Out of Dingly Dell Major, through the narrowest of narrows, into Dingly Dell Minor – once over Watling Street and twice under the M54 #narrowboat #England

Yesterday’s move put me into the mobile interwebnet black hole of Brewood (pronounced “Brood”, apparently). The moorings there are more Dingly Dell than is healthy, and being so low in a cutting lined with massive trees meant that I was enjoying a resurgence of Seasoned Grumpy Git Disorder before I’d even tied off the mooring ropes. I had to move today, there was more wind about than I would ordinarily like, but I had to move!

Yesterday’s moorings, at Brewood (“Brood”) – in a deep cutting populated with magnificent, tall, mature trees – and thus with no ambient light and damned near no interwebnet signal! More than one night there would have driven me nuts. That’s the Cardinal, sitting there and wondering why I am taking photographs instead of cruising onwards…

So. The Cardinal and I put just shy of eight miles on the clock today plus what has to be the silliest lock I have encountered so far – the six inch lock at Autherly Junction.

That lock was insisted upon in the days when the various canals all made money for different companies, and was put in place to prevent one company “stealing” water from another. Well, to slow down the effect at least, and limit the flow to six inches each time a boat comes through. Fancy having to work a whole lock, stop, moor, gates, paddles, boat in, gates, paddles, boat out again, close gates, close paddles, just for a six inch difference in water levels.

The “stop lock” at Autherly – designed to “stop” the poaching of water from one campany’s canal by another. A whole lock for a rise of some six inches…

On the way out of the district of Brewood I decided that all bridges are equal, but some are more equal than others. This one just has to be on some toff’s country estate…

This bridge just HAS to be on some toff’s country estate, it’s far too fancy…

Autumn is showing off all of his colours in the foliage. Until later in the day I thought that this was what the guide books meant by “narrow”…

My first taste of the day’s narrows, soon to be eclipsed in re “narrowness” by what came later! See header photo for the REAL narrows!

,,,but this was a walk in the park compared to what was to come.

I had a slight problem getting the Cardinal out of the lock at Autherley Junction, and around onto the new-to-us Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal, for our journey east and then north. The water there was such thick, thick leaf-soup that I just couldn’t get any drive at all with the Cardinal’s propellerinatrix, and I had to leap around like an orc, pulling him out of the lock and around the junction on the ropes. It was good exercise for me, I suppose, if a little bit undignified for the Cardinal.

My plan for the day was to move on as far as I could take me before breakfast wore off and I had need of supplementary coffee. Autherley Junction, where the Shropshire Union Canal meets the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal is over-run with dormitory housing, has some wonderful displays of graffiti on every flat surface available to spray can and is, I have to say, not my sort of place at all. Just north from there the narrows begin. I was lucky lucky lucky – of the four or five boats that I saw moving today, I met the oncoming one that would have been traffic in the narrows just as he was exiting and I was preparing to enter. I stopped for him, waited, and nosed us in…

The canal, blasted through the rock. Not quite so bucolic as might seem, there being a chemical factory to one side and a sewage works to the other…

It’s not as though you can rush through these narrows either. What little water there is in there has nowhere to go when you try to push a 57′ long by 6′ 10″ wide eighteen ton boat through. More revs don’t help. The leaves certainly don’t help. I have developed a wholly unexpected sympathy (empathy?) with British Rail, and their hitherto risible complaints of delays due to leaves on the line – I now know exactly what they might mean.

The narrows north of Autherly Junction on the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal Eek, and really, O’Reilly.

The towpath is wider than the canal…

The cut here had to blasted through rock, and the canal builders weren’t about to waste a single penny blasting wider than was absolutely necessary. I suspect that two-way traffic here wasn’t quite such a problem in the days of cargo-carrying working boats drawn by horses – they would have had crew to go ahead, and a lot more bull and bluster than the Cardinal and I.

As British Leyland used to say of two-year old Austin Mini Clubmans when you took four Wolfrace wheels, the ignition keys and two buckets of rust back to the showroom to complain, nothing lasts forever, sir. Indeed the narrows did widen out into the more usual canal widths, and as we cruised under the M54 motorway heading south they widened out quite luxuriously.

