Park Bridge to Castle Croft Bridge 55, Staffordshire and Worcester Canal
One last jaunt for Tilly in the field this morning after the farmer had been round on his tractor. She almost made it to the wood today, but luckily stopped short to return to the boat, fairly sure if she had discovered the delights there in we would have been staying for another night!
Mid morning Mick gave Finesse a call, we already knew that they wouldn’t be heading out to us this week. He managed to get hold of Chris and had quite a long chat. Hopefully if handovers of new boats go ahead as planned this week we will get to see them before Easter. This meant that we could get moving and plan to be somewhere suitable to meet them on our way to Stourport. We’ve only been on the southern end of the Staff and Worcester once before, so google maps will be our friend. If anyone can think of a mooring close to a layby or car park near to Stourport please let us know, local knowledge is always handy for such things.
So just before midday we pushed off and opened up Nicholsons Guide 2. We’ve been on Guide 4 for what seems like a life time, Guide 2 will do us until mid July.
We pulled in to top up the water tank at Autherely. It was particularly smelly there today. Alongside the canal is a sewage works, an Archimedes screw was working away behind the hedge moving water upwards in the processing plant. All the hire boats were in just leaving enough space to squeeze through to get to the stop lock. Boats were moored on the lock landing being cleaned, serviced and having new curtains hung all ready for the hire season to start at Easter. It was a good job I’d walked from the water point as there was nowhere free to be dropped off at the lock. The lock was set against us, which isn’t a big deal as it must only be a couple of inches. As Oleanna rose we dealt with our rubbish before turning right at the junction and pulling in immediately for some lunch. We were finally off the Shroppie where we’ve been, on one branch or another, since November.
Skirting round Wolverhampton the canal has an urban quality to it for a while. The high up arched bridges come thick and fast, a graffiti artist having done some decorating on one side. At Aldersley Junction we kept going straight on, no Wolverhampton 21 for us this time, our route will bypass Birmingham.
Last time we did this stretch was when we’d had to abort a trip to Droitwich, we’d just found out how much Lillian’s pooh tank held! On a very wet morning we winded and headed to the nearest pumpout at Oxley Marine where we could uncross our legs. Today we don’t have to worry about such things with our composting toilet.
Compton Lock started our descent down to the River Severn. This is the first canal lock James Brindley built and it’s a pretty one. With their Lollipop lock beams and delicate paddle gear (which are a bit stiff!) and narrow brick bridges right next to the bottom gates they really are pretty locks. Oh mustn’t forget about the bywashes with their up turned baskets looking like lobster pots that collect any rubbish.
Two boats came past us as we made our way along the next pound to Wightwick Mill Lock. As much as Wightwick Manor is possibly our favourite National Trust property we didn’t stop there, we want to reach another one that we’ve not managed to visit yet (it’s not always open). So we wound our way a bit further along the canal, where the roads have moved away and there was a field for Tilly to explore before the end of the day. Jotting down our position from the trip computer we at last have moved from grid reference prefix SJ to SO. We’ve been in SJ for months, it stretches form Manchester almost down to Birmingham, we bobbed out of the area when we went to Rugely and on the Caldon