Trent and Mersey Canal
20 to 23 October 2006
On a Friday which started pleasantly but turned to rain, we travelled from
London to Great Haywood near Stafford, home to one of the
Anglo Welsh narrowboat
bases, for our weekend canal holiday. We were met politely and
efficiently, and after discharging our cargo onto the boat, were quickly shown
around, and were soon under way. We headed south along the Trent and Mersey
Canal from Haywood Junction.
Ellie, George and Lucy on the back of our boat, Silver Swallow. We passed
through Haywood and Colwich Locks, and, with the rain falling, stopped for the
night at Wolseley.
Next morning dawned dry and reasonably bright, and we make our way along the
Trent and Mersey.
Here the canal crosses the River Trent by Brindley Bank Aqueduct.
Ellie and George wait on the aqueduct while we wait for Lucy and Silver
Passing through Rugeley, we go under the railway as a slow-moving agregates
train passes overhead.
We then pass through a narrow rocky cutting, only wide enough for single-way
working. This was the site of Armitage Tunnel, opened out as a result of mining
subsidence, and very impressive to travel through - and presumably problematic
at busier times of the year, as it is not possible to see right through to check
the way is clear, since it curves at the eastern end.
Along the canal towpath were lots of wood chippings; here workers are turning
trees into chippings. Presumably this is easier than having to remove trees that
are felled or fall down.
At the railway bridge at Armitage, Network Rail contractors are working to widen
the Trent Valley line to four tracks throughout. As a result, we see this
somewhat bizarre sight for a canal - temporary traffic lights. This was doubly
frustrating and, frankly stupid, since first, the green light showed for about
ten seconds (completely inadequate for a boat, which takes much longer than that
to get up speed and pass the light) and, second, the only reason for these
automated lights was to enforce single-line working on the canal, whereas we had
just been through a much longer section of single-line working at Armitage
Tunnel, and that didn't have through visibility, which this site did.
We pass Banstead, a former Grand Union Canal Carrying Company coal boat,
Lucy steers Silver Swallow out of Woodend Lock
Looking back through Bridge 53 into Woodend Lock
George runs back to the boat as we wait to pass through Shade House Lock after a
good lunch at the Swan Inn
Lucy brings Silver Swallow to Fradley Junction: the Coventry Canal and
our route lies to the left, with the Trent and Mersey continuing to the right.
The Swan Inn is centre picture.
As rain continues to threaten, a rainbow shows it is not far away. We decide not
to press on to Fazeley Junction, our original plan, since rain is likely later
today, and a lot of rain is forecast for tomorrow. We decide to wind at
Huddlesford Junction and start the return journey today so that there is less to
Looking up the stub of the Wryley & Essington Canal from Huddlesford Junction,
now used as private moorings, but perhaps one day restored as a through route to
Oggley Junction and the Birmingham Canal Navigations. Watch out for the
"Lichfield Canal" (a modern name) aqueduct over the M6 Toll, currently going
from nowhere to nowhere.
The junction sign post and the temporary bridge over the canal, constructed to
help with the four-tracking of the Trent Valley railway line which is underway
here too. There were more temporary traffic lights here (fortunately not in
use), but absurdly there were "no turning" signs scattered around. The people
planning these operations clearly have no appreciation at all of how canals
work. Having already commented on the ridiculous traffic lights at the previous
railway bridge, we now have these "no turning" signs, which are not justified,
but more importantly show no understanding of canals - that sort of instruction
is easily achievable in a car, when one can simply go elsewhere, but in a canal
boat, places for winding are very limited - it might well have taken us 3 or 4
hours to travel to Fazeley Junction and back, the nearest alternative winding
spot marked on our map. To insist on that is ridiculous, and so we just winded
the boat here anyway, ignoring the signs, and watched by the railway workers who
made no comment.
We got back to Fradley Junction before the thunderstorm started, and moored up
for a cosy evening. Ellie certainly looks cosy in the chair in the cabin of our
On Sunday morning, Lucy, closely followed by George and Ellie, works Middle Lock
Ellie decided she didn't want to follow George across the top lock gate, and
instead stepped into the canal and swam across, and here is looking rather damp!
Working through Woodend Lock, George watches Lucy hard at work. "That looks
easy," he says.
And so helps out.
One of the many attractive mileposts erected by the Trent and Mersey Canal
Society. They are genuinely mileposts, not direction markers, so though it is 28
miles to the Trent at Shardlow, in fact the Trent lies to the right, and the
Bridgewater Canal at Preston Brook lies to the left.
After lunch at the Ash Tree pub in Rugeley, it started to rain, increasingly
heavily, and we were glad that we'd made today's cruising shorter than it might
have been by turning round short of Fazeley yesterday. Two boats moored up at
the end of Brindley Bank with their wood-burning stoves keeping their occupants
Stephen and George taking the boat through the heavy rain
Lucy, George and Ellie now with her lifejacket see us through Colwich Lock, the last
of Sunday, and we moored soon after Bridge 72.
Monday morning, and the holiday is almost over. Sunrise over Little Haywood
The River Trent from the canal as we return to Great Haywood.
George, Lucy and Ellie in Haywood Lock
As we prepare to turn at Haywood Junction, narrowboat Rosemary from
Canal Cruising Company
passes us. Rosemary was the first narrowboat we hired, in 1998, taking us
round the Four Counties Ring from Stone. We will be repeating that journey (from
Etruria) next year.
Our efficient Anglowelsh man waits for us to pull into the boatyard under the
elegant towpath bridge at Haywood Junction, with just one minute to spare before
the 9 o'clock deadline to return the boat. Perfect timing, and a great holiday
despite the rain.