Sunday, 26 January 2014

A visit to Stafford.

Sometimes ones offspring can really penetrate the nasal organ. Just had a text from the boy, him as lives in Tenerife. Not only is he wandering around in shorts but he's just downloaded forty five Tom and Jerry cartoons, the real ones, directed by good old Fred Quimby. Tough old life he's got.
Meanwhile here we sit at Norbury, watching the rain run down the windows and listening to the wind howl. The same wind that yesterday blew our aluminium walkashore off the roof and into the cut, along with the shaft and very nearly the satellite dish, rescued by a fellow boater in the nick of time. My thanks to the kind chap.
When we arrived here on Thursday we spotted that Seyella was just beyond the bridge so we went and said "Hi" to Geoff and Mags, they kindly invited us aboard and we sat and put the world to rights. Always enjoy chatting to fellow bloggers.
Friday we collected a car from Enterprise in Stafford and then had a stroll around the town. For all the time we've spent on this stretch of the Shroppie it was the first time we had visited the county town. Pleasantly surprised, good shopping centre with a lot of independent shops.

We found this little greencrocers down Mill Street, not something you see every day. The veg. was really good as well. We also found a proper fishmongers, so yesterday we broke our fast with smoked fish, I had a kipper and Jill tucked in to smoked haddock. Nothing better to kick start the day.

The Ancient High House on Greengate Street, it has a museum but we didn't find time, perhaps the fact that we were scoffing pizza in Pizza Express had something to do with it. Horrible fish eye effect on that picture but it's the only one of that building so we'll just have to put up with it. Fortunately we found a decent camera shop and obtained a new memory card for the Canon, probably won't make a lot of difference though. Far too technical for me, the other day someone called me a Luddite, a label I wear with pride. High tech. digital camera operated by person with a box brownie mind.

Finally, the Shire Hall in the old market place.
Just hoping I can find enough signal to post this lot.

Watch this space........

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Archery laws and Gray's Elegy.

Dentist day and hooray, no major restructuring needed. Just one filling and the usual shot blasting and industrial polishing.
As we had a bit of time between our appointments we went for a wander.

The parish church, dedicated to St. Lawrence. Isn't he the patron saint of North American rivers? Unfortunately it was locked but we did find some graffiti by the south door.

No dates but I wonder what significance the pattern of holes held. But what there was, in abundance, was

these grooves, carved in the stone by the door, some had been filled in with modern cement, presumably to inhibit corrosion. They are not unusual on old churches but I don't recall ever having seen so many.

They were caused by medieval archers sharpening their arrowheads as they waited to practice on the butts, archery practice being compulsory, being made so by
"Anno tertio HENRICI VIII. (AD 1511-12).
STATUTES made in the Parliament begun and holden at Westminster on Wednesday the Fourth Day of February, in the Third Year of the Reign of King HENRY VIII. CAP. III An act concerning Shooting in Long Bows."
Lots more details at this link.
In the churchyard the bulbs are already pushing up through last years dead leaves.


Beneath those rugged elms, that yew tree's shade,
Where heaves the turf in many a mould'ring heap,
Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,
The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep.

From Gray's Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard.

I thought that perhaps a raven perched on the tombstone would have been more appropriate but had to make do with an old wood pigeon. At least the jackdaws were squabbling over nesting rights on the church tower.

Watch this space............

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

High Offley and back.

It's been a most pleasant few days. Everything went on hold for The Masters snooker on the telly. Jill does love the game and I must admit to enjoying the skill of the top players.

We stayed for a couple of days at Norbury Junction and booked Armadillo in for bottom blacking in the autumn.
As the weekend approached I got the sudden urge to move on a little, so on Friday morning we pulled pins and set of for High Offley.

The entrance to Grubb Street Cutting is framed by the renowned High Bridge with its brick strut holding up the old telegraph pole. The bridge is reputedly haunted by a black, ape like creature, apparently the ghost of an old boatman who drowned here in the mid 19th C. Why he should appear as an ape is beyond me, unless he was somewhat hirsute and spectacularly ugly in life. He doesn't seem to have been seen lately but with the amount of traffic zooming over the bridge he probably spends all his time dodging the lorries.

