If you just want a leisurely pub crawl in classic English scenery, cruising Gailey to Tyrley is about as easy as it gets. Out and back in a week with plenty of time to stop and explore the local sites.
We love spending time onboard Kodran and so when we had a month to play with back in September (actually 3 weeks onboard, 1 week taken up with my sisters 50th birthday celebrations) I came up with a very ambitious plan to take us to Llangollen and back. My wife soon put paid to that, regaling me with memories of the 2 week, whistle stop Four Counties plus Birmingham tour I forced her relatives on back in 2007. She wanted an actual rest on her vacation, imagine that!
So a leisurely float up the Shropshire Union it was then.
Day 1 – Late afternoon sunshine cruise
The beauty of travelling south from Gailey and then up the Shroppie is the winding Staffs and Worcester canal is lock-free all the way to Autherley Junction, where the Shropshire Union canal begins. Apart from the Stop Lock here and a single lock at Wheaton Aston, the Shroppie is level cruising all the way to Tyrley. And it’s rural tranquility nearly all the time.
We set out for Brewood (Brood) with the goal of meeting friends of ours that weekend, but with no particular rush and plenty of time: we would stop when we felt like and if the weather stayed fair we would continue forward.
Two hours out from Gailey is the Anchor Inn (formerly the Fox and Anchor) at Cross Green. This is a good overnight stop on the way back, if you must be at Gailey the next morning as it doesn’t require a really early start. The restaurant here is spacious with no reservations necessary except for Sunday lunch when they are usually busy. It’s part of the Vintage Inns chain so the menu is a combination of “new dishes to enjoy alongside our traditional pub classics” as the website heralds – I’d go along with the Tripadvisor 3 blobs.
The afternoon sun was pleasant though and we cruised past, winding south towards Wolverhampton. Only now does the surrounding Staffordshire countryside start to give way to semi-rural commuter belt and within the hour we encountered the tight squeeze of Autherley narrows and the northern outskirts of Wolverhampton. This is a rocky outcrop of local sandstone that the 18th century navvies were forced to make a narrow cutting through. There’s a couple of passing places within the ½ mile length of the narrows but it’s still a fingers-crossed job; I always hope for a boat to follow behind. It was late season so very quiet and we passed through the narrows unhindered. Autherley junction and the Shropshire Union soon approached and swinging right, the Stop lock, all 6” drop of it, is immediately after the bridge. The ‘drop’ down into the Shropshire Union canal is unusual as Stop locks are normally insisted upon by the existing canal company to stop water escaping into the new canal. Clearly the Shroppie gains water each time this lock is cycled.
A cruising note, there’s a water point here just north of the wharf buildings.
By now the late afternoon sun was glorious and the housing estates of Pendeford were presented in their best light. Soon we were back into the Staffordshire countryside (in fact only slightly west of where we were 2 hours prior, heading northwest up the left-hand-side of the ‘V’ formed by the junction of the two canals. We paused to let our first fellow boater that evening pass in Pendeford Narrows before aiming for somewhere north of the M54 bridge to moor for the night.
This journey took about 4 ½ hours.