Saturday, 25 June 2011

Never trust a weatherman!

Woke this morning to hear the Radio 5 Live weather forecaster speak of a "heat warning" with temperatures as high as 30C and nightime highs of 15C. Sounded good to us after a night of incessant rain.
We set off at 9.30 on a cloudy morning for the last seven miles to the junction of the Shroppie. And, of course, it rained! Rained, then stopped, rain then stopped. That was the story of our morning. And never a sight of the sun.
They weren't terribly interesting miles and probably wouldn't have been a whole lot better in the sunshine, weaving as they did round the admittedly largely unseen edge of Wolverhampton. But then we reached Autherley Junction and the shallow stop lock leading onto the Shroppie.
It's remarkable what difference 50 years makes in canal engineering. The James Brindley Staffs&Worcs was opened in the 1770s and is very much an old school' contour canal that followed the natural lie of the land with locks interspersed where necessary. But by the 1835 Shroppie Thomas Telford was drawing straight lines on his maps and forcing the countryside to bend to his will with embankments, cuttings and lock flights.
Travel the Shroppie now and you'l marvel at his achievements as cutting follows embankment follows cutting. Think of the earth moving, the surveying, the sheer logistics of the job in an age of horse and wagon and no roads of note.
Nowhere did we see this better than on the astonishing Shelmore embankment which towers above the surrounding land; its sheer sides sadly hidden by trees. All you can see are trees, treetops below them and the hint of more trees even further down the slopes. With a distant glimpse of fields far below.
The embankments give the views while the cuttings are swathed in an almost tunnel-like green camouflage of trees (sometimes close enough for Vicky to get busy with her new toys - a pair of £2.99 Wilco shears!). And magnificent bridges cross these cuttings too, beautiful stone arches in perfect order - a far remove from the rickety brick bridges of so many narrow canals.
Tonight after a busy day of 25 miles and two locks we are moored outside the quaint Anchor Inn at High Offley - one of the few pubs that can still truly be called "unspoilt" - no food, no children and warm beer served properly without one of those ghastly foam creating taps.
But more on unspoilt pubs another time.


Captain Ahab said...

So what exactly is Vicky doing with those shears Kevin? It will take a long time to prune the whole cutting....

Sarah said...

Sparkler-haters of the midlands unite, you have nothing to lose but your froth.