A day in Brewood

On Saturday we walked into Brewood so Karen could catch the bus to Wolverhampton and from there catch trains to Nottingham to pick up our car from Catherine. 

Buddy and I made a visit to the local recycling centre and then set off on a circular walk.  We started off up the old track that was the original driveway to Chillington House, home of the Giffard family since the 12th century.  The current house replaced the previous and was built in the mid 1700s.  The track, known as ‘The Avenue’, cuts across the canal.

I have always liked beech trees even though they are of no use to any British butterflies.  When I was a teenager I was sitting up the top of a beech tree in ancient parkland and realised that another boy was sitting in a nearby beech tree.  Greg and I became best friends for many years and occasionally meet up when someone can be bothered to organise a reunion.

This is all that remains of the original driveway.

Apparently the house had a small hamlet around it but only the house remains now.  On the driveway is this lodge with a wooden cross.  The cross is known as Giffard’s cross and marks the spot where John Giffard killed a panther with a crossbow in the mid 1500s.  He used to have a menagerie on the Chillington estate and the panther had escaped.

Walking across a field of sheep we could look down on Brewood.

Karen got back in the middle of the afternoon and we wandered down to a pub as it was our last evening afloat for a while.  When we got back Karen made a delicious kashmiri yellow curry - extra hot as we had a few fresh chillies to use up.

Brewood (pronounced Brood)

We set off to Brewood on Friday morning.  This section of the Shroppie is a relatively recent canal, opened in 1835, and more mechanisation was available. Consequently there are many embankments and cuttings and therefore fewer locks.  It also means that there are long straight sections rather than older canals that followed contours wherever possible.   

It sounded like it might be a bit boring but the constant change from cutting to embankment makes you forget you are on a straight stretch.  The canal is fairly wide but in some places does become very narrow and not wide enough for two boats to pass.

The rubbing strakes to protect ropes wearing the  stones on the bridges all appear to be in place still.

We came across our first pre-cast stanking plank holder.

There are very few villages on the canal and it is really peaceful apart from when we went under the M54.

The bridges seem to be stone built and tend to be nice and high and wide so we don’t have to worry about losing anything from the roof.

At least there is plenty of wild garlic growing here so we have a ready supply of leaves whenever we need some for cooking.

We also came across a modern stanking plank shed.

After mooring to the south of Brewood we walked into it and found it was a really pleasant village.  It has two proper greengrocers, a butchers and a couple of florists so that ranks high in our 'nice' scale.

Considering it is so small we were surprised it has five pubs but we suspect it gets a lot of tourists especially from holidaying boaters.  In fact, we could feel a buzz in the atmosphere as if there was an anticipation of the first big influx of the year coming up because of Easter.  When we walked into Brewood we looked at the visitor moorings and there were only two boats moored there. One of them was Bumple Bee who we have met a few times, such as on the Ashby and on the Trent & Mersey.  When we went back in the evening for a drink in The Bridge Inn there must have been a dozen boats there and only space for one more.

The four windows on the right of this house were painted on, which was a bit strange.  It got us thinking and wondering about why so many windows that were closed to avoid the window tax are still bricked up.

Onto the Shroppie

As we are going back to our house for Easter one of us will need to get to Nottingham on Saturday to pick up the car that Catherine keeps for us up there.  We will get onto the Shropshire Union (the Shroppie) and find a spot to moor near Brewood (pronounce Brood apparently).    From there we can catch a bus to Wolverhampton and then a train to Birmingham followed by a train to Nottingham.

We weren’t sure how far we would get on Thursday as strong winds were forecast but we set off anyway on the understanding we would moor up if it became too dangerous, irrespective of the local environment.

We passed quite a few boats going in the opposite direction.  When I pass a boat I always turn round at some point to see the other boat retreating into the distance.  It does not seem to matter whether I turn round straight away or a minute or so later but the guy on the other boat will always be turning round to look at me at the same time.  I don't know why I do this, it must be a man thing?

Coming out of the first lock we stopped dead which meant a trip to the weed hatch.  This empty bag of aggregate was the main culprit. 

This is the time of year when you can start picking and using wild garlic leaves.  There were plenty here at Aldersley junction where the Birmingham Main Line heads off up the Wolverhampton 21 lock flight just before the bridge. 

It feels like we have been to a lot of places since we did this flight six weeks ago when we came down south from the Trent & Mersey canal.  In those six weeks we covered 150 miles and 252 locks and visited places like Birmingham, Stratford Upon Avon, Stourport and Droitwich.  I have tried to show the large loop we have done below.

A few hundred yards after Aldersley junction we came to Autherley junction where we were going to turn left onto the Shroppie.  You can see from the water that it was still calm and no sign of the strong winds that had been forecast.

We had stopped for water between the two junctions and caught Buddy drinking from our watering can.

At Autherley junction this signpost told us we were heading for Chester so we knew we were going the right way.

We couldn’t believe we’re only 39 miles from Nantwich where Karen’s cousin Dave and his wife Barbara have their boat at present.  They have just retired and bought a new boat and are just about to move on board like us – so it won’t be long before we meet up.

There was a stop lock as we joined the Shroppie.  Stop locks were built at canal junctions so boats had to stop and then pay their toll before joining the next canal.  This was also the first bridge on the Shroppie and the style of bridge plaques changed back to numbers only.

By two o’clock the wind was becoming too dangerous for boating so we moored up at this point soon after leaving the last sights of Midlands' urbania.

We stayed in for the afternoon and played card games then Karen cooked a Jambalaya; this was her view from the kitchen window,

These are the last three locks we went up on the Staffs & Worcs in the morning. 

Wightwick lock

Wightwick Mill lock

Compton lock

Staying put for a change

We were moored in such a lovely spot that we didn’t want to move on Wednesday.

We planned a six mile circular walk for the morning.  Buddy met a playmate in one field and had a good run around.  Don’t worry, the field is grass not a cereal crop.

Our walk took us along a disused railway line; always one of our favourite types of walk.

We went past the old Bratch station and…

 we sat down for a rest and a drink of water, Buddy also relaxed and we could see how dirty he had got when playing with the dog we met.  He had to have a good brush before getting back on the boat.

We walked through Bratch and it gave us a chance to investigate the hall/manor house that we saw from the boat yesterday.  We could have guessed as it turned out to be a water pumping station.

We also went past the restored toll house from a different angle.

In the afternoon we did household chores including baking an apple cake and log cutting and then a final walk in the evening sun before dinner.