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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


There were no other boats around to disturb us near Coven but we were still up and about at six. With there being more than five miles to cover before we reached the services and the first of the downhill locks at Gailey, we just took our time and enjoyed another leisurely cruise in the early morning sunshine. In reality, we didn’t have much choice but to take it easy once we reached the Anchor pub. There were boats moored for the best part of a mile along the towpath. Hotel boats “Duke” and “Duchess” had passed us yesterday afternoon and were also moored along that stretch, breasted up of course just to keep passing boats on their toes in the narrow channel that remained beside them.

When we reached Gailey, there was space on the water point so we were able to complete our services in good time. CRT were in attendance running water down from the summit to compensate for low pound levels below. The levels seemed alright to us as we made our way down through the five locks on the way to Penkridge but maybe the problem is further down. The Trent & Mersey canal is still more than ten miles away but we have heard reports of low levels above Fradley so perhaps there is a link there. It will be another week or so before we get there so we might find out then or maybe we will never know.

It was around eleven o’clock when we moored above Filance lock on the edge of Penkridge. Once settled, we took a walk into the village for a look around although being Sunday it was quiet with most shops closed for the day. In the late afternoon we had Sunday dinner, the lamb that we had bought in Coven the day before had been gently cooking in the slow cooker for a few hours as we travelled along and for the time we had been in the village. It was delicious, much as the steak pies had been on Saturday.

Penkridge is a place that we’ve visited a couple of times before and we quite like it so the intention is to stay for a few days before moving on again.

Over the summit and on to new waters.

We had no real plan for today but our travel was shaped by others. We were woken at five thirty when the boat which had been tied in front of us set off in the direction of Great Haywood. We tried to get back to sleep but when twenty minutes later, the boat behind us set off in the opposite direction, we decided to get up and get going ourselves and we were underway by six thirty. We had the locks to ourselves until we reached Penkridge just after nine o’clock and although it was extremely windy and quite cool, we had a good time anyway. We made use of the services above the village lock before moving on a few yards and mooring on the towpath side. We then took a walk into the village and had breakfast in a café as well as paying a visit to the bakers and the butchers.

On our walk back to the canalside we caught up with a couple who were also walking back to their boat. We recognised them as the crew of “Stormin’ Norman”, a small cruiser that we have been leapfrogging since Saturday morning near Atherstone. We carried on the banter that we have been having with them along the lines of , “Oh no! Not you again!”

Once back on board, we prepared for the second part of our day’s cruise and then set off again. There were now enough boats on the move to make the lockwork easier, we even had crew members hang back and help close the bottom gates – much appreciated. Stormin Norman caught up with us a few times and by the time we had cleared Gailey top lock, we knew that the next time they passed us would be last time we would see them as they were planning to turn on to the Shroppie at Autherley junction. We said our goodbyes about an hour later as they passed us on a straight section of the summit. 

We reached Autherley at four o’clock and made a brief stop to buy a couple of Pearson’s guides to help us with the rest of our trip. The last time we passed this way, we turned on to the Shroppie so from here on we are travelling on new waters. We carried on for another hour before taking the last mooring spot below the lock at Compton, our descent to the Severn had begun.

We did a little exploring, visiting the Oddfellows pub, the supermarket and the chip shop where we picked up some chips to go with the pasties from Penkridge which were warming in the oven, just the sort of food needed at the end of a long day when we covered 19 miles and worked 10 locks.