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The Odyssey 2009: Day 37

Posted by indigodream on 16 August, 2009

Saturday 8th August

Gnosall to Audlem

Fishermen as far as they eye can see (and the competition's not due to start for another 90 minutes!)

Fishermen as far as they eye can see (and the competition's not due to start for another 90 minutes!)

Gnosall was a great mooring but with the fishing competition looming we decided to make an early start; though we did stop for water just after Bridge 35.

As we moved off, we noticed that the fishermen were already getting into place – they told us that the competition started at 11am but by 9.30am many were already set up and waiting. We chatted to the fishermen as we went along, wishing them luck and asking them whether anyone ever cheated by trying to sneak an early fish into their keepnets. They were surprisingly cheerful and friendly – I wondered whether they’d feel the same once the competition had started in earnest 🙂

We had a very pleasant run up to Norbury Junction in wonderfully fair weather; the canal was busy and the Norbury visitor moorings were jam-packed. This is a handy stop though – there’s a large car park (where Richard had left the car overnight), a boatyard and shop – no wonder it’s popular. I’ve only just twigged that this is Debdale’s new home – I’m afraid that I didn’t look out for her. Richard left me here to take the car to the next rendezvous and I took the boat on.

Canal life at Norbury Junction

Canal life at Norbury Junction

Contrary to what I was told yesterday, the fishing competition occupied the canal right up to Bridge 41. So I crawled along, exchanging friendly banter with the fishermen and marvelling at their sheer numbers, with more arriving by the minute. We’ve had the opportunity to talk to more fishermen than usual today so here’s what we found out about fishing:

  • Some pitches are better than others but as fishermen were coming from all over the country they had no way of knowing how good their pitch was until they started!
  • Competition fishermen seem mainly to be men and they carry a serious amount of gear, none of which seemed to include a really comfortable chair.
  • Competition fishermen focus their attention on the bank opposite the towpath so it’s best to cruise in the middle when passing by (this can be awkward when two boats pass on a narrow canal).

That was enough fishing knowledge for one day and I was relieved to get past them all before the competition started.

Iconci Bridge 41 with its telegraph pole

Iconic Bridge 41 with its telegraph pole

For reference: There’s some sheet piling (on an apparently 14 day stretch) just past Bridge 41.

Once I got past the fishermen I’d hoped to put just a few more revs on, but I carried on in tickover behind a very slow boat and past what seemed like miles of online moorings. I can hardly blame people for wanting to moor here – the countryside views are stunning. I also enjoyed the view of nb The Shrew’s artwork – very nice.

The dogs had been agitating for a pit stop for a while, but there was no question of pulling in where the fishermen were setting up – I’m not even sure whether there was a 60ft gap between the pitches! By Shebdon Wharf the dogs were desperate so I pulled into the very fine 48-hour moorings just after the bridge to give them a quick walk. There were two lurchers nearby, but their owners kept them away from our two – has Blue and Lou’s reputation travelled that far already?! With the necessary done, I piled the dogs back on board and set off again, though not before Blue had had a rummage with a black labrador (Lou was on board by then).

The former Cadbury Wharf with its sheltered accommodation!

The former Cadbury Wharf with its sheltered accommodation!

After our little pit stop I had the canal to myself for a long while. I enjoyed the view to the right – a distinctive conical hill visible for miles. Some locals told me that it’s the Wrekin, which passed in and out of view as Indigo Dream cruised through a varied canalscape of  cuttings, woodlands, embankments and tall hedgerows.

It was good to see the old Cadbury Wharf still intact and apparently working. There were several old boats moored there under the covered loading bay, including one from the Stewarts and Lloyds Tube Works – that means so much more to me now having passed their derelict works on the Dudley No 2 canal. I thought wryly that this spot was literally ‘sheltered accommodation’ for these old ladies of the waterways 🙂

There are lovely 48-hour moorings just past Bridge 48. I picked Richard up shortly afterwards, just in time for him to enjoy the amazing views up to Bridge 49. It was so beautiful that we moored for lunch here – there were smaller ledges here so we could moor tidily and appreciate the silence.

