Tuesday 5 July 2022

Shugborough Hall visit Monday 5 July

Shugborough Hall

 This is a National Trust property, once owned by the Anson family, famous for Admiral George Anson and, latterly, the photographer Patrick Lichfield.  It is a short walk from Haywood Lock. We crossed the River Trent to the hall by the ancient pack horse bridge. As NT members, entry was free.

We queued for the house tour, limited to 16 people. The house was otherwise mostly closed due to lack of volunteers to supervise, sadly. However, our guide was excellent and informative, plus she let us take pictures. The main rooms are impressive, as you can see below.

The NT experts discovered that these classical ruins were painted using distemper by theatre set painters!

There were two librarians / restorers working on the books.

Here is some information.

Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal

Tuesday 5 July Deptmore Lock to Penkridge (4.5 miles, 5 locks)

A beautiful view of Canada Geese, ducks and cattle greeted us at breakfast, as we ate pains chocolat below Deptmore Lock. An Andersen Boats hire boat passed us as we were readying to leave, so Liana popped up to the lock to help them. A hire boat crew above came to help. Liana had to remind them not to open all the top paddles without checking with the skipper of the boat in the lock (a good point as I did get pulled towards the top gate even with half raised paddles).

Acton Trussell (our friend Angela’s favourite place) had less beautiful gardens full of flowers than we expected.

At Teddesley Lock and wharf, there is a chandlers again. 

We crossed over with more hire boats up Shutt Hill, Park Gate (the chandlers is open again), Broom and Penkridge locks.

 After using the Elsan at the services just above the last lock, we moored on the right and walked into town as the sun shone. After visiting a few of the decent shops there, we sat outside at the Littleton Arms. Liana had good coffee and John had a couple of the excellent Dystopian beer brewed locally.

After watching Djokovic beat Sinner after being two sets down, we went for another walk before returning to Annie for  beef teriyaki and rice, followed by more Wimbledon. John started reading Inkheart, having seen the film some time ago.

Wednesday 6 July Penkridge Market and on to Gailey and The Anchor Inn, Coven

Today is the day for Penkridge’s large market, held largely under cover. We had a good look around before having a coffee on the way back to the boat. 

Setting off uphill, we passed Filance lock and Otherton Boat Haven. 

The noisy M6 keeps close company for a mile. Four more locks bring you to the relative calm of Gailey lock and it’s Roundhouse. 

Here we had arranged to meet our splendid nephew Ted, who works  as a qualified boat driver on the canals, here and at Dudley Tunnel. We had a good chat and catch-up around lunchtime.

Thursday 7 July Coven to The Bratch and on to The Round Oak, Wombourne ( 10 miles, 10 locks)

Cloudy skies started the day, as we left the Anchor. The six boats that arrived later last night all left quite early. 

From Coven, we soon passed under the M45 into countryside,  to the narrow through sandstone rock, called Pendeford Rockin’ by the old boatmen. At nine feet wide, apart from one or two passing places, we were lucky not to meet oncoming traffic!

Once past Autherley Junction, the end of the Shropshire Union Canal, we stopped at Oxley’s boatyard and filled up with 120 litres of diesel at £1.40. We left a bit of expansion room, as it is supposed to get hot this weekend.

The overgrown canal passes Aldersley Junction, with its flight of 21 locks up to Wolverhampton, to Compton Lock, where you can moor and shop nearby.

We crossed over with boats at the Wightwick locks. We have visited the NT Wightwick Manor here before.

After Dimmingsdale and Ebstree locks, we passed at idling speed our biggest fishing competition, 64 Wolverhampton Angling Club members at their annual event, all the way past Awntidge lock to The Bratch locks! We got lots of thumbs up and a few brief chats from appreciative anglers.

The Bratch was our biggest surly today - no supervising CRT lock keepers at all! We stopped the boater ahead of us flooding the flight. He told us he was dyslexic and couldn’t read the CRT instructions. We read them together and descended the flight carefully, helping each other. John rang Andy at West Midlands CRT to report the lack of staff. He was aware, and said simply that some days they couldn’t cover The Bratch with volunteers. John explained how these locks are very different to other lock flights, similar but not the same as this at Foxton and Watford, and how they are potentially lethal without expert guidance. He said he would report  my comments to a higher level, so maybe something will be done before a serious incident occurs. Plus, a swarm of bees passed over us!

