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The Odyssey 2009: Day 36

Posted by indigodream on 15 August, 2009

Friday 7th August

One bent pin with it's 'hook' missing

One bent pin with it's 'hook' missing

Bridge 11 (Shropshire Union) to Gnosall

If you’ve read the last post then you’ll know I was speculating on how awful it would be to arrive back at your mooring and find that your boat had disappeared. Well, that’s exactly what happened to us!

We decided to drive up to the boat after work on Thursday so that we could have a full long weekend’s cruising. After a wearying journey through torrential rain and spray we arrived at Bridge 11 at 11pm. We tottered carefully down the slick steps to the towpath, walked under the bridge and I said to Richard “Ah, so you moored her further down the towpath”……. then the heartsink answer “No, I left her here”.

Except she wasn’t here! We only had a small torch on us and as we shone it up and down the canal there was no sign of her, apart from maybe a little glint of a reflection further up the canal. We waded through the ankle-deep mud towards our glimmer of hope and there she was – Indigo Dream, tied on two pins and a bit of rope that someone had managed to get through the solid steel section fixed to the concrete edge. What a relief!

Crossing over Watling Street - an ancient Roman road

Crossing over Watling Street - an ancient Roman road

We found out more of the story on Friday. Some boaters had found her adrift and kindly made a herculean effort to bring her back to the bank and re-tie her. We met both of the boats involved in the rescue as we worked our way along so here’s big THANK YOU to the crews of nb Summer Wine and nb Hobgoblin.

Subsequent investigation showed that it wasn’t the soft ground that was to blame this time – one of our mooring ropes had been snapped in half, one of the ‘hooks’ on our mooring pin had been ripped off and the rest of the pin had nigh on been bent in half. We suspect one serious speeder, a succession of lesser speeders, a collision or possibly all three – what else could bend a mooring pin so badly out of shape?

Having found the boat, we fell into bed exhausted and a little anxious – would we last the night on the mooring and could we find a better 14-day mooring at the end of the weekend?

The fine aqueduct over Watling Street

The fine aqueduct over Watling Street

Despite Bruce’s caution not to rely on pins when leaving the boat unattended, I’m afraid that we don’t always have much choice. The Shropshire Union has excellent 48-hour ring moorings, and where there’s sheet piling (for attaching clips or chains) the moorings are either restricted by a 5-day limit or by the infernal concrete ledges beneath the waterline. The 14-day moorings seem to be reserved for the softest, mushiest bits of towpath. As I’ve been cruising along I’ve been trying to keep notes on potential 14-day moorings along the length of the canal. I’ve put these notes at the end.

It’s such a shame that there are so few reliable 14-day moorings here as this is a truly beautiful waterway. If you’re able to keep moving and just use the generous lengths of 48-hour moorings then I’d recommend this canal as an ideal place to recharge body and soul.

The best diesel in the west!

The best diesel in the west!

Because the Shroppie’s so rural, Richard wanted to do a frequent car shuffle as there are no trains (and barely any roads!) round here to help us get back to Bridge 11. So he set off in the car and I cruised up the canal, surveying potential 14-day mooring spots for future reference.

I stayed anxious for a while – not helped by the man walking down the towpath at Brewood carrying a rifle (presumably an air rifle) with a telescopic sight. As I passed he clicked the rifle barrel into place – the noise made me jump! I wonder what he was going to shoot?

After that, I tried my best not to like the canal – but it’s impossible – the Shroppie is fantastic, with unrivalled scenery, an exceptionally friendly boating community and, of course, reputably the cheapest diesel on the network! This may explain why it was so busy…..

A typically Shroppie view - it's a beautiful canal

A typically Shroppie view - it's a beautiful canal

The first sight of my cruising day was the aqueduct crossing the Roman Road of Watling Street. The canal’s straight here, as is the road, there’s something about the geometry which makes it a perfect crossing of the ways. The cars beeped and waved as we went over – the road slopes steeply upwards to the left of the canal so that the boat must be virtually at eye level for the drivers.

I’m so pleased that we have the blog. As I’ve mentioned before, Dragonfly’s log book stayed with her, so we don’t have a record of our last trip up the Shroppie and it’s amazing how little we remember. Well, apart from the fact that we had a good evening doing the quiz at the ‘Shroppie Fly’ pub!

The next bit of action came at Wheaton Aston – a thriving boating stop with good 48-hour moorings. This is the famous location of the cheap diesel – a road garage on the left just after Bridge 19 below the lock. It has a diesel point on the towpath – just moor up and walk up the steep slope to find someone. The routine is that the man turns the pump on, you fill with diesel yourself then go up to the shop to pay. The shop’s got a useful range of boat, cycle and auto supplies – we bought some new moorings pins and some mudguards for

Big stop gate at Bridge 21 - these are a common feature at many of the bridges

Big stop gate at Bridge 21 - these are a common feature at many of the bridges

Richard’s bike (definitely needed on this canal – the towpath varies from poor to atrocious). Don’t stop here if you’re in a hurry – the service isn’t fast; but with a low starting price and a very relaxed attitude to the self-declaration requirements it’s well worth it.