Woodseaves Cutting - ourphotos don't do it justice!

Woodseaves Cutting - our photos don't do it justice!

Richard was a bit out of sorts, having had a difficult cycle ride along the terrible towpaths.  The worst bits were definitely in the Woodseaves Cutting where it was so wet, muddy and, in some places, collapsed, that it didn’t deserve to be called a towpath. After his front tyre went down deep holes twice, he thought he had better walk rather than risk flying over the handlebars. It’s ironic, but there’s a sign warning walkers not to stray onto the embankment – it’s dangerous; the towpath didn’t look that safe either! The cutting itself is narrow, though two boats can just about pass in most places with a bit of co-operation.

Woodseaves cutting is a unique stretch of waterway – it’s a prehistoric landscape of deep shade, mud slides and dripping ferns. I wouldn’t have been at all surprised if a dinosaur had roared at us from the undergrowth. There’s a strange smell here – made up of sewage and rotting vegetation – the sky’s barely visible as the high embankment seems to close in above you. There’s nowhere quite like it!

Looking back to Tyrley bottom lock - the photo doesn't capture the half of it- you just have to go there....

Looking back to Tyrley bottom lock - the photo doesn't capture the half of it- you just have to go there....

The Tyrley locks were a welcome diversion after miles of lock-free cruising. There’s a good range of services at the top lock, though they share the lock moorings, making it difficult to tell who was waiting to lock down and who was using the services. As it happens, there wasn’t a queue so on we went. The Tyrley locks are particularly pretty and we benefited from near perfect synchronisation with the four boats coming up the flight. There were a few gongoozlers here, including one family whose two young boys set up tiny folding chairs at each lock to witness the boat moving in before walking to the next lock and repeating the process. Blue and Lou had a fine rummage here, though we did lose Blue in an adjacent field – he was very distressed when he got back to the towpath and found that the boat wasn’t where he’d left it. When he spotted us further down he raced down the towpath at top speed, evidently relieved to be back with the pack.

The stretch just below the bottom lock at Tyrley is, arguably, one of the most beautiful places on the whole canal network.

Market Drayton making the best of its waterfront

Market Drayton making the best of its waterfront

The next bit of civilisation was Market Drayton. Richard left me here to do the next stage of the car shuffle and I moved on, past some fine permanent moorings surrounded by neat new housing. There are decent visitor moorings (sheet piling) just outside the town (after the main road bridge) but they’re only 5-day.

The next stretch was very slow past long lines of moored boats. But who cares, I was surrounded by lush fields of maize and by that silence that belongs only to the most rural of farmed landscapes. At times the canal passed through shallow cuttings, just enough to cut me off from the world and surround me with total peace. There’s sheet piling along this stretch, up to Bridge 66, with 14 day moorings, but the towpath’s in very poor condition and there just aren’t any roads!

I caught up with Richard at Adderley Top Lock – another scenic, but this time, largely deserted, lock flight. The dogs had a wonderful time here – they decided to have a mad greyhound chase with Lou racing after Blue back and forth at top speed between the bridge and the top lock. After a few passes they were done and leapt back onto the boat for a rest.

Indigo Dream at the Adderley Locks

Indigo Dream at the Adderley Locks

Note: the boat coming up just below Bridge 70 says that the bywash below the lock creates an undertow which pulls the boat away from the lock moorings across the canal. At least that’s the husband’s charitable explanation of why his wife had the boat broadside to the lock gate when I was bringing Indigo Dream out!

Ooh, we passed nb Shropshire Lass today – a fellow participant in the BCN Challenge.

