Staffs & Worcs Canal –  2nd July 2022

It started out as a wet day and pretty much continued like that until 4.00pm. We needed to get a bit of a move on as the last few days were spent being social butterflies with Lynne and John, which was thoroughly enjoyable.

Today was going to be about locks. The Bratch Locks are a noted feature of the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal, planned by James Brindley, and opened in 1772 as a three lock staircase.

It is a very picturesque spot with a nicely restored lock keepers’ cottage.

One needs to operate these locks in a very strict order and there are a lot of notices to help you to get it right. Paddles are coloured either blue or red and you need to get the sequence right.

You can see here a gate directly behind the boat and then a taller gate behind that. In between these two gates is a very small pound.

The locks were later re-engineered as three separate locks. They are served by two bridges, a toll house, and a keeper’s cottage. The whole forms a well-preserved example of vernacular Georgian architecture and design, built of mellow local brick.

This is us going out of one of the locks and under the bridge with not a lot of headroom. You need to keep your wits about you whenever you are going under bridges as they can surprise you as to how low they are.

Wolfgang and Marlene have manufactured some excellent comfortable seating arrangements on the back of the boat where we can sit up high and get a great view as we chug along. There is a downside as being in such an elevated position it exposes you to more risk of bonking your noggin on the brickwork under a lot of bridges.

It always fascinates us to see the wearing of steps by use. As these locks opened in 1772, that means these steps would be 250 years old. This is before Australia, New Zealand or Canada were even settled.

We stopped off and went for a short walk to the old Wombourne Railway Station. The station proved important for the transport of strategic materials and troops during World War II. After 1945, its decline continued, and it was closed in 1965 as part of the Beeching cuts. The former railway land has become the South Staffordshire Railway Walk Local Nature Reserve and the Smestow Valley Local Nature Reserve. The track bed has become a bridle path, giving walkers, cyclists and riders views of, and access to, a large area of Staffordshire countryside. The station, meanwhile, has become an information point and café. The bridle path has been criss crossing over the canal ever since we left Compton. We stopped off at the café for a quick cuppa and a look around. The café had adopted a Harry Potter theme inside and outside.

Whilst walking back from the railway café we noticed this peculiar tree sticking above the rest of the forest. On much closer inspection we discovered it was a camouflaged ………

cell phone tower. Obviously, they have used fake greenery but at least an attempt has been made to make it blend into the surroundings.

It turned into a five-hour cruising day which included 11 locks of which there were two staircases involved. We pulled up at 4.30pm, in some sunshine, after what ended up being a long day. We have a destination of Worcester by Wednesday lunch time as wanting to catch up with some friends along with Di getting a haircut.

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