Our mooring on the canal is on the outskirts of the Elizabethan market town of Nantwich and so we are already in the countryside for the start of this cruise. We head south towards Audlem and the pretty flight of locks there. The Adderley locks bring us to a long pound, the we travel past Market Drayton and to the lovely short flight of locks at Tyrley. Here we emerge from woodland and encounter our first deep cutting. An example of Telford’s engineering skill and determination, this straight canal uses embankments and cuttings to maintain its direct course, providing open views over farmland, or of striking wooded sections with steep sides and dappled sunlight; these are a unique feature of this canal.
At Autherly Junction the stop lock marks the end of “The Shroppie” and we quickly turn and begin our ascent up the twenty-one Wolverhampton locks, which bring us into the city. We continue swiftly through the city via the New Main line. It is on this stretch that we are reminded most of how important the canals were to the industrial development of England in the 19th century, as we pass through grassy cuttings and the remains of gauging stations. In stark contrast, we eventually arrive at Gas Street Basin where the old trans-shipment warehouses have given way to newly built apartments, fashionable shops, cafes and bars. The Birmingham & Fazeley Canal brings us to the thirteen locks at Farmers Bridge, where we descend and then continue along The Digbeth Branch. Here we can see fine old wharf buildings before five more locks at Camphill bring us onto the level, and we can begin our journey out of Birmingham.
The locks at Knowle bring us down further, and the 430 yard tunnel at Shrewley is an interesting construction with its separate small tunnel built for horses. We pass the junction with the Stratford Canal at Kingswood and finally, at Hatton, we can see Warwick ahead of us, beyond the twenty-one locks which snake their way down the hill to our final destination at The Saltisford Arm.
Packed with archaeological and engineering interest. From the industrial landscape of Birmingham, whose success was based on its extensive canal network to the “Shroppie’s” ‘motorway’ design, there are stark changes in the scenery throughout this cruise, which make it ideal for those with an interest in the history and heritage of the canals.