Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A better day than expected.

We thought that we may get wet today, or cut the trip short to avoid getting wet, but as it happened we did neither. It’s been fine, dry and frequently sunny, so there’s one in the eye for the weather forecasters!

The Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal was completed in 1772, linking the Trent and Mersey at Great Haywood to the River Severn at Stourport. As was common in those days, it’s a contour canal, hanging on to the same elevation as much as possible. This entails much to-ing and fro-ing, for instance today’s trip of 7½ miles is less than 5 in a direct line. But even if it involved a scenic tour of the countryside, it was still much easier, quicker and more economical than the alternative pack-horse or horse and cart over the poor roads of the day.SAM_8012

It’s a bit of a change from the straight course of the much later Shropshire Union.

After 2 tortuous miles Hatherton Junction is passed on the right. The Hatherton Branch of the S&W connected to the northern end of the Birmingham Canal Navigations, via the Cannock Extension Canal.

Hatherton Branch Canal
Although currently un-navigable above the second lock, a lot of work has been done to reopen the link, including a new diversion to connect with the Wyrley and Essington Canal. Lots of info here…

Ultimately the idea is to re-establish the connection between the Wyrley and Essington and Coventry Canal at Huddlesford Junction. If they were both open already it would save us a good few miles….

There’s an extensive chemical works at Four Ashes, originally straddling the canal but mainly just on the west side, that on the east having been demolished.

Pipe bridges to nowhere cross the canalSAM_8035

The canal is uncharacteristically straight for over half a mile through the works.

The first lock heading north from the Autherley Junction is at Gailey, where we topped up the water tank before dropping down.

Approaching Gailey, smart Anglo-Welsh boats laid up for winterSAM_8040

You can’t not take a picture of the Roundhouse at Gailey LockSAM_8042

The lock has awkward cranked balance beams at the lower end, fitted when the road above was widened.


We’d had a 40 minute pause earlier to collect some wood alongside the towpath. I had to get the saw out to make it manageable across the 2 foot gap, which was the closest I could get to the bank, but it was worth it.

From Gailey through to Penkridge the locks start to come as the canal drops down the Penk valley. There’re seven between here and Penkridge.

Brick Kiln Lock, with views down the valleySAM_8047

Rodbaston Lock, alongside the M6

We only did one of the two locks actually in Penkridge, Filance Lock, before tying up on the visitor moorings opposite Tom’s Moorings.
We’re going to take a day off tomorrow, it’s market day, always well worth a visit.

Hi Carol, I’d forgotten I’d mentioned the changes to you…. I’ve been waiting to get to somewhere to easily source the materials.

Locks 6, miles 7½


Sue Hunter said...

Nice to see you yesterday, hope you're keeping dry! SUE nb Beefur

Geoff and Mags said...

Hi Sue, difficult, isn't it. I should really have walked down to say hello properly, but it's just so MUDDY! We will meet again...