Wednesday, 30 June 2021

South to The Bratch Locks

 Wednesday June 30 Wolverhampton Boat Club to The Bratch Locks (8 miles, 7 locks)

After Liana organised retrieving the car tomorrow with a kindly WBC member, we set off behind a passing boat, which moored at the water point before Autherley Junction. After waiting for an oncoming boat, Annie entered the stop lock as another boat appeared around the corner. As Annie rose the short distance, the other boat moved so we could emerge and head South. 

There are lots of high bridges here, some rail, and we passed Oxley’s boatyard and Aldersley Junction, which takes you up 21 locks into the centre of Wolverhampton. Woody cuttings take you past the racecourse to an impressive railway bridge, now a footpath, close by an activity centre, where we passed a group of supervised children in canoes most carefully.

After a couple of miles through surprisingly lovely countryside, we reached Compton Lock, after which the wharf is now modern housing. We could see footpaths and hear birds on our left, from the large Smestow Valley Nature Reserve. 

These locks often have unusual round by wash weirs. 

At the Wightwick locks and after, we chatted to three separate supervised small groups of Duke of Edinburgh Award walkers from a local special school. Well done!

Through another mile and a half of countryside we moved slowly, enjoying the tranquility after our busy week at home.

Three more locks included Ebstree, on a corner and with an interesting set of steps under the bridge below it.

We moored early above The Bratch Locks. After admiring the beautifully maintained narrowboats  moored by us, we walked into Wombourne to the old railway station cafe (open 10am -3pm), but we were too late.

We admired the lovely cut grass and hedges at the lock, complimenting the lock keeper, who has been maintaining them for the last twenty years. 

We also enjoy looking over the bits and pieces for sale by his wonderful octagonal kiosk.

Later, we chatted with our neighbours and passers by, John read the All Souls Trilogy (if you liked Harry Potter and Twilight ….) and then joined Liana to watch Murray win at Wimbledon (at 10.30 pm!).

Back Aboard

 Tuesday June 29 England 2-0 Germany!!

Today we assembled stuff, loaded car, left house in good order; popped in to have lunch with Liana’s mum, Flo; and arrived at Wolverhampton Boat Club.

The members here were all very welcoming, so we parked the car, used a barrow to move our stuff to Annie, then adjourned to the clubhouse.

We were able to watch England beat Germany in the good and partisan company of some of the WBC members, suitably distanced. Great entertainment, and the beer was excellent and cheap, too!

Later, we watched Ukraine beat Sweden to become our next opponents in the Euros.

Wednesday, 23 June 2021

Homeward Bound

 Sunday June 21 Wheaton Aston to Wolverhampton Boat Club and home (7 miles, 1 lock)

After a rainy night, the dark clouds did not stop us moving to the services by the lock. John emptied loo cassettes while Liana and Rachel readied the lock. Off we journeyed. 

Though cool, the embankment (or “valley” as the old boatmen called it) has a lovely view of the village of Brewood.  

The long cutting was cool and shady, but very peaceful. Liana and Rachel walked Honeypie half way to Brewood Later, Rachel and I chatted while we shared steering (she has borrowed Annie and has a little experience).

We dropped Rachel near her car, then met up at the Bist Club a short distance away.

The very helpful WBC members let in Rachel and car, and saw us to our mooring. Thank you all! 👍

Rachel took us to Doncaster Strawberry Island Boat Club, where we met the steward and members meeting happily in their clubhouse. They refused our offer of payment, as we had left the car longer than we intended due to the Lancaster COVID situation, but they refused, accepting our £20 donation to club funds. Thank you all, again.

Rachel returned to her home, while we have spent several days cutting the meadow, bushes and hedges in our overgrown garden! John has also found time to watch some of the Euros football, too!

