Day 5 – Gnosall
Gnosall sits about halfway between Newport in Shropshire and the county town of Stafford. Once served by the Newport to Stafford railway – built by the Shropshire Union Canal and Railway company – it is no less a bustling Staffordshire village today than it was in the 1800s. The canal runs through Gnosall heath, to the southwest of the main village.
The cruise into Gnosall from Wheaton Aston is beautiful. The countryside is mostly gently undulating here with shallower cuttings, but no less spectacular. Staffordshire farmland stretches in all it’s glory either side of the canal.
This does tend to lend itself to more private moorings which will slow you down – the Canal and River Trust’s cruising guide keeps you to a tick over as you pass moored boats. And in case you are unaware, there’s plenty of customised reminders to SLOW DOWN! This is a boon for the inquisitive. Peeking into the other boats as you pass is a guilty pleasure, checking out their layouts and knickknacks – the vast majority are beautifully kept with interiors to match. Some moorings have small plots of land which have been cultivated into tiny oases or vegetable gardens; lovely!
Just over halfway along this stretch of the canal is High Onn bridge (Bridge 25) with access to a pleasant country road to Church Eaton. There’s plenty of mooring under the bridge, north of the winding hole. Saint Editha’s church in the village dates from the 12th century and is amongst a number of notable listed buildings in the area, well worth a visit.
A short journey after Bridge 32 is another engineering feat of Thomas Telford, Cowley Tunnel. Hewn from the local sandstone it is short at 81 yards, and full width so no worries about oncoming traffic. Telford’s original plan was to tunnel more than 1/3 of a mile but the rock proved unstable. The initial 600 yards from here to the tunnel is now the steep sided Cowley cutting.
Emerging northbound from Cowley tunnel and you’re at Gnosall 14 day moorings.
Gnosall mooring and services
There’s plenty of mooring here either between Cowley tunnel and Bridge 34 (at the Boat Inn) or between Bridges 34 and 35 (at the Navigation Inn). The southern mooring is well shaded and ideal for hot days. The mooring between the pubs is more open, has more towpath traffic and is beside a small farm where the geese can be noisy! However, this is the more popular mooring.
Both bridges lead east into the small town of Gnosall which is well served by local food stores, takeaways and a Health Centre. The Bridge 34 route is quieter and has a small bakery and butchers shop within a few yards. Just further ahead is another good pub, the Royal Oak.
Here the local road joins the busier Newport Road (from Bridge 35) where a fish and chip shop and Indian takeaway are both located. The Co-op supermarket is a further 5 minutes walk and the Health Centre up to the left from the main road junction.
Pubs in Gnosall
Arriving from the south, the entrance to Gnosall is dominated by the facade of the Boat Inn at Bridge 34. There is a lovely terrace of outdoor seating here and a larger patio area both overlooking the canal.
Surprisingly there’s not a lot of space inside the pub which is mostly set up for dining. The menu is a traditional range of pub food, the homemade meat pies being a particular favourite. I’d definitely agree with the 4+ Trip Advisor blobs. There’s a cosy lounge area in the windows overlooking the canal and a sit-up bar.
The Navigation Inn is on the opposite side of the canal and further north at Bridge 35. Being on the towpath it benefits from direct access to the canal. Moor up before Bridge 35 as under the bridge is dedicated to a CRT water point and the private moorings opposite make for a busy squeeze point.
This is a family run pub with plenty of outdoor space including a large beer garden, overlooking the canal. Trip Advisor 4 blobs.
There are other pubs in the village centre – I already mentioned the Royal Oak which you pass on the road from Bridge 34. Up the hill past the co-op in the High Street are the Horns Inn and The George and Dragon (“Staffordshire’s Friendliest Micro-pub and CAMRA Cider pub of the Year 2016), both well recommended on Trip Advisor.
It’s a short 2 hour cruise from Wheaton Aston to Gnosall so both places can easily be visited the same day. We were meeting friends the next day and so stayed overnight.
There’s a water point just north of Bridge 35 at the Navigation Inn.