Once past the bee hives at the scenic Bumblehole Lock, we moored at The Round Oak to have a meal with our niece Tebecca, John and their family Annabelle and Dougie.

Friday 8 July Wombourne to Stewponey Wharf lock (6 miles, 8 locks)

Soon after setting out, we stopped by the Waggon and Horses pub for Liana to shop in nearby Sainsbury’s, while John added the last oil to the engine.

Swindon had some pretty gardens. Some locks have interesting ornamental bywashes.

All this section of the canal is quite scenic, if rather overgrown in places. John stopped Annie and gave one or two weeping willows haircuts to help boaters navigate and avoid losing stuff from the roof!

We followed NB Hodmadod ( which is snail in Norfolk dialect!) down the Botterham double staircase locks.

Just after the quiet and pretty Stourton Junction up to Stourbridge, we moored above Stewponey lock to see family.

We were delighted to have a visit from Liana’s brother David and wife Ashleigh at Stewponey lock, with their little Jack Russell, Danny.

Saturday 9 July Stewponey Wharf to Kidderminster (7 miles, 7 locks, 2 short tunnels)

We were up and at ‘em today! John had added oil to engine and gear box, and we were through two locks by 0815. 

Dunsley tunnel is only 25 yards long!

We have forgotten how this whole length to Kidderminster is a rocky terrace close to the river Stour, much of it narrow.

We hardly met a boat until past Cookley. Hyde lock has a lovely setting, improved by two friendly horse riders passing. 

Kinver lock is right next to the Vine pub, and we have moored just below it before. 

Debdale lock is on a sharp corner, just after the 65 yard long Cooley tunnel.

 Wolverley lock has the Lock pub one side and a little cafe on the other. Once through Wolverley Court lock the valley broadened out as we approached Kidderminster.

The towpath here is being improved with asphalt.

We moored Annie in our favoured spot, on the green below the church, close to Kidderminster lock.

We had a walk in the sun around the town centre, where there are lots of charity shops, fast food places and shopping centres, but we only bought a large Costa cappuccino to share. We did find a statue of Rowland Hill, initiator of the penny post in about 1840.

Back on Annie, we watched the Russian/Kazakhstan girl beat Ons Jabeur, the Tunisian.

Sunday 10 July at Kidderminster. The Severn Valley Railway 

Today is John’s brother Phillip’s Birthday. Happy Birthday, Bro! We FaceTimed Phil and sang Happy Birthday.
This sunny day we walked the half mile across town to the railway stations to catch the first steam train at 1000. Two £25  Day Rover tickets allowed us to stop and get off anywhere. We decided to head for Bridgenorth and visit the town first. The trip up the Severn Valley is very scenic, with one long tunnel near Kidderminster and pretty stations at Arles and Highley, where there is the Engine Shed Museum.
At Bridgenorth, we walked into town over a high pedestrian walkway and had a decent lunch in Wetherspoons. Later, we stopped at Highley where John visited the museum and photographed engines.

Back at Kidderminster, we chilled and watched tv, including the Wimbledon mens final, F1 Grand Prix and womens international football.

Monday 11 July Kidderminster to Stourport (4.5 miles, 3 locks)
Awake about 0830, John got Annie sorted outside and we were through Kidderminster lock by about 0900, once an oncoming boat had passed by.

Followed by another boat, we passed through windy and fairly overgrown shady cuttings, cooler than in the bright sunshine. We moored on the five day moorings above York Street Lock, which give shade morning and early afternoon. 
 Walking to the basins, we had breakfast and coffee at The Windlass cafe, by the Tontine apartments, which dominate the basins. A Tontine was an arrangement where a number of people own a building, and the eventual sole surviving owner gets sole ownership rights! Potential there for murderous acts?

We enjoyed watching the noise and excitement of a schools canoe regatta on the river, with keenly contested races.

Later, we returned to Annie for shade, reading, cups of tea, plus a cold beer for John!