case there was a long queue at the lock, so having pulled up our mooring pins we chugged past the visitor moorings which were probably about 60% full – so we could have moored there but our alternative moorings were as good.
There was no queue at the lock and we were able to cruise straight in. As we were closing the gates a small fibre glass bucket hurtled up the canal at quite some speed, I’m not sure where they thought they were going, but it wasn’t in the lock with us.
It was quite pleasant to work through the lock without having other boaters waiting and actually doing it in the dry with the sun shining.
I’ve always found the shallow cutting through Lapley Wood very picturesque – I think its probably my “favourite” cutting on the canal. The light filters through the trees in a different way to the other cuttings and it adds a lot of depth and character to the banks which makes it an interesting place to steer through.
Again there seemed to be little other traffic moving and so we made our solitary way over the A5 (which also seemed remarkably quiet) and along the embankment towards Brewood.
Brewood is one of those places where the long linear moorings announce the village quite a time before you get there. It was as we chugged slowly past these boats that the fibre glass bucket appeared behind us and proceded to turn round to moor.
As we came through the cutting a hireboat decided that the best time to cast off is right in front of another boat… not a good idea at the best of times but when your stern is stuck on the bottom its certainly foolish.
As we wanted an easy weekend we decided to turn round in the winding hole by bridge 3. The winding hole would seem to be huge and it looks like you could do a U-turn in it… Ha ha ha!. Don’t try it. The canal by the towpath is silted up so your back end snags as you start to turn and the rest of the winding hole is rather shallow which leads to rather a lot of rather smelly mud being stirred up.
We decided that we would head back to Wheaton Aston for lunch and as it was only mid morning this seemed perfectly sensible. Just after we had winded a boat came through bridge 3 and as we approached Brewood it slowly gained on it.
We slowed down for the moorings and held back for a Viking Afloat boat which cast off ahead of us but was heading into Countrywide Cruisers. As we passed the Viking Alfoat boat I was asked if I was Nick or Steve !
The boat behind us was now almost on top of us so I waited until a gap in the moored boats and pulled over and waved them past. The person on the boat claimed that they weren’t pressuring me but that they couldn’t go any slower due to their tickover. Frankly if that was the slowest speed I’d hate to be the boat at the front of any gap he tried to pull into! If people insist on putting high revving modern engines in their boats then they need to look very carefully at the gearbox ratio and the prop size/pitch.
We made our way back to Wheaton Aston and only had to wait a couple of minutes for the lock. We stopped right at the top end of the visitor moorings for lunch.
After lunch we decided to feed the boat so it was off to the Garage for 111 litres of fuel. The tanks are now brim full and it should keep us going for a bit!
After the fun of the fast boat we then got stuck behind a slow boat. I had to keep dropping into neutral to stop us running into them. Their engine seemed to be running quite fast and was smoking but there seemed to be almost no power. The boat kept wobbling all over the canal and they seemed quite unaware of us being there – despite looking at us several times. I eventually got past them at High Onn wharft and winding hole where they pulled in to pick up some people. We kept an eye on them after we had gone past. By the time we reached the next bridge (about a third of a mile) they still hadn’t managed to turn round.
We stopped for the night in the cutting by Cowley Tunnel. There were a couple of other boats there but apart from the people messing round on their bikes in the woods we could have been miles away from civilisation.
Supper was some 21 day aged steak washed down with a couple bottles of Lindauer Brut.
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.
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!
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