We weren’t sure whether we’d reach the Audlem flight, but we got there in good time. Having cycled up the flight, Richard assured me that there were lots of places to moor between locks but his view from the towpath was a tad optimistic! There are good moorings above the top lock, then there are more between lock 2 and 3 (not marked but there were boats moored there) then there aren’t any more until you get to the stretch between locks 11 and 12. Because of this we had a much later finish than we’d originally hoped for.

Note: The footbridge attached to the bottom gates at lock 4 is quite unstable.

Looking back from Audlem top lock

Looking back from Audlem top lock

We had a slow transit down the locks – there was a rather inefficient hire boat in front of us and despite our attempts to hang back we kept catching up with them. Richard tried to help them but that didn’t seem to work either. I felt a bit sorry for them – I remember only too well what it’s like to be on your first hire trip and to feel pressured by more experienced boaters when you just want to take your time and learn for yourself. However I also now know what it is to be an experienced boater wanting to get on and wanting to get down the flight before the pubs shut 🙂 Richard was frustrated, especially when they failed to close the bottom paddles properly, leaving us grounded in the pound above until Richard had gone back to the lock above and sent some water down.

Blue and Lou had recovered by now and had yet another rummage along the Audlem flight, hopping on and off as it suited them. Blue was very jealous of large german shepherd dog carrying a fat rabbit down the towpath. He’d been walking with his somewhat embarrassed owner along path marked ‘private’ by lock 8 – Blue tried his best to get into the rabbit fields but it was securely fenced off, much to his dismay.

Lou wanting to get back to her bed....

Lou wanting to get back to her bed....

By the time we’d toiled our way down to lock 11 we were exhausted and I was grumpy. I was so relieved to find a mooring here – it’s a popular spot and there were only a couple of spaces left.

By now it was gone 8pm and I was almost too tired to eat. But the Bridge Inn, just by lock 12, is dog-friendly and it was too good an opportunity to miss. The famous Shroppie Fly pub below the lock was also a contender but we thought we’d try somewhere different. The Bridge Inn is apparently known for the fine food in its restaurant but we were confined to the rather plain bar with the dogs. It didn’t matter – the menu was the same and we ate very well here. We also got chatting to a solitary man sitting with a superbly obedient black labrador. He seemed a little odd, but I think he was trying not to roll his eyes at how spoilt our greyhounds are; he trains gundogs for a living and the pampered life of the retired hound was obviously a complete mystery to him. Blue and Lou, comfortably stretched out on their sheepskins and scoffing sausages, treated him with the disdain he deserved!

Photoblog – more views…..

What a fine day....

What a fine day....

Days gone by - english farmland

Days gone by -traditional English farmland

View of the Wrekin in the distance

View of the Wrekin in the distance where we stopped for lunch

Lou enjoyign the soft grass (1)

Lou enjoying the soft grass (1)

Lou enjoying the soft grass (2)

Lou enjoying the soft grass (2)

Lou enjoying the soft grass (3)

Lou enjoying the soft grass (3)

The Wrekin looming darkly over the golden hay fields

The Wrekin looming darkly over the golden hay fields

This duckweed-filled pond is what passes for towpath in the Woodseaves Cutting

This duckweed-filled pond is what passes for towpath in the Woodseaves Cutting

Fine development opportunity or route to bankruptcy???

Fine development opportunity or route to bankruptcy???

2 Responses to “The Odyssey 2009: Day 37”

  1. According to the Stoppage alerts, Audlem is closed, but I guess that’s’ only for boats going up, as they can’t get through Shebdon Embankment at the moment.

    Did you see anyone coming up?



  2. indigodream said

    Hi Bruce

    We’re a week behind with the blog so we actually missed all the drama with the stoppages. I think that Bendigedig is stuck at the bottom of the Audlem, so they may have more current news. It’s no joke – that’s a seriously busy waterway. I can’t imagine how long it’ll take them to clear the queues.

    Hope your festival is going well – the weather’s been very kind, at last!

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