Thursday, 30 April 2015

Stafford County Town - Thursday 30th April

This morning we took the 9.35 am bus (no. 841) from Great Haywood to Stafford which took about 15 minutes and dropped us off right in the centre of the town near to the Theatre and Tourist Information Centre. We walked into the Market Square although there was no market in progress there is a large indoor market just off the square.


This Gun maker and Rural Sports shop is located in a corner of the square, an unusual sight for a town..


Next we visited St Mary’s Church where we were warmly welcomed by a warden and give a brief history and then allowed to wander around. The earliest references to a church in Stafford are from the 10th Century which mention a wooden building on the site of St Bertelin's Chapel, the foundations of which are still to be seen at the west end of St Mary's today. This was replaced with a stone structure c.1000A.D. Some stonework in the nave of St Mary's is said to be Norman in origin but the building as it stands today appears to be the result of a total rebuild in the early C13th and the cruciform layout with aisled nave and chancel is typical of this period. Work may have begun in the reign of King John (ruled 1199 - 1216).20150430_113037

Once again the church contains some delightful and colourful Kneelers.20150430_114553

In 1878 a public subscription raised funds for a bust of Izaak Walton in the former North Door of the Nave overlooking the font where he was baptised on September 21st, 1593. Izaak is best known today as the author of The Compleat Angler, a book which defies accurate description but which is usually regarded as an elaborate fishing manual. In truth, Izaak had a much more profound message to convey. The message, hidden because of the turbulent times in which he lived, is all the more moving if one knows something of his life story. Annoyingly, the founding father of English biography left us scant details of his own life. The Compleat Angler was first published in 1653 and revised three times during his lifetime, The Compleat Angler was sub-titled "a discourse on rivers, fishponds, fish and fishing". It is really a plea for tolerance and moderation in matters of conscience - virtues which were in short supply. Such a book could never have been openly published at the time, hence the fishing manual disguise.


Walking towards the River Sow we came across the site of the original Stafford Mill and the water wheels which used to drive it.20150430_113518

The Stafford Riverway Link is a new name for the old Stafford Branch Canal or River Sow Navigation which formerly linked the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal at Baswich with the town centre of Stafford.  The restoration project aims to rebuild this link for community benefit. The link consisted of a short section of canal branching off the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal near St Thomas Bridge 101 leading via a basin and an aqueduct over a drainage channel into a lock down into the River Sow.  From here the river course was straightened and made navigable for 1½ miles to its terminus at a basin near Green Bridge in Stafford. This section is next to the water mill


This is one of the lovely old narrow streets which abound in the town.20150430_113947

The Ancient High House is an Elizabethan town house located on the main street in Stafford. The house was constructed in 1594 by the Dorrington family, from local oak, which anecdotally came from the nearby Doxey Wood, and is the largest timber framed town house in England. Many of the original timbers bear carpenter's marks indicating that the frame was pre-assembled on the ground and the joints numbered to aid the on-site construction. Some timbers have additional joint housings cut into them, which would suggest that they have been reused from an even earlier structure. It was not unheard of for a building to be dismantled and rebuilt at a different location - hence the expression to 'up-sticks', which means to move house. It is now a museum.1024px-Stafford-ancient-high-house

Near to the church is the Candle Shop (Magic by Candlelight) and whilst I browsed around the music shop opposite June purchased this ceramic light dome under which you put a tea light or scented burner to illuminate it. IMG_5981

Returning to Great Haywood we stopped off at the Lockhouse Resturant for a late lunch and I must say it was a delightful meal served by very friendly staff who could not do too much for us. We will certainly be going back.