High Offley church stands high above the canal with just the farms and cottages around it.

It must  have rained really hard.
Of course the real attraction of the village is the wonderful Anchor Inn and Olive, its inestimable landlady. I'm sure she won't mind me telling you that at the end of February she will reach four score years and still presides over what to me is the last pub on the canal system. Just good company, good beer and a cheese sandwich if you ask nicely.
Today dawned grey and murky as we headed back to Gnosall, we have to be here for tomorrow, it's the  visit to the dreaded toothwright.

The fog lifted as we pottered along and, as we wanted to be facing back towards High Offley when we moored at Gnosall, we had to go all the way to High Onn to wind, that is the first winding hole after Gnosall. For anyone unfamiliar with canalspeak, to wind is to turn the boat to face the opposite direction and it is pronounced as in "Blow, blow thou winter ...." and a winding hole is a widened section of canal which enables one to perform this delicate operation.

Watch this space.........

Thursday, 16 January 2014

An apology,

Norbury Junction has virtually no mobile signal, haven't even persuaded the blasted system to upload a photo'. So apologies for lack of posts.
Beside that The Masters snooker is on the telly. Everything stops.

Watch this space.......

Monday, 13 January 2014

Think I'll just entitle this, "Little Onn to Gnosall." Creativity seems to be lacking.

Lovely couple of quiet days at Little Onn, just rambled around the lanes, a couple of pints Saturday lunchtime in the Royal Oak at Church Eaton, nice pint and a cheerful barmaid, all good.

We awoke yesterday to another lurid sky and the first hard frost we've had this winter. After the statutory Sunday breakfast we set off for Gnosall, not exactly a long trip. We just ticked along through the Staffordshire countryside and in an hour we were in Cowley cutting,

It was originally going to be a tunnel but dangerous faults in the rock meant it had to be dug as a cutting apart from the northern eighty one yards that remain as a tunnel.

The towpath is well up to the standard we have come to expect in the Shroppie cuttings. Not a good walking surface.

Rather like a set for The Hobbit as you dive into the unlined bore of the tunnel.

All a bit rough cut, but it does have a towpath through it.
We're now on the visitor moorings between the bridges at Gnosall, they're a bit grotty but I've lost a filling so need to see the fang cobbler, I do hate dentists.

Watch this space............

Friday, 10 January 2014

A hazy shade of winter.

Dawn and the sun creeps up behind the distant trees. Just a slight frost and the promise of a fine day. After the a.m. porridge we donned walking boots and fleeces and set off up the towpath. At High Onn Bridge we turned off onto the lanes, with the recent rain we really didn't fancy mud plugging across the fields.

Water was still running down both sides and the pot holes had to be seen to be believed but

the stark beauty of the bare trees against the winter sky made it worth while.

High Onn House stands tall and dignified at the junction of three unfrequented lanes, just a passing tractor disturbed the peace.

To the east the fields and woods stretched out through the cold haze to the distant hills and to the west,

faint on the horizon, we could just make out the Wrekin. We climbed it once.

A bit further on the impressive late Victorian Little Onn Hall hides behind high hedges.

Back at Little Onn Bridge the Shroppie heads ruler straight south to north.
Back on the boat and it was time for a bowl of Jill's homemade chicken soup, ideal after a cold winter walk.
The ox-tail is simmering on top of the coal stove, ready for tonight's feast, filling the boat with a rich, meaty aroma. Perhaps a nice Rioja to go with it?
I'm sure you will all be pleased to hear that I have shaken off the man 'flu, but now Jill seems to have gone down with a slight cold.

Watch this space..........

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Brewood, pronounced Brood.

After a nice quiet couple of days on the S.U.C.S. moorings we moved down as far as Brewood yesterday.

