Written April 29, 2023, at Market Drayton on the Shropshire Union Canal.

Before I address the title to this post I wish to pay tribute to the six days that we have enjoyed on the canal with our Kansas City neighbors, Mary and Charlie Murphy. It was a delightful time with improving weather and a remarkable variety of experiences along the canal.

We do not wish to rush the conclusion of this adventure, but we really look forward to a future evening of sharing in Kansas City with Wendy and Pat, Charlie and Mary, and perhaps some English ale.

Today I felt like the biblical camel trying to pass through the eye of a needle. After dropping Charlie and Mary off at a canal bridge for their bus connection in Gnosall Heath we proceeded two miles with hopes of securing a much needed “pump out“ of our “black-water” tank at Norbury Junction. At a narrow curve in the canal we hit an unexpected shallow and briefly ran aground. Christine and I jointly polled the bow back into deeper water and were free in about 10 minutes, but not before we had provided entertainment to passing pedestrians on the towpath.

We had been warned that there was a festival at Norbury Junction. We had not been warned that the canal would be choked with moored canal boats, often “double parked“and leaving barely enough room for our craft to proceed. I “threaded that needle“ for nearly 2 miles.

Fortunately, the marina wharf was open and available to us. For £25 we emptied our “black-water“ tank. That should be the last time the unpleasant task is needed before we reach our final destination in Middlewich.

Along the canal we enjoyed views of a variety of wildlife. Favorable lighting enhanced the opportunity to capture images.

There were also other sights worth sharing.

To those familiar with walking the Camino the word and symbol on the side of this narrow boat will be familiar.
Here is a narrow boat out of the water and undergoing repairs.
Spring has arrived! This is a field of blossoming rapeseed, also known as canola.
During World War II Great Britain feared invasion by Nazi Germany. Not only were the canals important transportation routes, but they were also considered defensive positions. Seen here is a concrete machine gun position.

There were other moments when we “threaded the needle“, including navigating “cuttings“ which are very narrow valleys cut for the canal. Under the best of conditions two boats can pass with perhaps a foot of free play on each shore and a foot between the vessels. Today was not the best of conditions.

We had barely 6 inches to work with on the occasions that we passed narrowboats In the course of nearly 4 miles of “narrows”.

The odd structure silhouetted in the upper chamber of this bridge is an abandoned telephone/electrical line.

I’ve grown accustomed to passing through single width bridge arches but this was taken to another level where the bridges were located in the “narrows“.

In spite of the frequent moments of “excitement“ Christine and I managed 14 miles made good and five locks. We are ahead of schedule and will use the luxury of that banked time to linger in some of the ancient canal-side villages.

One such hamlet is Market Drayton where we are moored tonight. We enjoyed an excellent dinner in the Joule’s Brewery (brewing excellent ales since the 1500s), and sauntered through town which features a pub that dates to 1653, two years after the village was decimated by fire.

Tomorrow will be short on miles but long on locks. In a stretch of the waterway not 4 miles long we will “climb” 20 locks.

Peace Everyone. Pete

8 thoughts on “The Eye of the Needle

  1. Wow, those narrow canals look tricky. I love the picture with the “rapeseed” contrast to the cloudy sky. Glad you get a few hours to unwind after the tension of the canals.

  2. All I can say is YIKES!! Well – all that know me, know that is NOT all I can say! Today’s travel looks like it could have been a nail biter! Jeepers creepers … I wonder what you would have done had you encountered another boat during those long narrow stretches? You might be in the need for a good massage – but a mediocre massage would do just fine too – something to bring down those shoulders eh? Thanks for the update – enjoy tomorrow! Hugs to Mz. Christine (who was looking very serious I might add, during her time at the tiller).

  3. Me thinks that “journeys end” will feel as much a thrill as climbing aboard the first day. Whoo, pass me them snaps!

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