Saturday, 19 June 2021

Around Wolverhampton

 Saturday June 19 a short cruise with Rachel

Hoorah! Daughter Rachel and lovely Golden Doodle Honeypie are popping over for a visit! From our mooring here by bridge 4, we will go to Autherley Junction and turn round, then up through the stop lock eight miles through Brewood to Wheaton Aston - at least, that’s the plan!

Early this morning, the cattle opposite loomed through the mist. John had to open the hatch and window to enjoy the view.

Once Rachel arrived, we set off for Autherley Junction, where Rachel and Liana helped the boats in front of Annie in the queue go through. John breasted up with the Napton hire boats  by the stop lock, as they don’t leave room for a lock mooring (CRT, is this right?).

John winded Annie at the junction, avoiding a flotilla of canoes from the outdoor activity centre, and returned through the lock. 

We found ourselves behind a hire boat rented by beginners, who entertained us for the rest of the morning! We helped them with advice about steering, getting off shoals and, eventually, going through Wheaton Aston Lock. In between, we enjoyed the countryside through Brewood and beyond.

John winded Annie and moored by  the winding hole, while Liana and Rachel helped the beginners through the lock.

After a good meal from the interesting menu at the  Hartley Arms pub at Wheaton Aston, we returned to Annie, chatted and played cards. John lost, while Poland held Spain to a draw at soccer.

Friday, 18 June 2021

Brooding around Brewood

 Friday June 18 Brewood visit (8 miles, 0 locks, lotsa narrows)

John sanded and painted the cratch gunwhales this morning, so they look much better. Our current mooring is handy for our daughter Rachel to join us tonight, so we cruised the few miles to Brewood (pronounced ‘Brood’ by locals) and back.

There are narrows and wide pools either side of the M54 motorway bridge. On the way back, both we and the boat in front grounded while waiting for an oncoming boat to come through the tightest narrows. Some of these narrows have large rock ledges at the side, just below the surface, so keep in the middle!

Chillington  Wharf feels isolated in a woody setting at the start of a long deep Telford cutting, or rockin‘, which has a narrow section due to subsidence. The wide Bridge 10 is expensively balustraded in stone, as it carries the drive to Chillington Hall, obviously the seat of a family with clout! 

We moored at the visitor moorings in the cutting by the Bridge Inn, where we both had good value well cooked fish & chips plus tasty apple pies. The staff were friendly and helpful. Thank you!

Brewood is a pretty village to walk round, with a wide variety of impressive houses of all ages. The shopping area is around the Swan Hotel, which dominates the market place. There is a Coop  and Spar shop, as well as salons for fashion and the body beautiful!!

Thankfully, we have only had a few spots of rain, and the paint dried quickly.

Thursday, 17 June 2021

On the level, apart from a foot!!

 Thursday June 17 (10 miles, 1 stop lock)

It rained last night, but is sunny now. John reversed Annie to the services by the lock, and emptied loo cassettes, while Liana filled Annie’s water tank.

The new wharf on the offside is for boater training, John was told. 

Past the large chemical works at Calf Heath, we enjoyed the flat, wooded countryside on the way to Hatherton Marina and the adjacent Calf Heath Marina, which uses the first two locks of the old Hatherton Branch. We turned right at the canal crossroads, towards Autherley Junction.

 We passed at least 22 oncoming boats today, so John was careful at bridge holes and blind corners! We were warned about loads of canoes at the outdoor education centre by bridge 73, but we just missed them - the kids were on the wood bike track as we passed.

We have moored and eaten at the Fox & Anchor at Cross Green several times, but it looked closed today. 

Once under the A449 and M54 bridges, we passed through the narrows including “Pendeford Rockin’l without incident.

At Autherley Junction, boats were moored where John usually drops off Liana, so of course a boat appeared in the junction bridge hole as we turned! John reversed hurriedly and let them past, and they kindly left the lock gate open for us.

We rose the magnificent distance of a foot up this stop lock, by the Napton Narrowboats boat hire base. 

