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News article created on 26 June 2015

HELEN cruises the Shropshire Union

In this latest entry from Trustee John Dodwell, we hear of his travels on the Shropshire Union as he notes improved vegetation management, spots work still to be done and benefits from some volunteer lock keepers.

Autherley to Nantwich

Having participated in the BCN 24 Hour Challenge at the end of May, we had taken HELEN down the Wolverhampton 21 and left her at Orph Mable’s yard at Oxley. Returning a few days ago, we prepared to start going along the Shropshire Union. Among other things, this meant going to the Morrison’s at Pendeford. This is only about 10 minutes from Autherley Stop Lock and so is quite convenient.

We eventually left about lunchtime on the Friday. I noted that the towpath almost the whole length to Nantwich is cut to the water’s edge – the bank is usually a hard surface. We stopped to look around Brewood and as the evening went on we enjoyed watching the swallows diving to catch their suppers (or was it swifts or martins? – I’ve never been good at telling the differences). I also noted the bridge protectors at practically every bridge – to protect the stone or brick work from the friction of the horse towing ropes – see the marks the ropes made.

Last year we noted the offside trees south of Cowley Tunnel were bad so it was good to see they’ve now been cut right back. We could also see the result of last winter’s works on the Grub Street cutting towpath. A fair amount remains to be done (next winter, I think) and so at present you can compare the difference in quality; what’s not yet been done is pretty awful. We tied for the night on The Anchor at High Onn and got chatting to Mal Edwards who recalled cargo carrying in the 1960s.

Saturday was one of those days when you wish the weather would make up its mind - it drizzled most of the day. We walked into Market Drayton in the afternoon – not as attractive as I had recalled from previous visits. My wife bought at the farm shop at Adderley Top Lock – good bread and bacon. We tied for the night a little way past the bottom of that flight – we like it out in the countryside.

By 10 am on the Sunday, we were at Audlem Top Lock. There was a fair amount of traffic in both directions and it was 1.30 before we were at the bottom. We were fortunate in having the help of two volunteer lock keepers – Derek and Dek. Dek is well known to many people and he also told us of his volunteering on the Welshpool section of the Montgomery Canal where he had helped clear overhanging trees etc

And so onto Nantwich where we left HELEN and got the train home. Our next objective is down the Anderton Lift and to spend a few days on the Weaver, an under rated river.

About this blog

John Dodwell

John Dodwell is one of our 10 volunteer trustees, who carry responsibility for the charity’s policies and strategies. He owns Helen, a 51ft old BCN tug/icebreaker which draws 3ft and is based near Stourbridge, West Midlands. His waterways interest goes back to the early 1960s.

John’s been involved in the waterways since the early 1960s and he enjoys all aspects of the waterways. To pick out one oddity, he was pleased and surprised to see about a dozen herons this June around the BCN Main Line, including two under the M6 motorway!

See more blogs from John Dodwell