Sun 12th July
Stafford Boat Club to Penkridge
We walked up the hill to Wildwood Church, which starts at 10am. We had a warm welcome. They meet in a school but they are negotiating for a plot of land locally where they can build their own place. They seem to be very active in the community. There were some good songs that we had not heard before. The talk was very good, all about the Great Commission. We had a meal in the nearby pub afterwards, before buying a bottle of milk, and walking back down the hill past flowering gardens.
Wildwood Church A-Board
Pete Hardy came with a 5L bottle of toilet blue, and we went to the office to settle up for our electricity and return our boat club key. Then we set off, having had a very enjoyable stay.
Farewell to Aud on Sam Hardy
Stafford Boat Club
The first excitement after we set off was at Deptmore Lock, and when we were going up, and James had open the port side ground paddle he noticed water rushing into the bows from the scuppers on the starboard side of the boat. On subsequent locks he half opened a paddle on each side before he opened them fully. The lock design must be a little different to other narrow locks.
We also noticed that one of the steel plates on the bottom gates was bent, creating a possible hazard to boats going up, which could catch a fender or rudder. James sent photos to C&RT.
At Acton Trussel there seemed to be a scarecrow competition going on. We were in earshot of the M6, and two miles further on, we crossed under the motorway.
Scarecrows at Acton Trussel
We moored in Penkridge, but the piling had come loose, so the hooks slid along the bar without restriction. We therefore had to use mooring pins.
James went for a walk round the village, and discovered a lovely historic place full of old buildings and streets.
Penkridge – Stocks and Gaol
Penkridge – Wyre Hall
Penkridge – Towpath tunnel
4 locks, 4 miles
Mon 13th July
Penkridge to Gailey
We left fairly early as rain was forecast later. We discovered that one of our mooring pins had been pulled out by boats going past too fast.
Some boaters have green fingers. This was Tiger
A new experience for us - the Rodbaston Lock incident
Rodbaston Lock has a brick bridge a bit like a tunnel just before the lock gates. It appeared to be empty, as we could see daylight through the bottom gates.
Otherton Lock, which has the same design as Rodbaston Lock
Rodbaston Lock entrance
The normal procedure is for James to get off near the lock bollards and go and open the gates while Hazel takes the boat into the lock. It was raining and we thought we might need to put down the hood to go under the bridge. We decided that, rather than James getting off, he would stay to put the hood down if necessary, and get off on the right just by the bridge. This would mean opening the gates by gently steering the boat in and nudging the gates with the bow fender.
Close to the bridge, we realised that didn’t need to put down the hood after all. We put the bows into the “tunnel” and gently started to push open the gates. For some reason, the gates opened up six inches or so, and then it seemed that the pressure increased, and the gates started to close again. We applied a bit more power and managed to push the gates open.
James got off when we drew level with bridge entrance, and when he climbed up to the top of the lock, he discovered a lady with a windlass by the top gates. She had arrived at the top gates and hadn’t seen us. She had opened up one of the top paddles just as we were entering the lock, which had caused the gates to close again. The M6 runs alongside this lock, and the deafening roar probably muffled the sound of our engine.
There were no further incident as we climbed the final three locks to Gailey, where there were some interesting instructions written on the toilet.
Bewildering instructions to toilet goers
Leaving Gailey Lock
We decided that we had gone far enough, so we stopped for the day by the woods on the Gailey visitor moorings. Hugo was very happy and spent a lot of time outside.
7 locks, 4 miles
Tue 14th July
Gailey to Compton
Once again we set off early, as rain was forecast later. We were at the start of the summit pound, so we had a ten mile lock-free section as far as Compton Lock.
The first unusual sight was a large chemical factory, straddling the canal with some large pipe bridges. There was a sign saying “No mooring, even if you hear an alarm”.
Pipe Bridges at Calf heath
We passed the junction with the Hatherton Branch, which hopefully one day will be restored, taking boats through to the Wyrley and Essington Canal near Pelsall. The main line continues south to Stourport, but the sign on the bridge says “This way Autherley”, which is the junction with the Shropshire Union Canal.
The main line south
Before we came to Autherley, there was a very narrow cutting through rock, and thankfully we didn’t meet any boats on this section. We did see some passing places, but were pleased we didn’t have use them.
The narrow bit
Autherley Junction with the Shropshire Union Canal
Between Autherley and Aldersley junctions there are some high bridges taking railways into Wolverhampton.
At Aldersley Bridge we noticed that there was the main bridge hole for the canal and towpath, plus a bridge hole for horses even though it was not on the towpath side. We also spotted a ruined building, and decided to investigate what the history was. We discovered that the building used to be a four storey lodging house, had stables on the ground floor, and offered overnight accommodation for canal boatmen and their families. The following two photos are taken from this website: http://www.historywebsite.co.uk/Museum/OtherTrades/BCN/Aldersley.htm
Aldersley Lodging house – artist’s impression
Aldersley Lodging house – the ruin
Meccano! This railway bridge is now a footpath
As we passed an activity centre, we saw a camera crew, and spotted John Sergeant waiting to board a boat. We continued on to the visitor moorings above Compton Lock, with a pleasant view overlooking Valley Park nature Park.
Half an hour later, the TV boat came past Gabriel with John Sergeant at the helm. Perhaps we’ll be on telly!