Day 3 – Of Winding and Wifi
Our friends departed early on Sunday morning and we went to church in the now grey drizzle of a more common Staffordshire autumn day. Saint Mary’s Catholic church is a little gem right next to the bridge and moorings.
“Can you hear me Mother?”
Our goal today was simply to find a mooring further north where the cellular data signal had a better chance of reaching us. That meant moving out of this spot, the southernmost of the Shroppie’s cuttings and out into the open. We’ve got pretty much state-of-the-art cellular tech on Kodran but access to the 21st century can still be challenge on the canal. A canal boat is a metal container which works as a great shield for mobile phone signals! Add that to the quiet backwaters that make a narrowboat holiday the perfect blissful retreat, you’re very much ‘off-grid’. For a while we used a mobile-phone-in-a-bag solution, a ziplock bag (to keep the condensation away!) hung from a curtain rail. The signal was not bad but the range of the personal hotspot was limited!
Our Huawei wireless router and external antenna work well but we still need to be out in the open for best results. The antenna is centrally mounted on Kodran’s roof, right next to the centre line. It does flex somewhat but we’ve had several entanglements and decapitations! We’re currently looking at a lower profile solution that doesn’t result in signal loss. I’m pretty sure a consistent 4G signal wasn’t an important factor for Brindley when he designed the navigation.
A Challenging Topography
The Shropshire Union Railways and Canal Company was formed of the Birmingham and Liverpool Junction Canal, the Ellesmere Canal and the Montgomeryshire Canal companies. Mostly constructed in the latter part of the canal building boom, newer engineering techniques lent themselves to major earthworks to keep the canal on one level as much as possible.
I mentioned in an earlier post, there’s a single lock between Autherley Junction and the 25 miles to Tyrley Wharf. The canal navigates a series of dog-legs through majestic tree-lined cuttings and atop sweeping embankments more reminiscent of a railway. In fact it was very nearly built as such being on the cusp of the great railway age of the mid-19th Century. The SU was completed in 1835; the Liverpool and Manchester railway had already heralded the world’s first inter-city train service five years earlier.
Not so much an embankment but less than a half mile north of Brewood the landscape opens right up to reveal unlimited views – and cellular signal – across Staffordshire farmland to Pye Green BT mast at the highest part of Cannock Chase.
Many of the embankments on the Shropshire Union canal are substantial enough that they need to be retained by metal or concrete piling. This replaces the usual Armco which means mooring pins are required.
At this location there is a flat wall of concrete and an annoying shelf of about 6 inches just below the water line. We had to lengthen our fenders to bring Kodran alongside and set the mooring pins a good 2 feet away from the edge.
Its a good idea to warn towpath users of any pins and ropes that stretch any distance towards the path. We tie a bright cloth to the pins, but a beer can has been used in the past; empty of course!
It’s quieter here than at the Visitor moorings either side of Bridge 14. In the Summer it might be your only option. But it’s less than a half mile further north; and away from the madding crowd.
Theres also a winding hole just about this spot so you could easily make Brewood a final destination before heading back.