Monday, November 28, 2011

Two canals, three rivers

We didn’t quite get a frost last night, although the temperature dropped to 0.3° We woke to a cold grey morning, but at least the wind was still blowing elsewhere.
Away at 10:00 we had around 40 minutes to cruise to Colwich Lock, but I had to pull over to liberate some logs against the towpath. A tree had blown down recently and been cut up where it lay. I wasn’t the first to take advantage of this bounty, all the easily portable bits had gone, leaving some large or long logs. Still, with a bit of determination (and a lot of grunting!) I got some good bits aboard.

Just above the lock we had to arbitrate between 2 swans. The older of the pair was doing it’s level best to drown the other, holding it’s head under water and standing on it’s back. I imagine it was a territorial dispute.
But whatever the reason we couldn’t just let it happen. So as we got alongside the pair I gave several sharp blasts on the horn, which startled the aggressor. Then I could sneak the boat between combatants, allowing the fledgling to climb onto the bank.
I kept the older bird moving forward, getting behind him if he tried to turn back, and managed to herd him through the next bridge a ¼ mile away.

SwanherdingSAM_0005 Swab herd
It probably won’t keep them apart indefinitely, but at least the younger one had a chance to get his breath back!

Little Haywood village is where we left the swan, and it was also home to JRR Tolkien’s wife, Edith. During his service at the front in WW I he contracted Trench Fever and returned to England to recuperate. He stayed here with Edith in a cottage on the Teddesley Park Estate. He was never well enough to return to the fighting, but instead spent the remainder of the war in various postings in England. Tolkien, in case you’re from Mars, wrote The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. These are the most well known of his work, but he also wrote several children’s short stories and essays on other authors work. He retired from his final post of Professor of English Language and Literature at Merton College, Oxford in 1959, and died in 1973.

Haywood Lock was our next landmark, followed by a left turn at the junction.

In Haywood Lock, logs on the roof…..SAM_0009 Heywood Lock
….and on the counterSAM_0010 Log
I couldn’t lift this one but I wasn’t going to leave it behind!

Haywood Junction, we turned left onto the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal.SAM_0012 Haywood Junction
SAM_0013 Haywood Junction

It’s definitely out of season now, all of the Anglo Welsh hire fleet seem to be home.

Green Machine
SAM_0014 Anglo Welsh

Tixall wide is a broad section of the canal, reputedly dug to make the canal appear more riverlike to a local landowner. It’s a popular spot for mooring, and even now there were several boats taking advantage of this pleasant spot.

Tixall WideSAM_0016 Tixall Wide

Sitting on the rising ground to the north is Tixall Gatehouse, all that remains of the Tixall Estate. The hall itself was demolished in 1929.

Tixall GatehouseSAM_0017 Tixall Gatehouse

Chas on NB Moore2Life commented that it’s very similar to Swarkestone Pavilion (right). The gatehouse was built around 1580,  the pavilion in 1632. Both were built in the Jacobean style. It’s likely that the Harpurs of Swarkestone would have visited Tixall at some point, as both were important landowners. Maybe the gatehouse’s design influenced the Harpurs when they had the pavilion built.
Incidentally, The Aston’s of Tixall were related to the Levetts of Wychnor Park, who I mentioned a few days ago.

The very pretty Tixall Lock is a mile or so beyond the wide, then the canal does a dogleg as it crosses an aqueduct over the River Sow.

River Sow Aqueduct
SAM_0023 Sow Aqueduct
The electrified West Coast Main Line can be seen across the field, just before it ducks into the tunnel under the end of the ridge.

The canal does a loop around the high ground of Baswich and Weeping Cross, then heads south, leaving Stafford to the west. We’re now following the third of the river valleys we’ve used today. We followed The Trent to Great Haywood, then crossed it and followed The Sow till we started to head south, and now we’re following the River Penk.

Near Baswich is a closed off junction where a short branch dropped from the canal to the River Sow. The river used to be navigable from here up into Stafford, but trade fell early in the 20c and the branch to the river became derelict in the ‘20s. The line of the branch has been infilled but is still visible. The Stafford Riverway Link aims to reinstate this connection, enabling boats to navigate into the town.

Site of the Stafford Branch to the River Sow. SAM_0029 Riversway Link Site
The remains of the towpath bridge can be seen at either end of the weir.

The day started to get colder as the wind got up, but at least we had a bit of weak sun, too.

Our last lock of the day was at Deptmore, and was the deepest so far.

Deptmore Lock, 10’3” deep. SAM_0033 Deptmore Lock

We pulled in for the night just around the corner you can see ahead, and I set to slicing the wood up into rounds ready for splitting. I was just clearing up when these 2 chaps came paddling along…..

Not a sight you see every November…..SAM_0034 Training
They are in training for a Paddle Board competition on the Dutch canals. I think I’d stick to UK canals, the boats you’re likely to meet will be smaller!

Locks 4, miles 8½


Carol said...

Very interesting blog Geoff - I didn't know about Tolkien and his Little Haywood connection. The photos are great too as always - playing the swans hero too, what a star you are! See you both soon.

Geoff and Mags said...

Thanks Carol, ones does one's best, you know.....
Looking forward to seeing you all on Wednesday or Thursday.