Last night’s moon, just a day from full, shone eerily through a veil of mottled cloud.
Today we completed the southern leg of our journey up to the Lancaster Canal. We’re now heading north-ish, more north-east than north-west, but at least roughly in the right direction.
We were off at soon after 9 this morning, wanting to get a good start on a longish day.
Looking back at the moorings, that field of rape stretching off into the distance.
We made good time heading down to Autherley Junction. The canal is wide and of a good depth, at least until it passes under the M54. Then the engineers encountered a ridge of hard stone, and the most efficient way of dealing with it was to cut the channel narrower.
Under the M54
Narrows near Bridge 4
We’ll meet the same rock outcrop later in the day, on the Staffs and Worcs.
Just over an hour saw us approaching the junction and the shallow lock. A boat was just coming down so we hung back for them to come out.
We didn’t have to wait long, it’s only a 4” change of level after all.
The toll house alongside the lock
Out of the lock, and turning onto the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal
The canal north of the junction starts wide and deep, similar to the Shroppie, but then that stone ridge gets in the way…
I’ve often wondered whether this was intended to be a tunnel. On all of our trips through here we’ve never met an oncoming boat. Although there are passing places, it would be interesting… I bet there were a few confrontations between commercial boatmen!
From here the canal follows an obvious Brindley-surveyed route. These earlier navigations tended to follow the contours of the land, and only used engineered solutions like embankments, cuttings and locks where absolutely necessary. Left behind are the long straights of the Shroppie, now we have twists and turns and blind bridges as the canal hangs onto the 340 foot contour.
To complicate matters further, some of the bridge arches are wide…
…and others are narrow!
Hatherton Junction is always busy with boats, with linear moorings and a large marina.
The Hatherton Canal headed east and south to link up with the top end of the Birmingham Canal Navigations at Fishley Junction on the Wyrley and Essington Canal. A lot of the original route, abandoned in 1955, has been lost to development but there are proposals to reopen the canal on a new line.
The entrance to the Hatherton Canal, now used for moorings up to the second lock.
Judging by our recent experience, there must be a lot of frog-skippered boats around here…
North of Hatherton the canal follows a long straight past a large chemical works on the towpath side. Associated buildings on the offside have been demolished and the area is being redeveloped. There’s a huge new warehouse on the site.
It’s a good spot for road access, the M6 Junction 12 is only a mile away.
A mile further on is Gailey Lock, with moored boats narrowing the approach a bit.
Gailey Lock, with The Roundhouse alongside.
The Roundhouse was originally a canal company toll-house, but is now private with a small gift shop at ground level.
We dropped down the lock and moored below.
Out of Gailey Lock, under the A5
It’s been cold today, in a brisk northerly wind. But at least it’s stayed dry. So long as we tie up soon enough tomorrow we should stay dry then too.
Locks 2, miles 11.