After three failed attempts to moor due to shallows, we stopped to eat lunch on the off side before Wolverhampton Boat Club, where we have arranged to leave Annie for a while from Sunday.

Moving on past bridge 4, we moored opposite fields, close to Pendeford Mill Nature Reserve, as clouds and wind arrived. Tv football and Queens Club tennis kept us interested.

Interesting sky tonight!

Wednesday, 16 June 2021

Penkridge to Gailey Round House and the summit level

 Wednesday June 16 Penkridge market and on to Gailey (3 mile, 6 locks)

Another bright sunny day saw us have a cup of tea before walking to the large market here, which is on every Wednesday and Saturday. We found the new one way system worked well. We bought a few bits including a bright shirt for John. 

The old White Hart pub is a lovely building, opposite the farmers shop and market.

We can recommend the Cappuccino coffee and full English breakfast at Kaffeine, near the Star Inn, just off the old market square. Good quality fair.


We set off up the six locks, past Otherton Boat Haven 

to the top lock, Gailey Lock. 

Below is a different view of it!

 a favourite shop and stopover at Gailey Roundhouse, only to find it closed! Is it really closed? It looked to be 😭 😭

We found a shady mooring to rest up for the day.

Tuesday, 15 June 2021


 Tuesday June 15 at Penkridge ( 0 miles)

We have decided to wait for the large Wednesday market here (also every Saturday). We had a walk into town for a coffee and browse around charity shops, where we bought books and shorts. Walking a bit further, past the Bridge Inn, we looked down on the River Penk from the bridge.

John bought iron oxide paint, impact glue, firelighters and black fire cement from the farm shop, for use when he fits the new cast iron chimney collar.

Later, we got out the sandpaper and wood oil to improve the look of the cratch doors and galley hatch, plus give our new stool a second coat.

We enjoyed the fresh air and sunshine here, too. It’s lovely to be able to have all the hatches and doors open!

Tennis from the Queens Club, football and reading concluded our day.

Monday, 14 June 2021

Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal

 Monday June 14 Tixall to Penkridge (9.5 miles, 6 locks)

Last night was just after the new moon, which appeared as a very thin crescent. Tixall Wide was so beautiful that the tv was switched off and we sat drinking in the view, clouds and reflections in the water, plus the peace here, before and after sunset.

This morning we had boats passing from 0630, which did wake us up, although we nodded off again. It’s always busy in the Great Haywood area, and today was no exception. At Great Haywood the River Sow joins the River Trent. We are heading south up the Sow valley, so we are going up the locks again towards the summit level at Gailey. We passed twenty oncoming boats , most in the first hour. Goods and passenger trains passed close by between Milford and Badwich,  one honking their horn when John waved! We were told there were plenty going our way too, but we only noticed the couple in front and two behind, as you might expect! Everyone was enjoying the lovely day and helped each other.

After Tixall lock and crossing the River Sow aqueduct, we soon reached Baswich and the junction with the Stafford arm being worked on. We could see building work going on, by the site of the original lock and lock keepers house. Good luck!

We motored past the pleasant gardens of Baswich and the well-appointed Stafford boat Club, slowing for quite a few moored boats here and there. 

The deepish Deptmore lock still feels isolated among cattle pastures, before we entered the manicured back gardens of Acton Trussell. The distant roar of the M6 wasn’t too intrusive as we waited our turn at Shutt Hill, Park Gate by Teddesley boatyard, and Longford locks. 

Nicely kept chalet bungalows heralded the start of Penkridge. The Boat Inn beside Penkridge lock is about to open again, including food, we were told by the staff preparing for this.

We moored above this lock, walked around the town and had drinks plus a shared plate of chips at The Star in the old market place. We believe the Cross Keys up the canals few hundred metres has a full menu, and the large market is still on Wednesday and Saturday, we were told.

John helped some boaters to moor, after which we had a peaceful evening. Scotland lost at football, sadly!