Another change in the weather! From yesterday’s cold start and calm and mild day, we’re now back to a chill wind from the west, holding the temperature down and making boat handling difficult.
There was a flurry of boats passing us first thing, unfortunately all heading our way. We paced ourselves, pulling out in a gap in the traffic after a boat had just come up Woodend Lock.
Dropping down Woodend Lock, I’m aboard ‘cos I was told to be!
A boat was waiting to come up and the crew were emptying the lock for me.
With so many boats heading down, and those likely to be leaving the moorings above Shadehouse Lock we were sure that there’d be a queue there. And we weren’t wrong.
But it wasn’t as bad as we expected. Just one in front of us.
There were volunteers helping out as well, so passage was swift down the two locks to the junction. So swift in fact that I didn’t have time to grab my camera! So, no photos for half an hour. Oh, and a quick hi to Roly and Bev NB Klara. Boat’s looking good, guys!
Mags made a good job of turning in to the Coventry Canal at the junction, despite the rising wind and another boat coming through the little swing bridge. Then she pulled onto the water point so we could top up the tank.
That’s the little swing bridge which gives access to the boatyard. Beyond the bridge is the junction, with the Trent and Mersey crossing left to right.
So we’re now on the Coventry Canal, although this could easily still be a branch of the Trent and Mersey if the Coventry Canal Company hadn’t bought it off T&M!
The Coventry Canal was built with one major aim – to connect the South Staffordshire coalfields with customers in the rapidly expanding Coventry area. Another less important consideration was the connection to the Trent and Mersey Canal, or Grand Trunk as it was known at the time.
The first objective was achieved, by 1771 the canal ran from the city to Atherstone, with various short arms connecting to collieries on route. Lack of money, and probably lack of will, put a stop to further extension along the line to Fazeley and then north to Fradley until 1790, and that was only to the first destination.
By this time the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal had been completed to Fazeley allowing traffic from the coalfields to Birmingham, but, desperate to see the northern connection established, they undertook to extend the B&F up to Whittington along the surveyed but uncut line of the Coventry, while the Grand Trunk Canal Company constructed the section south from Fradley to meet the B&F at Whittington Brook.
This, northern, six mile stretch was subsequently bought by the Coventry Canal, but the seven miles to Fazeley wasn’t. So now, leaving Fradley, we have 6 miles of the Coventry Canal, then we join the Birmingham and Fazeley. Travelling to Birmingham you stay on the B&F, but heading to Coventry you rejoin the Coventry Canal at Fazeley Junction.
Leaving Fradley I always find the first section to Streethay a bit tedious. It’s shallow, narrow, and with vegetation both sides there’s not a lot to see.
Just a glimpse of one of the old hangers, left over from when Fradley was home to RAF Lichfield.
It did fly some operations, in May 1942 aircraft from here took part in the 1000-bomber raid on Cologne. These mass raids were designed to overwhelm the emergency services and demoralise the population. In a 90 minute window, 868 aircraft dropped over 1400 tons of bombs, the majority of which were incendiaries.
Narrow, bendy and shallow near Bearshay Bridge, No 87.
Just as the canal widens and straightens it turns to run alongside the busy A38…
…then there’s a line of offside moorings up to Streethay Wharf.
We pulled in here for 10 minutes. We needed a gas bottle, and with the weather remaining cool I chucked a couple of bags of solid fuel on the roof as well.
After Streethay we swap the road for the railway, but at least the permanent way isn’t as continuously intrusive.
The canal is heading south and east, passing the junction with the Wyrley and Essington, or Lichfield, Canal. This end of the “Curly Wyrley”, leading to the main Birmingham Canal Network at Ogley Junction, was abandoned in 1954. Much of the route has been filled in, but the Lichfield and Hatherton Canals Restoration Trust are fighting “To reinstate the historic Lichfield and Hatherton Canals for the benefit of the community”.
The wind was starting to be a nuisance, and I contemplated stopping at Whittington, but decided to carry on a bit further, through the village and towards Hopwas. I did call it best before the next village though, mooring up just before the start of the extensive Hopwas Wood.
A marker stone indicates the end-on junction between the Coventry Canal and the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal in Whittington
Now, until Fazeley Junction, we’ll be on the B&F. The only difference is on the bridges. The Coventry Canal made do with a number…
…but the Birmingham and Fazeley named theirs.
Locks 3, miles 8