Thursday, 17 July 2014

Autherley to Market Drayton

Thursday 10th July

Autherley to Brewood

James went to get some last minute things from Morrisons, and, halfway to the bridge, realised that he was still wearing his slippers! Having then put his shoes on, he was still not having a great morning, because he was soon having a conversation with the self-checkout machine:  

He scanned the first item.
“Please place the item in the bag” 
He tried to open the plastic bag and failed. 
“Please place the item in the bag”  
Still struggling to open the bag. 
“Please place the item in the bag” 
“Yes alright, alright! I’m going as fast as I can” 
“Assistance is coming”
Finally getting the bag open, he triumphantly placed the item in the bag.
“Please remove the item from the bag”
“You must be joking”
“Please remove the item from the bag”
“ I guess you’re not!”
A 14 year old with a card came along and swiped it across the screen and said “Carry on!”
 “Can you get me a zimmer frame? I think I’m too old to reach the door without one” No he didn’t really say that but he felt like it.

Sanity was restored a little later when we saw a beautiful kingfisher catching the sun as it flew past.

The Oxford Canal and the Trent and Mersey are contour canals, which avoid the hills as much as possible, and therefore twist and turn a fair bit. The Shropshire Union is what is known as a “cut and fill” canal, which tends to go much straighter, cutting through the hills, and using the spoil to build huge embankments.

There are some very narrow sections along here, cut through rock, so we had to keep our eyes open for oncoming boats.  At one point we went under Avenue Bridge, which is ornate, with balustrades. This was built when the canal cut through the drive to Chillington Hall, owned by the Giffard family since the 12th century.

Narrow section

Avenue Bridge

Brewood moorings

We moored in Brewood, where the canal is also in a cutting.  In the evening we walked ¾ mile to the cricket club, which Brewood Acoustic Music Club uses as their venue every Thursday. Tonight was a singer’s night (i.e. no guest artist). We sang A Long Way Down and Well Well Well. Everybody had two songs only, as there were a lot of people taking part, many of whom were very talented. We were given a lift back to the boat.

Chris doing a sound check

We were greeted by the sight of a dead mouse on the carpet. The joys of cat ownership. But who owns who?

0 locks, 5 miles, 1 mouse, 1hr40

Friday 11th July

Brewood to High Offley

On the visitor moorings we had spotted BCF boat Parentis, which we had last seen in Birmingham at Hawne Basin and the Black Country Festival last year. We went to introduce ourselves to Jon and Maggie, as we had only seen them in passing last time. Parentis went first, and we followed.

Jon and Maggie on Parentis

We soon crossed the A5 on an ornate aqueduct, where cars and lorries were rushing along while we gently passed overhead.

A5 aqueduct

We stopped to use the facilities in Wheaton Aston, just after an isolated lock, and then we visited the famous garage to get some fuel. At 71.9p per litre it must be one of the cheapest places on the system. Hazel also nipped out to buy some milk.

Wheaton Aston Lock

Later we saw another kingfisher, and also a cormorant.

Cowley Cutting was very dramatic, which high rock walls on both sides.  There was a boat coming through Cowley Tunnel, so we tucked in to the side among bushes to let them pass.  Before we had a chance to pull out again, another boat appeared in the tunnel. In the end four boats passed while we were in the undergrowth. So who’s in a hurry anyway?

Waiting in the bushes

 Cowley Tunnel

There were lots of moored boats, making progress slow. Among them we spotted BCF boat Lyla B.  No one on board.

We wanted to get halfway to Market Drayton, so we didn’t stop at either Gnosall or Norbury Junction.  Pronunciation needs advice around here. Brewood is pronounced “Brood”, and Gnosall is pronounced “knows all”.

Norbury Junction

We passed under High Bridge, with its telegraph pole built in, and we took the compulsory photo.

High Bridge

We ended up at High Offley, where we moored behind Parentis. Later we took some cake and had tea on their boat.

We went for a drink at the Anchor pub, which is like a private house with a bar in one of the front two rooms.  They served Rosie’s Pig cider.  We sat in the garden, and Jon and Maggie joined us. A very pleasant end to the day.

The anchor at High Offley

1 lock, 13 miles, 4hr50

Saturday 12th July

High Offley to Market Drayton

Parentis left early (as they usually seem to do).  We followed about an hour later.

There don’t seem to be any marinas on this part of the canal, but there are lots of boats moored on farmland, and it means that navigation is slow along here.

Lots of moored boats

We were soon high above the countryside on the Shebdon Embankment, where they had a breach five years ago, when we were due to come this way last. We had to return from Chester via the Trent and Mersey instead.  This time we think we spotted where some remedial work had been done, but it was hard to tell.

At the end of the embankment there is an old Cadbury’s factory where goods were shipped to and from Bournville by narrowboat. This was soon followed by Woodseaves Cutting, with a very high bridge, called High Bridge. There must be a history to the names of some of these places.

Cadbury’s factory

 Woodseaves Cutting

High Bridge

Tyrley Top Lock

Tyrley Locks was good – boats going both ways. We met a lady who saw our Christian logos and said “Are you coming to St Mary’s tomorrow?”  “Yes”, we said, as we had already checked out the churches and decided to go to that one.

As we came down through lock 3 we saw that lock 4 was against us, even though a boat had come up through it.  There was no boat in sight at lock 4, so we came out of 3, not sure why 4 had been emptied.  Then we saw a boat coming up in 5.  He had obviously set 4 as well. He was on his own, and it turned out to be Brian and his dog Ghost on Kyle. We were moored with them at the Pershore River Festival last year.  He explained that because of rocks below the water it was impossible to moor up between the two locks, so you have to set them and steer down the middle from one to the other.  When we came to use the locks, we found a notice, attached to the lock beam, to say exactly that.

Rocky walls at Turley Locks
Coming out of the locks, we came across a BCF boat, Cockney Sparra 2, with David and Susan Allen, moored a little way before the Market Drayton Visitor moorings. We had seen them last year on the Staffs and Worcs.

Typical Shropshire Union milepost

At Market Drayton moorings there was one space left, two boats in front of Parentis.

Hazel went shopping, returning by bus.  James went for a stroll to see who was there. No one else we knew.  Last time there were lots of rabbits on the playing field. This time not one.

5 locks, 9 miles, 3hr50

Sunday 13th July

Market Drayton

We walked to St Mary’s church where we received an excellent welcome.  There was a music group with keyboard, and two other instruments that we couldn’t see behind the music stands. They could have done with more volume. Everyone was asking if we knew Malcolm and Stephanie Grey-Smart.  We also met the mother of the lady on the locks, but the lady herself was not there.

St Mary’s, Market Drayton

 Before the service

Timber framed buildings in Market Drayton

We had lunch at Red Lion – can’t cook roast potatoes, otherwise good. It is a micro brewery (Joule’s)

We bought a new iron in Argos, and some provisions in Lidl, before going back to the boat for zzzzzzzzz.  This seems to be becoming a pattern.

In the evening we went to the Methodist Church for @7, with modern worship songs plus a challenging talk from Mark Williamson. This is a churches together event every two months. We met a couple (Paul and Grace Bishop) who had been part of BCF when they had a boat called The Rose of Sharon. They have now sold the boat and bought a house.  They gave us a lift back.

Market Drayton Methodist

Nibbles on board.  No boating today

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