Church Eaton is a quiet Staffordshire village lying just a kilometre off the Shropshire Union Canal at High Onn wharf, which is itself just an hour and a half's cruising from Norbury Junction. This makes it an obvious destination for a weekend trip during the short winter days of February.
Last weekend's visit to Starcross was, as is usual in winter, very short. I drove up from Hereford on Saturday morning, stopping off in Newport to top up the food supplies in the market and arrived at the boat just before midday. By 13.30 I was ready to leave, having collected some water from the water point - very necessary as Starcross' water tank has been drained for the winter - which I'm beginning to think was a particularly good move this year.
Shortly after leaving Norbury Junction I came upon this boat, drifting in the middle of the cut on Shelmore embankment.
It has a rather unfortunate recent history. In 2007 two people lost their lives on board in an incident of carbon monoxide poisoning whilst moored at Norbury Junction. On a cold winter's night they had blocked up some of the ventilation ports and a faulty gas heater did the rest. After this tragedy no one seemed to want her and after a period tied up outside the Junction Inn surrounded by the obligatory police tape she was moved to the far end of the British Waterways' moorings on the approach to Shelmore where she lay, becoming increasing decrepit, until last weekend. Being single-handed and there being nowhere obvious to tie her up to on the embankment I negotiated my way past her and left her to her fate.
High Onn would have been the wharf for goods delivered to Church Eaton. The village nowadays is a rather uneasy mixture of old fashioned cottages, a Norman church and a Victorian mock Tudor village institute at one end of the main street and some 1970s/80s bungalows and semis at the other, with a sprinkling of ex-Council houses tucked away out of sight.
The pub in the village, the "Royal Oak" was threatened with closure a few years ago but bought and kept going to a consortium of villagers. I wish them the best of luck, but judging by the lack of customers at 22.00 last Saturday night they may be going to need it.
On Sunday morning I was puzzled by a procession of single men making their way towards the church until the bells rang out to announce morning service, when I realised that they must have been the bellringers! The church is dedicated to St. Editha, who I'd not come across before and just in front of it you can see one of the village's distinctive signposts of which there are several (There's one on the photo of the Royal Oak as well).
The only other public building in Church Eaton is the Victorian mock-Tudor Village Institute
After taking this photo I was asked by the vicar from the church opposite if I'd like to see the inside. Expecting something special - a riot of Victorian excess decoration perhaps - I accepted, and was given the grand tour, but it was all a bit disappointing - just a large space and a few cruck beams which, although made of genuine Oak, had been covered in "oak-effect" wallpaper!
After a walk round the village it was back to the boat and back along the Shroppie, enjoying the winter sunshine, to Norbury Junction, breaking the thin film of ice on Shelmore bank as I went. By the time I'd had lunch and got ready to go home it was just starting to snow and I left the Shroppie with this image of an intrepid boater heading north through the winter weather.