Friday, 23 September 2016

Miscanthus, Tyrley Locks and on to Gnosall.

Friday 23rd September, 2016 in Gnosall
The magnificent sycamore tree on the little green opposite our mooring was reflected in the water and looked lovely in the light of the rising sun. It is a real centrepiece for this little housing development.
To our surprise, we realised that Terry was now on board "Shropshire Lass". He and R called cheerfully to each other across the canal and briefly exchanged news. He was just setting off with two students on a three-day training course - in just the same way as we had started the course with him eight years ago. We could just hear Terry's gentle voice saying "tiller more over towards me..." as they manoeuvered towards the bridge in the distance. Happy memories!
We walked into Market Drayton as M wanted a "few bits" and R felt that he needed a coffee. Last time, we had walked in on the road but this time, we found a series of grass-covered footpaths that took us right into the centre of town. Much nicer!
Since our last visit, Market Drayton has acquired a Costa but R loyally decided to go back to the little tea room we have used in the past; after all, their trade must have suffered since Costa opened. Market Drayton is a pleasant little town with some fine buildings but we have been here many times, so we didn't linger this time.
Not long after setting off, we came to the Tyrley flight of five locks. These five locks were hewn out of solid rock, a tremendous achievement.
The trees still somehow manage to take root in the rock face; this one looks positively serpentine.
Every lock has a "bywash" that routes surplus water round the lock. The bywashes on the Tyrley flight make life very difficult as they direct their flow straight across the mouth of the lock and today there was a massive amount of water flowing down them. Even R had great difficulty holding MM on a straight course into the locks. In fact, the hire boat in front of us ended up broadside at one point and M had to go and help haul them round on their centre rope.
Beside the fourth lock is a massive field of enormously tall elephant grass. It is easily ten feet tall and towered over M as she took this photograph. It is called Miscanthus and is a perennial that is one of the most environmentally friendly ways of producing biomass for renewable energy. It will grow up to 10ft tall each year for fifteen to twenty years, we know this field has been there for at least five years! It is harvested in the spring, when it is a golden colour and the moisture content is low. It then sprouts again and the cycle continues.
The former wharf buildings by the top lock have now been converted into charming residences. However, after Cadbury stopped using the site as a wharf in 1932, the buildings had a chequered career over the years, being used at various times as a Parish Hall, a meeting room, a Sunday School, a Reading Room and a Polling Station before falling into disuse in the 1970s.
We see many herons by the canalside. Some are brave and stand still as we sail past but the majority take flight after nervously watching us approach - as this one did. They are quite ungainly as they take off with their spindly legs dangling.
Tyseley is the narrow boat used by the Mikron travelling theatre, who perform all round the country, usually in canalside pubs. We were a bit mystified to see it moored here as they have no performances scheduled anywhere near here before the end of the season. We know because we always check where they are performing and this will be the second frustrating year when we have never been close enough on our travels to see them. They are truly accomplished, writing and performing their own original and entertaining plays and music each year.
High Bridge in Grub Street Cutting on the Shropshire Union Canal is unique in having the shortest telegraph pole in the country.  It is a remarkable sight!
By teatime, we reached Gnosall and moored up for the night.
Today:14 miles, 5 locks and 6.0 hours, 1 heron
Trip: 434 miles, 307 locks and 303.7 hours.

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