Yesterday dawned bright and sunny, so we decided to make a good day of it. Setting off from Gailey at soon after a quarter to ten, we were soon at the first lock of the day, Brick Kiln.
We would have been away earlier, but every time we were gearing up to go a boat went past, going the same way!
We had a short wait at Brick Kiln while a boat ahead went down, then we were on our way.
Presumably there was a brickworks somewhere near the first lock, and the third, Rodbaston, is named for a small settlement just to the west, but who, or what, is Boggs?
It might be the name of a local farm, given to the second lock. No apostrophe, but they tend to get mislaid in the mists of time. It has been 250 years… No sign of anything on the modern OS maps, though. Nor on 19th century maps either.
We made good time to Penkridge, some locks against us, some with boats coming up or waiting.
Otherton Lock, a boat was waiting to come in so I dropped back on board.
Otherton Boat Haven
I was intending to moor above Penkridge Lock for a walk up to the Co-op, but passed the only available space opposite the private moorings. So we filled with water above the lock, then dropped down, mooring below for my supplies run. It wasn’t quite as quick as that, we had to wait for water, then again for the lock, but we were on our way out of Penkridge by just after 1.
Approaching Longford Lock
We’ve moored just above the lock before, but the afternoon was still pleasant so we pushed on.
Under the M6
We carried on, past Teddesley Park and Acton Trussell, finally stopping on an open bit of bank north of the village.
Midland Chandlers at Park Gate Lock
A lot of feet have trod that stone…
Pulled in just north of Acton Trussell
The rain that was forecast arrived later in the afternoon, and lasted most of the night. The wind didn’t bother us though, as we were sheltered by the high hedge.
It was supposed to dry up by late morning, but there was still rain around when we got away this morning at 10:15. But by the time we got to Deptmore Lock, 15 minutes later, it had eased to just odd spots.
A grey, damp start to the day.
A bit of blue sky!
Another boat approaches as we leave Deptmore Lock.
We had to arrive at Radford Bridge at around lunchtime to meet Dave Freeman from Taft Wharf who was coming across to do our Boat Safety Certificate examination. As it turned out we were there by 11:00 and Dave turned up at around 25 past.
By half-one we had a shiny new certificate (well, we will when it arrives by email…) had had a spot of lunch and were waiting for a boat coming through Radford Bridge before moving on.
The canal runs around the end of the ridge that forms the western edge of Cannock Chase, heading north and then east. Although sandwiched between built-up areas, it’s surprisingly rural.
Just before the canal turns to the east, near Saint Thomas Bridge, a short branch headed off to the north, connecting the S&W to the River Sow through a lock. The river was made navigable by straightening and dredging for 1½ miles into Stafford.
This was a privately owned and funded waterway by Lord Stafford who owned the land through which it ran, so didn’t require Parliamentary permission. Opened in 1816 it replaced the tramway which ran into the town from Radford Bridge. It’s success meant that it remained in use until the 1920s.
The entrance to the Sow Navigation/Stafford Branch Canal
The brick abutments of the towpath bridge can still be seen. Since I last looked there’s been some investigation of the junction, exposing the channel and the foundations of the lock cottage.
There is a proposal to reopen this little-known route, once again giving boats direct access to the town.
Are they still bluebells if they have white and blue flowers on the same stem?
Our first goslings this year.
That’s two out of the common five. Now we’ve to spot cygnets, cootlets and moorhen chicks to complete the set.
Now heading generally east for a spell, the old Tudor hunting grounds of Cannock Chase dominate the horizon ahead.
The towpath swaps sides for the last couple of miles at Milford Bridge.
The gantries carry the electrical cables for the Stafford to Rugeley line.
The River Sow is crossed on a substantial stone aqueduct in the middle of an S bend.
Tixall Bridge is a fine example of a wide, low, brick arch.
Nearly there now. Tixall Lock is our last for the day and the last on the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal. And the canal saved the best till last.
Below the lock the canal follows a series of gentle bends before suddenly opening out into Tixall Wide.
Across the water is Tixall Gatehouse, the only remnant of the Tixall Estate. The mid 16th century Tixall Hall was demolished in 1927. It was the family seat of the Lords Aston, and housed the ill-fated Mary, Queen of Scots, for a fortnight in 1586, before she was moved to Fotheringay Castle to meet the executioner’s axe the following year.
We pulled in looking out over the wide at around half past three. The weather looks to be on the up as we head towards the Bank Holiday weekend. About time.
Locks 11, miles 13, two days.