Thursday, 27 August 2009

Autherley Junction - and back to base.

As expected, "Starcross" was safe and well when we returned to Penkridge after a week back at work to complete the journey home to Norbury Junction. Firstly though we had an extreme example of the complications caused by bringing the car! After unloading in the Boat Inn's car park we moved the car to a nearby residential road where it would not be in anyone's way for a few hours. We then took Starcross up through the locks between Penkridge and Gailey after which Hilary cycled back to Penkridge and moved the car to Brewood, our intended overnight stop, before cycling back to meet me at Brinsford! However, it all went to plan and we both arrived within 15 minutes or so of the agreed time
The Staffs & Worcs Canal is very different to our "home" Shropshire Union. Its much older for a start, being completed 60 years earlier. The locks come singly, rather than in flights and the bridges are smaller and narrower, particularly those at the foot of the locks which are only just large enough for a boat.

The bridge at Otherton lock (above) being a good example.

Gailey top lock, which marks the start of the summit level of the Staffs & Worcs is home to one of the well-known features of the waterways - the circular tower lock cottage, now operating as a shop.

There are moorings here, either side of the lock but the as the bridge in the foreground carries the A5 trunk road its not exactly peaceful roundabouts. Passing Calf Heath Marina I kept a sharp look out for Wandrin' Bark, "Captain Ahab's" narrowboat but I couldn't spot it and learnt later from his blog that it would have been away on its own adventures at the time.

Its funny how on a long journey, by road, rail or canal, the act of reaching a familiar landmark can make you feel at home - even though you may still have many miles to go. Autherley Junction, the southern end of the Shroppie, has that effect on me and as we turned off the Staffs & Worcester under the familiar and graceful bridge that carries the towpath over the junction I knew our trip was coming to an end.

Bridge 1 on the Shropshire Union - compare this with Otherton Lock bridge (above)!

Immediately under the bridge is the Shroppie's first lock - a diminutive stop lock inserted on the insistence of the Staffs & Worcs company to minimise the loss of water to the upstart Birmingham & Liverpool Junction, as it then was. The B&LJ (and today's "Shropshire Union Main Line") is unusual in that it doesn't have a summit level: the lock at Autherely being the first in a series of 66 that take the canal down to sea level at Ellesmere Port.

We were making such good progress that we decided not to stop at Brewood after all, but carry on to Wheaton Aston where we were lucky to find the last Starcross-sized space on the visitor moorings opposite Turner's Garage

As we'd had a long day and our holiday was nearly over we celebrated with a meal out at the Hartley Arms (above) although, to be honest, I've had better pub food.

1 comment:

Captain Ahab said...

I like your bridge shots Jim - very nicely framed.