It was a bit grey and gloomy as we left Goldstone Wharf yesterday.
The Wharf Inn at Goldstone
It was to stay grey for most of the day, although we did see some brief spells of the yellow stuff.
That’s The Wrekin over there, 14 miles to the south-east. You can just about make out the mast on the summit. Although not the highest of the Shropshire Hills, at 1335 feet it’s still prominent. And it’s position at the north-western end of the range makes it more so, rising above the Shropshire Plain.
Looking a bit dodgy…
We had showers on and off, blown across on that cool south-westerly. At Knighton stands what used to be part of the Cadbury chocolate manufacturing process.
Local milk was processed here, with cocoa, to produce chocolate crumb which was then shipped, by canal, to the main factory at Bournville.
After Knighton the first of two massive embankments is crossed.
Shebdon Embankment is just under a mile in length and rises about 45 feet over a shallow valley.
The wind had picked up by now, and the showers were becoming more frequent. Following the embankment there’s over a mile of offside moorings, and by the time I’d passed all the boats in the wind and wet I’d just about lost the will to live.
There’s good moorings either side of Anchor Bridge, so I pulled on there. The intention was just to stop for lunch and a comfort break, but we finished up staying for the rest of the day.
It actually improved later in the afternoon, but we were too comfortable to be bothered about moving on.
Today’s forecast was better, so we were up and on the move by soon after nine.
The Anchor Inn at High Offley.
Grub Street Cutting follows shortly, not as deep or as long or as narrow as Woodseaves.
But it still sports a High Bridge. And the Not So High Bridge is the one with the telegraph pole in the middle.
Out of the cutting a long straight takes you to Norbury Junction. We pulled in here, I just needed a couple of bits from the well-stocked chandlery.
The boatyard, hire base, café and chandlery are on the left, the Navigation Inn on the right. Just beyond the inn is an arm to the right, which leads to a lock now used as a dry dock.
This lock was the top one of 17 which dropped the Newport Branch down just over 100 feet. Another 6 locks over 10 miles took the canal past Newport to join the existing Shrewsbury Canal at Wappenshall Junction. The Shrewsbury was the main line of an extended network connecting Shrewsbury and Telford with collieries and ironworks. These were built at around the turn of the 18th century for horse drawn tub-boats, the locks being only 6’2” wide but 81 feet long to take a train of four boats.
When the Newport Branch was opened in 1835 the two locks towards Shrewsbury were enlarged to take what had become the standard narrowboat size of 7x72 feet, but the rest of the network was untouched.
Trade on the tub-boat sections ceased in 1921, and, along with the Newport Branch, were officially abandoned in 1944. But there are ambitious plans to re-open the route to Shrewsbury… See the Shrewsbury and Newport Canals Trust website.
There was plenty of space on the visitor moorings here today, but it’s going to be jammed over the Bank Holiday weekend – Norbury Canal Festival.
Leaving the junction the canal crosses another high embankment. This one is Sheldon, and caused the canal engineers no end of trouble with the sides slipping during construction.
Over Sheldon Embankment
These massive earthworks, the cuttings and embankments, would never have been considered during the previous century. There just wasn’t the civil engineering skill and equipment available. Using them here made this a very efficient commercial waterway, allowing the company to turn a profit long after most other canals.
The next place for provisions is Gnosall Heath, with good moorings and water. On the southern end of the village is Cowley Tunnel, originally intended to be nearly 700 yards long.
Cowley Tunnel, north end
All went well for the first 80 yards, the solid rock was self-supporting.
But as the tunnel progressed further south the rock became unstable, and the only solution was to open out the tunnel into a cutting, with a masonry arch to stabilise the southern portal.
The cutting, impressively deep and steep sided, is clad in ferns and young trees.
Between Bridges 29 and 28 there’s a fine bit of mooring that we’ve used before. Spectacular views to both sides.
Heading towards Wheaton Aston the views just keep on coming…
We pulled in at Wheaton Aston, just through the bridge opposite the Hartley Arms. It’s a bit brighter here than on the main moorings in the cutting.
We’ll be staying put tomorrow, it’s supposed to rain all day. Saturday we’ll move on, mooring out of the way for the weekend.
Locks 0, miles 15 (2 days)