Friday 8th to Sunday 10th April 2022
Leaving the gingerbread heritage of Market Drayton behind us we prepared to ascend the five Tyrley Locks leading to . . .
. . . the picturesque Tyrley Wharf. This was built as a private wharf but developed into a vibrant hamlet according to a notice on The Old Stables. This building dates from 1838 and although now a charming residence, in the past it has been used as a parish hall, meeting room, Sunday school, reading room and polling station.
Between 1917 and 1932 Cadbury leased the wharf and used it to load and transport milk churns from local farms to the chocolate factory at Knighton.
Both Matilda and Robert commented that there was no risk of hitting the chimney on the bridges on this stretch of canal.
Tyrley Wharf was not the only place we passed which had formed part of the Cadbury supply chain. An old, faded sign on this wharf informed us that it was used between 1911 and 1961 for the processing of locally collected milk products and the shipment of chocolate crumb by canal to Cadbury.
The striking High Bridge or Bridge 39 on the Shropshire Union Canal was another of Thomas Telford’s constructions, built between 1832 and 1833. In the mid nineteenth century a “strainer arch” was inserted into the bridge to counteract inward pressure and the United Kingdom Telegraph Company placed a telegraph pole onto this in 1861.
08/04/2022 – Miles: 13.66 – Locks: 5 – 5h45m
The journey on day 53 was relatively short and uneventful and none of the photos made it past the editor’s desk. Consequently, the only record we have to share of the day is the route taken and, of course, Robert had planned that there would be a hostelry at the end of it.
09/04/2022 – Miles: 4.94 – Locks: 0 – 2h0m
On Sunday we had arranged to meet Robert’s uncle, his cousins, their husbands and their offspring to share a little of our narrowboat adventure with them.
While we were waiting for them to join us, the boat opposite us broke its moorings and drifted slowly across the canal. As the blockage was behind us we could have continued on our way unimpeded but this would clearly not have been the conscientious or appropriate course of action.
Robert went to knock at the property which the mooring appeared to belong to but was told that the boat was not theirs. Robert returned to the bank where The Duke was moored, pushed the Amethyst and climbed on board to wait for it to drift slowly back across the canal. The gentleman then appeared from the house, perhaps regretting his earlier brusque response, carrying a rope and helped to secure the boat although he did suggest he could teach Robert how to tie proper knots.
We are still not quite sure about the ownership of the boat as we saw him drive away on a mobility scooter to return, approach us down the towpath, still on the scooter, and hand Robert a carrier bag with a bottle inside by way of thank you, which seemed a strange thing to do if the Amethyst was not his. He then sped away along the towpath without a backward glance.
Matilda was most amused to find that, during this escapade, Robert had obviously come across as a pink prosecco kind of guy.
Having been joined by three generations of family, we set off and there was one lock to add to the experience.
Later, Robert noticed that we were passing the Phyllis May, immortalised in the book Narrowdog to Carcassone and called to Matilda who was walking along the towpath a little behind The Duke at this point. She dutifully took a photo and a man at the wharf challenged her and asked what she was photographing. When she asked for confirmation that the narrowboat was indeed the one from the book, not only did he confirm this, but a woman shouted across that it would be for sale soon, “in case we were interested’.
Matilda feels no need whatsoever to purchase a narrowboat of her own and politely declined.
There were too many people for everyone to travel on board The Duke and two were designated as ‘responsible adults’ in charge of the children on board.
We stopped at The Bridge Inn in Brewood for Sunday lunch where Robert’s parents joined us and were lucky enough to have a room to ourselves. It was great to have so many of the family together and to catch up with everyone.
Matilda became disproportionately excited when she read the sign on the towpath which stated not only that dogs were welcome but also, in rather poor English, “We now Launderette”. After the meal, she took the opportunity to wash and dry bed linen and her yellow gilet which had collected the grease and grime from over 400 locks.
10/04/2022 – Miles: 3.16 – Locks: 2 – 1h30m
Days: 54 – Miles: 410 – Locks: 413