We returned to the boat and later I took Ecco a walk along the path on the opposite bank. We spotted these Yurts in the distance on the other side of the river. Not sure I fancy this luxury camping though. They are part of the Shugborough Adventure Yurt Village.IMG_5976

When we returned to the boat there was still a cold wind and I lit the fire but as I walked through the woods the wind dropped and like the previous evening it became quite warm to the extent that we had to open all the doors and windows to let the boat cool down until about 7.30 when the sun went down.IMG_5977

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Going backwards - Wednesday 29th April

This morning we walked around to the Wolseley Garden Centre which has now been taken over by Wyevale and is no longer the interesting place it was and is not really worth visiting. The only good thing was that a cup of coffee was only £1 before 10.00 am. So we went back to the boat and decided to reverse the 1/2 mile back down to Diesel Boat Dexta at bridge 69. We had some unusual looks and comments as we travelled backwards but were soon there and filled with fuel at 65p/ltr. The farm has some lovely Gloucester Old Spot pigs and piglets as well as a range of sheep and chickens adjacent to Dexta.boat
We were soon on our way, this time in the right direction, and motoring through the delightful village of Little Haywood with its nice houses on the canal bank and glorious views across to Cannock Chase.a1
The Bluebells are bursting forth all along the canal and this clump was in one of the gardens.IMG_5962
Colwich Lock is in the middle of the village followed by the main rail line over which a long freight train passed as we went under.b1
We moored up adjacent to fields and the river with delightful countryside views and Shugborough Hall.
After lunch we walked into the village of Great Haywood for the paper and then on to the Canalside Farm Shop and new Cafe (opened July2014) with a terrace facing onto the canal.
We walked back over the Junction bridge and sat and enjoyed a magnum ice cream in the glorious sunshine next to Haywood Lock.20150429_135512
The rest of the afternoon we pottered about and then enjoyed the late evening sunshine.IMG_5971

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Woods & Markets - Tuesday 28th April

A bright sunny morning with a cold NW breeze but we were sheltered as we motored behind the coal boat through Fazeley and Ravenshaw woods. The sun was twinkling through the trees and made a beautiful spectacle.IMG_5935

The working boat Nb. Stanton with its very high bow was moored in the woods.IMG_5938

We soon passed Kings Bromley Marina from where we had hired Nb. Privateer and which lead us into meeting up with the crew of Nb. Autumn Years who became very expensive friends as it was only after seeing their lovely boat that we wanted one ourselves.IMG_5941

Rugeley Power Station dominates the skyline from many miles away.IMG_5943

Once through Handsacre and Armitage home of the infamous Loo maker we encountered the narrow stretch of canal which used to be the Armitage Tunnel but is now opened up. However, those travelling north cannot see through so the crew must walk up ahead to see if it is safe to travel. June went ahead and signalled that a boat was coming. We then proceeded through whilst June ensured no other boats entered. Spode House with its golf club came up next, a very impressive building in nice surroundings on the hillside.IMG_5944

At Rugeley we found plenty of moorings and so stopped to do yet more shopping. A new 24hr Tesco has been built adjacent to bridge 66 since we were here last in 2012. The town has a lovely old Market Hall and outside market. We also found the new indoor market where we met a lady and a blind gentleman who had just lost his Guide Dog 3 weeks ago and wanted to make a big fuss of Ecco.We chatted to them for some while and then headed back to the boat.a1

The town, historically known as Rudgeley or Ridgeley, is listed in the Domesday Book. This name is thought to be derived from 'Ridge lee', or 'the hill over the field'. In the mediaeval period, it thrived on iron workings and was also a site of glass manufacturing. During the Industrial Revolution the economy of Rugeley benefited from the construction of the Trent and Mersey Canal and then from it becoming a junction on the railway network.Although smaller pits had existed beforehand, the town became a centre of industrial scale deep shaft coal mining from the 1950s, taking advantage of the geological faults that cause coal seams under Cannock Chase

These are some of the old canal side cottages which line the route through the town although much new housing has been built in the last 3 years.IMG_5946

Once out of the town the canal takes a sharp right hand turn and crosses the River Trent on an aqueduct. The river is very small here compared to Shardlow.IMG_5947

Approaching Wolseley bridge Bishton House, formerly the home of the Northcote family comes into view, a very impressive building. Bishton was first cited in the Domesday Book, a review of the properties of England created for William I back in 1096. The current house was built around 1750, with its East wing added in Victorian times. It is now a popular wedding venue.IMG_5951

