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Staffs and Worcestershire Canal - Staffs & Worcs Narrow Canal
The ‘Staffs and Wusts’, as the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal is affectionately known, is one of the jewels in the crown of the narrow canal system.
Its course is almost entirely rural, with the occasional historic town such as Kidderminster and Stourport. The Staffs and Worcs meets the river Severn at Stourport, the town of which owes its origins to the canal, thriving on the connection with the Sabine River once it had been connected.
The construction of the Staffs and Worcestershire canal came about as a result of the act of parliament, passed in 1766, to construct the canal. James Brindley, one of the famous canal engineers, was contracted to build the canal between the Trent and Mersey canal at Great Haywood in Staffordshire and the river Severn in Worcestershire. By 1772 the 46 mile long canal, with 43 locks had been commissioned. It was an enormous undertaking involving thousands of “navvies” labouring with nothing more than picks, shovels and wheel barrows.
The canal skirts round the main conurbations of the Black Country and Birmingham without feeling like an urban environment – in fact you wouldn’t think there was this much countryside in the West Midlands!
The Staffs and Worcestershire is a canal that basically follows the contours of the land as near as possible – this being James Brinbley’s style - relying to some extent on earthworks as embankments. This means that there are fewer locks and the waterway wends its way through quite a good selection of unspoilt countryside.
At Great Haywood in the north the canal skirts the extensive grounds of Shugborough Hall before entering the picturesque Tixall Wides. The canal was artificially widened here to satisfy the local landowner, from Tixall Hall, he wanted what would have been an industrial canal to have the appearance of an ornamental lake and conform to the style of his landscaped grounds. Today the Wides are home to a wealth of water bird life. The original Tixall Gatehouse clearly visible from the Wides is all that remains of the grand design, Tixall Hall having fallen into disrepair many years ago. About a mile south west of the Wides is the Milford Aqueduct carrying the canal over the River Sow and then skirting Stafford in the south east quarter. Then onwards through rural Staffordshire, the picturesque village of Acton Trussel with its pretty church, passing Teddesley wharf, home to the Teddesley Boat Company. The wharf was built to serve Teddesley Hall which was the home of one of the canal’s promoters of Sir Edward Littleton.
Cruising south a mile or so you reach the market town of Penkridge with a number of locks through the town, passing the BW Facilities (WC, Water and Garbage Disposal), Tom’s Boatyard and a mile further on Otherton Boat Haven back out into the countryside along side the M6 Motorway.
Great Haywood to Penkridge is about 5 hours cruising.
Leaving the small town of Penkridge , several isolated locks take the boater to the summit pound and boatyard at Gailey. Here you will see the last remaining roundhouse, which was built by the original canal company to enable the toll keeper to observe the comings and goings of the boats on the canal. The roundhouse now houses an interesting little shop which sells basic groceries and souvenir canal ware.
Penkridge to Gailey is about 3 hours cruising
More attractive countryside is passed through and a very narrow section of canal with a short tunnel cut out of the sandstone bedrock before the canal meets the Shropshire Union Canal at Autherley Junction - where the Shropshire Union canal branches off to the north and Aldersley – A few hundred yards further on a left turn takes the boater up the daunting flight of 21 locks at Wolverhampton locks, the gateway to the Birmingham Canal Navigations. Birmingham has more miles of canal than Venice !
Gailey to Autherley Junction is about 3 hours cruising.
Continuing southwards towards the River Severn. Soon you are passing through Wolverhampton , Wombourn, Hinksford and Greensforge. You are now following the course of the River Stour now and travelling through a red sandstone area. At Stourton there is the Junction of the Stourbridge Canal .
Autherley Junction to Stourton Junction is about 8 hours cruising.
At Kinver, a delightful, typical English village with antique shops and a short walk from the canal takes you to some fascinating cave-like houses which were built into the rocks and were occupied until relatively recently. At Cookley there is a short tunnel. With the odd lock now you are approaching Kidderminster and a couple of miles further on Stourport-on-Severn and the junction with the River Severn.
Stourton Junction to Stourport-on-Severn is about 7 hours cruising.
Along the canal:
There is a small cave beside the lock at Debdale where, it is believed, navvies used to shelter.
The lock at Compton is believed to be the first lock that James Brindley built and is accompanied by an attractive circular weir - which is an architectural feature of the southern Staffs and Worcs. The lock architecture and bridges are particularly interesting along this part of the canal.
The two locks at Botterham are classed as a staircase as the locks are placed close together and share gates.
At The Bratch, Bratch Lock - people from all over the county come to gongoozle at the historic set of locks. The Bratch Locks are set very close together, almost forming a staircase. Bratch locks normally has a lock-keeper to hand and will help you negotiate the locks during the summer.
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