Friday, December 19, 2014

Down the cut to Gnosall

Yesterday we stayed where we were. The forecast predicted wind and heavy showers, and it wasn’t far wrong. We had sun first thing though, even though the rain clouds were advancing from the west…
You get some fantastic colours at this time of year.

We were off at just after 10:30, and managed all of 50 yards before we were back against the bank. We picked up a couple of items of unidentifiable apparel on the prop, and no amount of “chucking back” would throw them off. They must have been lurking, just waiting for us to set off… A visit to the weed plastic bag hatch filled most of a carrier bag.

All clear and we were off for the second time, heading into the first of the cuttings that the Shroppie is known for. IMG_2894Only short and relatively shallow, this one. They get considerably more dramatic further north.

When I walked Meg up to Avenue Bridge yesterday I could hear a pair of buzzards calling, but only caught a fleeting glimpse. Today one of them was much more co-operative…IMG_2903

The ornate Avenue BridgeIMG_2904
This carried the East Avenue carriage road to Chillington Hall, over to the west.

Taken yesterday, on the bridge
Often, local landowners would insist on making a feature of the canal in exchange for permission to cross their land. All at the canal company’s expense, of course.

Brewood is the first settlement of any substance encountered as you head north. IMG_2907

It takes a while to leave it behind, long lines of moored boats flank the canal to the north.IMG_2908

There’s a hire base here and permit holder and private moorings.

I wonder how long you have to neglect your boat to grow this much moss?IMG_2910

IMG_2913Although the Shropshire Union runs from Autherley Junction to Ellesmere Port on the Mersey, the mileposts only indicate the distances to Nantwich.

The clue as to why is in the “Union” part of the name. Like the Grand Union Canal, the Shropshire Union came into being as an amalgamation of existing navigations. This section was fully opened in 1835, and was named the Birmingham and Liverpool Junction Canal. It joined the existing, much earlier Chester Canal at Nantwich, just to the north of Nantwich Basin.

There nearly wasn’t a junction at Autherley. The intention was that the canal would form a fast shipment route between Birmingham and the port of Liverpool, far more direct than the round-about route currently used. Unfortunately a half-mile of the Staffs and Worcester Canal would need to be utilised, between Autherley and Aldersley Junction, where the Birmingham Canal started it’s climb up to Wolverhampton. The S&W weren’t impressed, and threatened to charge ridiculously high tolls for the use of their bit of cut. The B&LJ countered this by investigating whether a canal fly-over, crossing the S&W and joining the Wolverhampton Flight part way up, was feasible. Facing the loss of any trade on their water the S&W backed down and Autherley Junction was constructed.

The canal can be a bit boring to cruise, consisting as it does of long straights over embankments…IMG_2930

…or long straights through cuttings.
At least on this canal if you’re heading north you’re generally pointing north, unlike some of the earlier twisty contour-hugging canals!

One embanked straight is interrupted by the crossing of Watling Street at Stretton on a cast iron aqueduct supported on blue brick and stone abutments.

Stretton AqueductIMG_2916
The railings could do with a coat of paint!
It looks far more impressive from the road below. We got a toot from a Wales-bound truck as we crossed.

After Stretton there’s another cutting through Lapley Wood before the canal arrives at it’s first proper lock at Wheaton Aston.

Wheaton AstonIMG_2929

Bridge 26 sees the towpath switch sides from east to west, the side it’ll stay on till just above Adderley Locks.

The low sun provides some beautiful soft light…IMG_2935
…Winter Soltice on Sunday!

Near the end of today’s trip we entered the steep sided Cowley Cutting, which ends at Cowley Tunnel.

Cowley Cutting
The slopes are very friable; I think the intention was to make this a longer tunnel, only the roof wouldn’t stay up! The tunnel is only 81 yards long, faced and lined at the south end…IMG_2938

…and rough-cut stone at the north where the strata is more stable. IMG_2939

We pulled in beside Boat Inn Bridge, on the edge of the village of Gnosall Heath. There are more moorings through the bridge, but they’re in the cutting and a bit gloomy.

We didn’t waste yesterday, instead we had a marathon Christmas card writing session. They all went in the post box just up the road when we stopped today.

It’s been cooler today, with the southerly wind moving more to the west. But it’s been generally dry, just a couple of short, light showers. After a grocery top-up tomorrow we’ll head on, probably up to High Offley or Knighton.

Hi Jaqx. Thanks for the comment. Yes, we’re both on the up again. Someone else mentioned arnica, I’ll pick some up in Market Drayton, I guess. Glad to see Les is steadily improving. Keep well, both of you.

Hey up KevinToo. We’re almost back to normal. If you can call it that! Mags “did” Wheaton Aston Lock today, and I had a good run this morning before we set off. Thanks, mate.

Ade, I don’t know where you’re up to at this time, but I’ve got to admire your stamina! Well done!

Locks 1, miles 11

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