You won’t be left short of water in Wheaton Aston either – there are good services with a long line of water points – no queuing here!

Richard took the car for the next leg, leaving me to ‘chwarae meddyliai” (literally ‘playing with thoughts’) as the day warmed up and I let the welcome sunshine soak my bones. Being busy at the helm, my notebook only has a random impressions, scribbled in haste as I tried to keep Indigo Dream on a straight course.

Cool green cuttings....

Cool green cuttings....

The towpath’s a bit better maintained past Wheaton Aston – as was obvious from the two BW men mowing. Interestingly, they stopped mowing as I approached and started again after I’d gone past. I wondered whether it was because of the risk of stones flying out of the mowers and damaging the boat, as happened to nb Eastlands on the Oxford earlier this year.

Villages are few and far between on the pastoral Shroppie. It’s a wonderfully silent canal – apart from the noise of oncoming boats and the odd combine harvester. Unlike the normal dusty smell of chaff though, this year’s crop filled the air with a musty mildewed smell of a wet summer.

Many of the bridges here have large stop lock gates – I guess that’s essential in such a long lock-free pound. Adam on Debdale has since reported a breach – so the stop gates at each bridge are definitely essential or there’s be 23-odd miles worth of water pouring away!

The elegant sweeping arms of Bridge 26

The elegant sweeping arms of Bridge 26

There are wonderful views on the Shroppie – the trees form a green tunnel after Bridge 23 then the view opens out towards Bridge 24. There were some men walking along the towpath near Bridge 24, looking very serious as they took measurements and made notes. I was nosy enough to interrupt them and I found that they were pegging out pitches for a fishing match tomorrow. It was a big job – they were expecting over 700 competitors! I also found out that it would occupy the towpath right up Norbury Junction so that was a real incentive to press on and get out of their way.

There’s a fantastic house just before Bridge 25 – I wonder whether it had been an old wharf – it had a fine mooring and the owners looked very contented as they enjoyed a cup of tea on their terrace. Bridge 26 had the sweeping arms reminiscent of a turnover bridge – a grand remnant of the canal’s industrial past.

Rolling green fields...

Rolling green fields...

Richard caught up with me later in the afternoon, having parked the car at Norbury Wharf. That was our target for the day’s cruising, but after our late (and somewhat distressing) night on Thursday we plumped for an early finish. We tied up at the 48-hour moorings between Cowley Tunnel and Bridge 34,  in a convenient spot near the village of  Gnosall. There was plenty of room at the moorings though they did fill up later on.

Gnosall was fine stop – there was a bit of secure woodland adjacent to the mooring where the dogs could have a good rummage. Sadly Blue had been spooked by a backfiring car earlier so he didn’t take advantage of the facilities though Lou had a good look around.

The Boat Inn, on the other side of the Boat Inn Bridge was dog friendly and had good food at a reasonable cost – I ate the best rib-eye steak ever -perfect.

We were well content when we got back to the boat and enjoyed a silent night.

Mooring Notes (Around Brewood):

Bridge 10 – 12: Soft towpath; no sheet piling; permit holder moorings by the bridge (rings) – unsuitable for 14 days.

Bridge 12 – 13: Firm towpath; no sheet piling; BIG rough ledges below the waterline – unsuitable for 14 days

Bridge 13 – 14: Mooring rings; good mooring BUT only 48 hour

Bridge 14 – 15: Firm towpath; some sheet piling in wooded sections; smaller ledges – suitable for 14 days

Bridge 15 – 17: Soft towpath in poor condition; small ledges – not suitable for 14 days

Technical:

Apologies to followers of  ‘Indigo Dream’s rough guide to moorings’ (by far the most popular page on the blog). I haven’t been able to update it for a while because some setting in WordPress has changed and it wasn’t letting me import the table properly from Word. The problem’s now solved, using Windows Live Writer as an intermediary and using Border = “2” in the HTML code to get a proper border. Drop us a comment if you want more specifics.

The good news is that the guide to moorings and 2009 index are now up to date!

Photoblog – some more views:

Bridge 28

Bridge 28

Deep cuttings and high bridges

Deep cuttings and high bridges

r_shroppie_20090807-022

Entrance to the Cowley Tunnel

Entrance to the Cowley Tunnel

Looking back at the Cowley Tunnel - gives you an idea of the sheer effort expended to cut this canal from the rock

Looking back at the Cowley Tunnel - gives you an idea of the sheer effort expended to cut this canal from the rock

Fine 48-hours moorings at Gnosall

Fine 48-hours moorings at Gnosall

Blue and Lou at the Bridge Inn

Blue and Lou at the Boat Inn

And their reward for being so good.....

And their reward for being so good.....

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