Canal boat holidays—Staffs & Worcs Canal

Published: Wednesday, 19 January 2011

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Staffs & Worcs Canal—North

THE Staffs & Worcs Canal is a waterway of two parts—above and below Autherley Junction where it meets the Shropshire Union Canal, so gives a choice for canal boat hire holidays.

It is a narrow canal, with its Northern part from Haywood Junction being part of the Four Counties Ring, and can be somewhat busy at peak times, with hire boaters attempting the 'ring' in a limited time. The many twists and turns of this early built waterway, especially against bridges, can provide difficulties for beginners with long boats.

The canal is very rural, passing mostly through open agricultural land, and even skirting Stafford, so little of it is seen, which means  there are no supermarkets near at hand, though there are smaller shops along the route.

It has the attraction of a wide water at its northernmost end (shown in the picture) and a very narrow cutting at its southernmost end, the two attractions of the waterway.

To those interested in the construction of this Brindley canal, there are some most interesting engineering aspects, from its unusual locks to its bywashes, such as the bywash pictured.

On this particular stretch  is a very active youngster's canoe centre, so look out on the bends for them, though they always pull in as a narrowboat passes, and acknowledge if you do the correct thing and slow down.

The locks, though at times quite deep, are fairly easy to operate, with often handy bridges to enable easy access to both sides, but these locks are well known for their 'pull' when filling. This is why many boats have two fenders on their bows, to enable them to stay flush up to the front of the lock when filling, thus enabling the paddles to be fully opened quickly, as the 'pull' keeps the boat securely at the front of the lock.

For those using the normal method at staying at the back of the lock, it is often necessary to keep the engine in reverse to prevent a sudden surge forward, if the lock is to be filled at a decent rate.

There is a lack of boat yards and marinas on this Northern section, and consequently any boating facilities, though there is the original Midland Chandlers at Penkridge, that few boaters can pass! Though gifts and souvenirs can be obtained from the unusual round house by Gailey Lock.

Mooring along the waterway is no problem, with the open vistas giving no problems for those wanting television.

The wide water at the Northern end is Tixall Wide, a favourite stopping place for many boaters, with its view of open water, though it is not wise to stray far from the line of the canal, as much of it is very shallow.

At the Southern end is a long narrow cutting in rock, that will only allow passage of one boat, though there are passing places.  It is advisable to have a look-out go forward to make sure no other boat is coming, otherwise it could result in a long reverse manœuvre.

This section is fine for new holiday boat hirers and those wanting a short break as the locks are fairly easy and there are plenty of eateries along the way, though shopping could be a problem. The only real difficulty could be the many blind corners when meeting a boat coming the opposite way.

This section of the canal is 20 miles long with 12 locks,  no tunnels,  lift or swing bridges.

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