The M54 motorway crossing over the canal. Nice graffiti (not).


Try as I did, I couldn’t time the taking of a photograph to coincide with a stream of HGVs passing overhead. It looks here as though this very busy, very noisy motorway is deserted, it’s not!

I can’t remember now, is the M54 six lanes or is it eight lanes?

Traffic was thundering overhead as we cruised beneath. Today’s trip, the southernmost portion of this current cruise, took us once under the M54 south and then under again as we turned east and north.

Mindful of just how Wolverhampton, lovely though it may be, is just not my sort of place, I kept cruising for a few miles and eventually found moorings on what I hope is the cusp of metropolitan and rural. Far enough out of town to be away, near enough to have a mobile signal. It was a good guess, at least so far as far as the mobile signal is concerned – I’ll let you know tomorrow whether there are any curious incidents of the dog in the night, &etc. Fingers crossed it’s peaceful and bandit-free.

It is narrow here to moor up, but it’s not generous anywhere hereabouts, and these are signposted as officially sanctioned, and there is room to pass. Having seen this photo I notice that I have untidied the coal reserve while mooring, come daylight I will have to sort that out.

If this place proves to be more Deliverance than Rural Retreat then I’ll just have to stick two fingers up at the wind again and move on once more, whatever.

I would like a nice, lazy Sunday though!

Mr Stove is persuaded back into action, I have quaffed a dish of spuds and carrots and cabbage and broccoli, sent brief answers to a couple of emails, have a couple more to pen, and then I shall bung my feet up with a good book, or a nice, mindless DVD.

I think that now we have about thirty miles and as many locks to complete before the end of December to ensure that we are once more ahead of the winter stoppages schedule, I will check again tomorrow. I intend to leave a generous margin, and not – in headlong hell-for-leather narrowboating speed terms – take things to the wire. 😉

Having gone over the Roman Watling Street a couple of days ago I believe that we are soon to go back under it as we head back in the “correct” direction, that being vaguely north… Ancient Briton, Roman, Victorian – am I never to see my own time again?

We need a few wind-free days, or at least some days of light breezes. Fingers crossed, eh?

Chin-chin for the mo,

Ian H.


  1. I think I found your bridge … 52°39’56.2″N 2°09’58.7″W … 52.665614, -2.166294 … not being a nautical, or any sort of ‘autical’ sort, I C&P’d both geo-locations that google provided. Am I even in the right country? 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s the one – Bing maps gives me the “middle of the bridge” co-ordinates as 52.665590, -2.166173 but the online maps (and satellite data) all have variety and fudge-factors deliberately built into them. My hunch was correct! At first sight it looks to “just” be a bridge in an avenue of trees with one fairly ordinary house showing up buried in there, but the bridge is called ‘Avenue Bridge’ and widening the view these trees are part of Upper Avenue and Lower Avenue, leading to… you guessed it – a place called Chillington Hall. That is a stately lump that has been built on top of the 12th century castle and has been lived in by the Lord High Wotnots since the panet began cooling off. I KNEW it was too fancy for just another bridge! In the Giffard family (as in stolen by them at the point of a sword) since 1178… I am mightily pleased to see that the name “Giffard” means “chubby cheeks” in Norman French! https://www.chillingtonhall.co.uk/

      p.s., looking at the size of the lake that they have on the estate the Cardinal and I could spend a couple of months just cruising around that… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Heavens to Murgatroid! … they certainly were tide in with all things royale, weren’t they? 😀 … I love the lake name. ‘The Pool’ … British understatement at its best. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  2. That top photo is nightmarish. At first I thought you had resorted to photo altering trickery, but concluded it had to be real. Good to read that you are back in wider waters.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Audrey, no photoshop trickery I promise you. I am glad in a perverse sort of way that the guide books didn’t detail exactly white how narrow the narrows were, if I had known then the setting off would have been more difficult! As it was, by the time I knew what they were I was committed (and probably ought to be). 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Quiet a few times I did wonder if I had taken a wrong turn somewhere – but since I had only the choice of left or right when coming out of Autherley Junction, I deduced that it wasn’t mem it really was the canal! It was an ….interesting experience. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.