We moored up just before the bridge and when I took Ecco a walk I came across this unusual sub-terranian  building. It seems to be built partly under the towpath with its main opening onto the river but does not seem to have an obvious function.b1

The river today is a calm trickle but we have seen it as a raging torrent when there had been heavy rain.IMG_5953

In the evening the wind dropped and we had a gorgeous red sunset as I took Ecco for her last walk of the day over the river road bridge towards the Garden Centre and the Wolseley Arms Pub.IMG_5956

Monday, 27 April 2015

Lichfield and Fradley - Monday 27th April

This morning we walked back into Whittington and caught the 9.41am No.765 bus to Lichfield. In the village there are lots of beautiful flowering Cherry trees like this one.20150427_092640

On route into Lichfield we passed a section of the Lichfield Canal which covers a distance of just over 7 miles through 30 locks from Ogley Junction on the Birmingham Canal Navigations (BCN) to Huddlesford Junction on the Coventry Canal. Built between 1794 and 1797 as the Ogley Locks Section of the Wyrley and Essington Canal, the right to navigation was extinguished by The British Transport Commission Act, 1954 and much of the canal was drained and filled in during the 1960s. It will make a great route when it is eventually restored.canal

We spent some time looking around the shops, both those in the new shopping precinct and those in the old streets like the ones below. June purchased some Bead Making Kits from Spellbound, the bead making shop.


After a coffee and delicious cakes at the bakery we walked up to the Cathedral, a magnificent site across the pool. We explored last time we were here so headed back to the bus stop for the journey back to the boat.lichfield-cathedral

As the sun was still shinning and very little wind we decided to head off and were soon passing Huddlesford Junction the northern end of the Lichfield Canal part of which we had seen earlier this morning. We will be passing the other end on our explorer tour of the BCN.b1

Just round the corner is the old canal side pub, the Plough.


When we passed this way in 2012 Orchard Marina was just being built but now it is full of boats and caravans.IMG_5905

Through the next bridge is the busy Streethay Wharf with lots of boat repair and blacking activity going on.IMG_5910

There were several properties for sale along the Coventry Canal but we thought G & C might like to consider this one with it own mooring.IMG_5912

Soon we were approaching Fradley Junction which looked delightful in the sunshine and with the flowering cherry trees.IMG_5915

The Coventry Canal  enters the Trent and Mersey Canal some 25 miles from the start at Sawley and 67 miles from the other end at Preston Brooke.IMG_5926

At the junction we turned left and headed for the first of the two locks. They have quite a tight entrance through bridges and at a weekend are a magnet for Gongoozlers ( watchers).IMG_5923

Just above Middle Lock this run off takes water down passed the junction to a large pool which is now a nature reserve.IMG_5925

This was built by the Trent and Mersey Canal Company to stop water being given to the Coventry Canal Company at the Junction. In those days water was a precious commodity for the Canal companies.IMG_5928

I am not sure why these lower gates should be shaped like a vee as they were well warn and make an ideal trap for the front button of the long working boats.IMG_5916

We were lucky as both locks were in our favour and there were two very nice Volunteer Lockies on duty who helped us through. They said that their day had been very quiet.IMG_5917

This is Ecco’s usual position when we are travelling and she usually falls to sleep until we stop.IMG_5918

Although the moorings on Coventry Canal were full up to the junction we found a lovely spot just above Shade House Lock with plenty of grass for Ecco to play on. Once moored up we washed off the thick layer of dust we had collected on the boat from the mooring at Fazeley.IMG_5919

Ecco was really enjoying her play time on the grass and the walks she had before bedtime.


Just down the T & M is a C&RT info centre and they have an old van which is the type my father used to have and which I learnt to drive in, when I was only 16. I would drive it up and down the drive at the back of our house so many years ago I would not like to mention it here. The old Fords only had three gears so it was a big change to have to take my test in a four gear car. Still it did teach me to reverse using only wing mirrors as you could not see through the back of the van.IMG_5933