Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Up to Deptmore

I’ve probably remarked before that the first part of the Staffs and Worcs is a mixed bag, scenery-wise. You start off with one of the more lyrical sections before and after Tixall Lock, including the mysterious mansion with immaculately tended grounds on the offside immediately after the lock and before the right angled bend onto the Sow Aqueduct. Is it a private house, belonging to some millionaire? Is it a very upmarket care home? A small hotel, ditto?

Anyway, once over the Sow, things begin to become more robust, with the West Coast Mainline hanging menacingly above you and then the run of moorings at Milford. Milford village has a claim to fame beyond being a handy access point for Cannock Chase – it still has the first ever Wimpy hamburger bar in the country.

There follows the rather utilitarian stretch around Stafford with the park home estate replacing the railway line, the industrial estate that's home to RCR, then Radford Bank (where there were a number of Mercian boats tied up) and finally the greener section towards Stafford Boat Club. After that, things become much more rural again until Deptmore Lock is reached, incredibly deep just as Tixall is incredibly shallow.

By starting before eight, we managed most of this without meeting too many other boats, though we had one close encounter at a bridge, contact only being avoided thanks to Sheila’s warning from the bow and a hoot from our klaxon. This canal does specialise in bridges on blind bends and it’s a very good idea to ease off before each on the assumption that you may have to stop. Sanity Again has a well set up prop and good swims, of course, but her 23 tonnes takes a bit of slowing down, even from 2 mph.

We’ve tied in our usual spot just beyond the lock. It’s turned very breezy, though the sun is still beaming down. We’d run a wash load on the way (there’s just nice time for it if you start it at Milford), but there was no question of rigging the whirligig. However, it being very warm, dry and sunny, Sheila put most of the stuff on hangers in the engine room and the rest on the sock dryer. By leaving the slide, both Houdinis and the bow doors open, we’ve had a very pleasant breeze through the boat, keeping us cool and drying the clothes in double quick time.

Tomorrow, a few more locks, possibly in the rain, past Acton Trussell and on to Penkridge.


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