We didn’t go far before we stopped at Brewood, a lovely village with a mix of very ancient black and white and elegant Georgian houses. The most spectacular is the, so called, Speedwell Castle, right in the centre, apparently built from the winnings of a horse called Speedwell.
Soon after we crossed the A5 Watling Street on the cast iron Stretton Aqueduct and a little while later stopped again at Wheaton Ashton where a village garage also serves the cycling set and the boating community from its own jetty.
The canal hereabouts is lock free and continues in long straight stretches, either high on embankments or deep in red sandstone cuttings, we stopped for Wednesday night at Gnosall, just after the dramatic, rough hewn Cowley Tunnel.
The weather was still very pleasant on Thursday as we passed the picturesque Norbury Junction. I lived for many years in Norbury, near Streatham in South London and I am so pleased to say that there is no comparison. The canal here is carried on the immensely high embankments of Shelmore and Shebdon which caused so much trouble to the builders. Between these embankments is the strange High Bridge and it stubby telegraph pole and at the end of the embankments is a covered wharf which served the factory complex below which used to make chocolate, but sadly now dried milk is the only product.
A narrow rock cutting brought us to the five Tyrley locks, all deeply set into the sandstone, the work involved in these cuttings and the embankments must have been immense and all done with nothing more than muscle, men and horses.
A few more minutes and we arrived at the well presented moorings for Market Drayton. We intended to stay Thursday and Friday night as chums Steve and Caroline would be joining us on Saturday. A short bike ride on Friday morning to Lidl provided us with most of our requirements, but must be said that the town centre was very depressing, with many empty shops and even several of the many pubs were closed, what did remain in business looked tired and the old buildings seemed to be uncared for.
Our disappointment in Market Drayton was compounded when Jacquie tried to light the oven, only to find that the gas had ran out. I had only changed over bottles a few days before and hadn’t yet replaced the empty one. The gas locker did smell strongly of gas so I can only surmise that I hadn’t properly tightened up the connection on the fresh bottle and when I opened it’s tap the gas gradually leaked out, lesson learnt, must check the hose connections when changing over bottles.