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Milford Wharf

Goodbye Staffs & Worcs, hello Trent & Mersey

Our overnight mooring at Milford Wharf was quiet despite the proximity of the West Coast Mainline. We set off reasonably early, working through the final lock on the Staffordshire and Worcestershire before passing Tixall wide on the way to the junction with the Trent and Mersey canal at Great Haywood.

Tixall Wide.

Great Haywood Junction.

We made use of the services at the Anglo Welsh hire base before finding a mooring just above Haywood lock. We’ve passed through these parts a few times before and even stopped overnight but never had the time to explore but this year we have plenty of time. It was another warm sunny day and being a Sunday there were lots of people out and about. The confluence of the rivers Sow and Trent are nearby and we could hear the sounds of people playing in the shallow water.

The Sow meets the Trent

Splashing in the river.

Essex Bridge.

In fact, later in the day when we took an evening walk near Shugborough Hall, there were still families sitting on the river banks and youngsters splashing about near Essex bridge. Earlier in the day, we had crossed the canal, walked under the railway bridge and into Great Haywood. There’s not a lot to see there, just a pub and a Spar shop but it is still a nice looking village. Our walk took us back to the canal junction where we made a diversion into the Canalside Farm Shop. The shop carries a fabulous selection of fresh produce, much of which is local and some of it is grown on the farm. There is a butcher and a fishmonger on site and they also sell home made pies and pastries. All in all a great range of produce. The adjacent café was quite busy so we didn’t partake of anything but we did look at the menu and that seemed to cater for most tastes. We bought a few bits to take back to the boat and have for lunch which we did while sitting on the front deck. In terms of boat traffic, it turned out to be one of the busiest days that we have experienced for a while so there was plenty of entertainment to keep us amused throughout the afternoon.

We were uncertain as to what we might do but it all hinged on whether we would visit Shugborough Hall the following day. After giving it a bit of consideration we decided that we would give it a miss and just carry on the following morning, Monday.

Shugborough Hall.

Another peaceful night on a mooring close to the railway! It was just before eight when we untied and moved the few yards on to the lock landing. As we worked down, two boats arrived below, effectively halving the work involved. Twenty minutes later at Colwich lock, the same thing happened and after that it was an easy lock free cruise to Rugeley.

Rugeley is another town that we have never taken the time to look around when we have stopped in the past for some supermarket shopping. As we approached the visitor moorings we could see that a boat was stuck on the offside so before attempting to moor up, we attached a rope and pulled him back into the middle of the channel. The canal was shallow on the towpath side too and it took us about ten minutes or so before we managed to get Caxton secured with a gap between the boat and the bank which varied between 18″ and 24″. Once done, we set off to explore the town centre.

The old market building in Rugeley.

It was alright, nothing too exciting but enough in the way of shops to keep the locals satisfied. After a good wander around, we toddled back to the Tesco superstore which is sited next to the canal. After carrying the shopping back to the boat, we had a sandwich and then carried on our merry way again. Another couple of lock free hours saw us passing by Armitage and Handsacre before finding a mooring near Kings Bromley marina, itself just a couple of miles and three locks from Fradley junction where we will have to decide which way to go next.

Train journeys

Our mooring in Penkridge allowed us to take advantage of the fact that it has a railway station as much as anything else. Our first journey took us in to Birmingham, a city that we have visited many times before. We had no particular reason to go, it was just a day out for us. We didn’t do much, a short walk from the station took us to The Mailbox where we walked through to the canal – as if we haven’t seen enough of the cut! A wander along past Gas Street basin and back again in time for lunch overlooking the water. After lunch we took a stroll around the Bullring before heading back to New Street station where we caught the train back to Penkridge.

The next day we spent in and around the village doing no more than just mooching about. En-route to Penkridge we had contemplated taking a diversion into Wolverhampton but with 21 locks in less than two miles to negotiate, we didn’t ponder the question too long! Instead, we used the train again and went to visit Wolverhampton on our final day in Penkridge. If I had to sum up my impression of Wolverhampton in one word, it would be “scruffy”. It’s a pity really because there is building work going on and its clear that money has been spent on improving parts of the City centre. The railway station is close to the bus station and a tram station is being built in between the two so there will be a good integrated transport system in place soon enough. Unfortunately, the streets are scruffy with litter – even the newer ones. It doesn’t help that the area nearest to the bus station is populated with fast food outlets of the kebab and fried chicken type and they are interspersed with phone repair shops and those selling supplies to the vaping community. We had an uninspiring walk around the central area before catching the train back just before two o’clock. So we weren’t impressed by Wolverhampton but it could have worse, we could have travelled there by boat!

Thursday morning dawned bright and blue again so we got up and set off early again, dropping down through Filance lock and on to the service point. With the chores complete, we moved on and arrived at Midland Chandlers just as they opened at 9am. Our destination was hopefully going to be Radford Bank, the nearest point that the canal gets to Stafford. We had a few locks to do but there was plenty of traffic heading in the opposite direction and that made life easier for us. Most of the moorings at Radford bank can be quite busy so we took the first available space that we saw before the bridge and the start of the stretch that can get crowded. My priority was to collect a phone from Argos that I had bought on eBay a few days earlier so after getting showered and changed we set off on the half mile walk to the retail park on the way into town. Back at the boat, I spent my time setting up the new phone or as Sue described it, messing about with it. In any case, it works well and I am happy with it.

Friday morning saw us catching the bus to Stafford railway station, this time to catch a train to Nuneaton. After ten weeks away from home, we thought that we should go and check that all was well and to pick up the post that had accumulated. The train journey only takes 40 minutes and everything went to plan and we were back at Radford bank at half past three. We hadn’t eaten all day so we decided to make use of the Radford Bank pub / restaurant which is adjacent to the canal bridge.

On Saturday, we walked into Stafford itself and spent a few hours in the town centre. In common with the previous times that we have visited, we found Stafford to be very pleasant. There were a few food stalls in the market place and we had a wander around the shopping streets for a while. In the middle of the town centre is the Ancient High House , the largest Elizabethan timber framed house left in England.

The Ancient High House

The building is now a museum and each of the rooms on the three floors is set out to reflect how they might have looked through the ages. The house dates back to 1595 so that’s over four hundred years of history.

The signs on this piano say “Please do not play this piano” – Who knew it could be that simple, Fiona!

Once back at the boat, we decided that rather than wait until the morning to set off, we would break with tradition and have an early evening cruise. It was a nice change too, we only encountered a slack handful of boats on the move, we didn’t have any locks to do and after an hour we reached Milford wharf where we tied up for the night.

Sunset over Milford Wharf