En route we passed Avenue Bridge, also known as Fancy Bridge. It was the usual story, the local landowners didn't want a nasty muddy ditch spoiling the view and so insisted that where their drive crossed it the bridge should be of suitable style. In this case it was the drive to Chillington Hall which has been the home of the Giffard family since the 12th C.

Just before the moorings at Brewood there is a lovely view across to the village, unfortunately you can't get into the bank as the sides are too shallow. It's a pity because the moorings for the village are at the bottom of a dank and gloomy cutting. We made a quick visit to the local shops, especially the butchers, excellent local meat. Braised ox-tail tomorrow and roast shoulder of lamb on Sunday. Diet day today, grilled venison steaks and steamed veg. Can't be bad, no spuds though.

This has to be the most photographed building in the village, Speedwell Castle, claimed to have been built by a local apothecary who won a packet on a horse called Speedwell and built the house with his winnings.
Last night we braved the rain to visit The Curry Inn, we were greeted like long lost friends even though it's two years since we were last here and, as usual, the food was top notch.
Sadly it looks as though The Bridge is closing again, they were out of bitter at lunch time and didn't even bother opening in the evening.

We moved on today, the water flowing in from Belvide reservoir had turned the canal the colour of milky coffee.

Stretton Aqueduct is looking decidedly in need of a lick of paint. Unusually the A5 was virtually devoid of traffic, no chance of waving, in a superior fashion, at the drivers passing beneath.
We watered at Wheaton Aston and moved two miles or so further to some rather soggy moorings

at Little Onn, where we have, as I type, been passed by the first boat we have seen on the move for three days. Not exactly busy here at the moment.

Watch this space..........

Sunday, 5 January 2014

The Shropshire Union at last.

Definitely still a case of dodging the weather. Yesterday we left Penkridge, hoping that the Met. Office had got it right.
Above Penkridge Lock we stopped for water and brought out our self pump out. Fifteen minutes of vigorous pumping and all was done. Another fifteen quid saved. The fifteen minutes included setting it up and, after cleaning it through, packing it away. About the same time it took to fill the water tank.
From Otherton to Rodbaston locks this normally meandering canal is forced by the motorway into an arrow straight half a mile.

 At Rodbaston you have the traffic just about in your lap. Makes you realise how lucky we are to be, generally, far from the rush of life in the fast lane.
By the next lock all is peaceful again.

I wonder who Bogg was. Can't forgive C&RT for the missing apostrophe.
At Brick Kiln Lock there is a fine view across the fields to the next lock.

Gailey with its renowned round house.

As you approach it looms over the A5 bridge and the entrance to the lock.

The bridge is so close to the bottom gates that there is no room for normal beams to swing so they are at right angles to the gates, which makes for hard work. I know it's generally Jill who is seen doing the hard graft at locks but that is her choice, so, being a perfect gentleman, I let her have her way.

As this is affixed to the wall beside the door to the toilet I am unsure if it is a directional instruction or an exhortation to virtue.
Yet another disused junction.

Another long abandoned route down from the Black Country. It once linked the Staffs & Worcs. to the Cannock Extension Canal. As a large section of it was lost to opencast mining it makes for a difficult restoration but plans are in hand.
We spent the night at Coven and bright and early this morning we were on our way again. Actually it wasn't that early and definitely not that bright, I think I'm going down with the dreaded man 'flu.

Not long before you arrive at Cut End, a.k.a. Autherley Junction, there is a long, narrow rockin' to get through.

It gets quite claustrophobic at times. There are places along its length where it opens out enough to allow two boats to pass but I always wonder what happened if two pairs met.

Then at last, the stop lock at Cut End. When the Birmingham and Liverpool Junction Canal was built in the early 19th C. the older Staffs & Worcs. insisted that a stop lock should separate the waters of the two canals at the junction to stop the new canal stealing it's water. The B.&L.J. is now the mainline of the Shropshire Union.
Oh look, who's that doing all the work?
Well I have got man 'flu.
S.U.C.S. moorings between bridges 7 & 8. Pleasantly quiet at this time of year, a day or two here I think.

Watch this space.........