The Staffs and Worcester Canal heads west for a start, following the River Sow to Stafford where it swings around Baswich Hill and heads purposefully south. We got away at 10:45, after I’d been to see NB Rock’n’Roll off to Fradley. George and Carol had been joined by Kevin and Ann, who will be taking over ownership in the spring when the Rocker’s new boat is finished.
Mob-handed today, a brew for starters….
…then ready for the off.
Our trip took us through Tixall Wide, a very popular mooring spot in the summer, but looking a bit abandoned today with only two boats on the bank.
There are two stories of how the Wide came about. When the canal was cut in 1771, the landowner, Thomas Clifford, had had his grounds landscaped by Capability Brown, and didn’t want a “ditch” in view of the Hall. He would, however consent to a broad stretch which would look like a lake…
…. the lake already existed on the proposed route of the canal, and was merely incorporated into the navigation.
Either way, it’s a splendid spot to moor. The canal had the last laugh. Although the 16thC gatehouse still
stands, the Hall was demolished in 1928.
Tixall Lock is the first on the canal heading south, and is also a pretty location.
Chas and Anne will easily recognise the picture above, they’ve a painting of the same with Moore2Life in the lock.
We crossed the Trent on an aqueduct near the junction yesterday, today it was the Sow we passed over. Normally clear and visibly full of fish, today, after the rain, it’s brown and silty as it rushes to join the larger river.
Over the Sow aqueduct
The weather up to now had been dull, but we soon had drizzle and heavier rain as we headed towards Milford. The canal along here is narrow and shallow, making for slow going. At Milford Bridge the towpath swaps sides over a turnover bridge.
Effective, but not as elegant as it’s northern cousins on the Macclesfield Canal.
Reedy on the left, shallow on the right
The railway is a constant and often intrusive companion on this westerly leg, but the electric blue flash of a kingfisher dashing ahead of us is adequate compensation.
The canal turns left to head south between Stafford and Baswich. It was on this bend that a now abandoned navigation connected the canal to Stafford. The Stafford Branch Canal and Sow Navigation took boats to a coal wharf in the middle of the town.
Stafford Branch Junction
From here a short channel led to a lock down into the River Sow, made navigable upstream into the town and downstream a short way to a flour mill. Opened in 1816, it was finally closed in 1920. The link channel has been mainly infilled, and the river silted, but there is a proposal to reinstate the connection. It would be good to be able to cruise into Stafford, rather than get the bus!
Even if restored, it’s unlikely that it would be usable today. There’s a little too much water in the river for safety…
The weather improved as we headed south, now it wasn’t the rain in eyes that was a nuisance, it was the sun! Not complaining, mind.
Stafford Boat Club has a fine mooring basin and clubhouse on the Hazelstrine Arm.
Stafford Boat Club
The arm also marks the end of the built up area around Stafford. A mile or two up the canal it skirts the dormitory village of Acton Trussell. Lots of recent housing encroaches on the left bank, but it’s all very tidy. I think there must a local by-law that insists on perfectly manicured lawns!
It always reminds of a setting for The Stepford Wives….
Even the church has been banished to the southern edge of the village. Dating from the 13thC, it’s just sooooo old!
St. James, Acton Trussell
Now we’ve lost the railway, the M6 starts to make it’s presence felt as it slowly converges from the west. Just above Park Gate Lock it crosses the navigation.
M6 Bridge, sunlight reflecting off the water ahead.
Longford Lock is on the fringes of Penkridge, our last but one for today. We moored above here in November 2010, waking to a crust of ice on the water before moving on into Penkridge for shopping. Little did we know that we’d be there for the next 17 days before breaking ice out to Gailey, stopping another 4 weeks there.
Penkridge Lock took us up to the 48 hour visitor moorings in the village.
By our standards it’s been a long day in harness, 4½ hours is twice our norm! but it’s been a good day.
Overnight here, then on to maybe Coven tomorrow.
Locks 6, miles 10